Climate & Energy

An infrastructure problem

Public works and investment must be part of the solution to global warming

As I've said before, certain types of goods -- public goods -- simply cannot be allocated efficiently through market mechanisms alone, even if we get prices right. Now this is not a "government good/private sector bad" post. It is a suggestion, as was my original post on this subject, that a market system requires not only regulation but large-scale public investment, and that one of the places we are making way too few public investments is energy infrastructure. Again, this is not to say that public investment is the way to run everything; just as there are public goods, there are private goods. But we are trying to meet needs that are clearly public goods via private means. Full social pricing, though needed, will not change that. Before focusing on energy, consider health insurance. The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other nation, and gets worse results. There are various reasons for this, but one is that a competitive market in health insurance tends to provide more insurance and less healthcare than public insurance mechanisms. (When I gave this example back in October, biodiversivist argued that our healthcare system "does not resemble any free market I know of." That does not change the fact that our healthcare system is less regulated than healthcare systems in any other rich nation.) Every intervention that can be cited as possible government over-involvement in our medical system can be found in other systems that spend much less on healthcare and get far better results. If I have to, I'll do a whole post on healthcare -- but the bottom line is that moving a large part of the health insurance system from private to public spending would improve efficiency. Note that we are talking health insurance, not health care. A major part of fighting global warming will consist of switching from polluting to clean energy. That is largely a matter of major infrastructure, and infrastructure, at least since the fall of feudalism, has always required large public investment, not just regulation.

Gasoline will be free

Sheryl Crow chats about TP, Rove, and the price of oil

In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Sheryl Crow talks about the One-Square Scandal: Last spring, you were held up as a parody of environmental correctness when you proposed restricting the use of …

Battlefield earth

In a piece in Foreign Policy, Jamais Cascio goes straight at one of the things that scares me most about "geoengineering" — the potential, should such techniques be developed, that they will be used for …

Department of Energy backs away from funding Future

The U.S. Department of Energy has told lawmakers that it plans to pull funding for FutureGen, its ambitious and crazily expensive “clean coal” demonstration plant. The feds had planned to cover some three-quarters of the …

Breaking: Dept. of Energy pulls support for FutureGen

Whoa! The Dept. of Energy just announced that it’s yanking its support for FutureGen, the much-ballyhooed and much-delayed “clean coal” demonstration plant that greens refer to, never more appropriately, as NeverGen. What’s behind the decision? …

Answering the college

Focus the Nation events to heat up campuses across the U.S.

Focus the Nation, a series of climate-change-focused educational events on over 1,000 campuses across the United States, is basically the student-centered cousin of Step It Up. And if you were one of the thousands who attended SIU (or SIU 2), you know that raising climate consciousness doesn't have to be a drab affair. It can be a colorful, creative, youth-infused party of a time. Enter Focus the Nation. Hoping to pick up where SIU left off, Focus the Nation is gathering together thousands of students and teachers for climate festivities, billing it as the largest teach-in in U.S. history. It all goes down Jan. 31. (Or, you know, whatever the kids say these days.)

Conservation work will potentially be undone by climate change

Habitat preservation is a noble cause — so it’s really too bad that many conservation efforts may end up rendered moot by climate change. For example, restoration of Pacific Northwest salmon runs won’t do much …

Republican primary in Florida

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a Republican primary in Florida today. It has largely come down to a Romney/McCain contest, the polls have been bouncing all over the place, it’s utterly impossible to predict …

Bittman on meat

In case you’d forgotten, industrial meat is a friggin’ nightmare

It’s a little weird that no one on Gristmill has yet pointed to Mark Bittman’s stellar NYT piece on the environmental ravages of industrial meat. Philpott, where you at? Anyway, it’s amazing. Go read it. …

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