August 02, 2005

A polluting energy bill

Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute and Daniel Becker of the Sierra Club have jointly written an op-ed in the Washington Times criticizing the new energy bill of the US government. They write:
Why should liberals cut off clean-energy subsidies? Because that's a small price for ending the enormously larger handouts that drive destructive drilling, mining, polluting power plants, and gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs. Why should conservatives eliminate incentives for more oil, gas and nuclear energy production? Because with energy prices so high, subsidies simply aren't needed to encourage investment in new supply.

There are even more reasons for rejecting the subsidies and I believe that "dirty-energy" subsidies would be equally unjustified if oil prices were low, but the point is clear enough. They add:
That's not to say government has no role in energy markets. Energy generation and consumption are two of the most significant sources of industrial pollution. At the same time, air and water sheds are shared by all who live within them. Those who believe government should protect property rights should demand their government fight pollution to protect the value of their property and their health. [...] [G]overnment should simply dictate sound environmental standards and let investors and plant owners decide how best to meet them.

I am more sympathetic to clean-energy subsidies than to dirty-energy ones, but I am ready to eliminate both because the net effect would be very positive. I apply the same logic to regulations. I would be glad to eliminate environmental regulations if at the same time we eliminate the much more numerous government regulations and interventions that are harmful to the environment. Again, the net effect would probably be very positive.

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