July 16, 2009. If you want to set back environmentalism, just enlist California's Air Board. They gave us those millions of Zero Emission Vehicles back in the 1990's. This time we're getting way-cheaper-than-free climate control. They say "It's amazing." Here's how they do it: Pick your favorite projects, make costs estimates, then ... just do all of them, even the horribly expensive ones.
Dumb: In 2008 they came up with a plan -- their Scoping Study -- which calls for 27 different carbon reduction measures. They figured the savings from these would be about double their costs to get emissions to 30% below what they would have been. Chairwoman Mary Nichols remarked "It's amazing." They decided to get five independent reviews—none of the reviewers knew who the others were. Five Ph.D. economists all came to exactly the same conclusion. It's amazing all right, amazingly unbelievable.
Dumber: I can understand over-optimism about your pet projects. But they compiled a list of how much it cost to use each of the 27 measures they picked, to save carbon. And what bothers me is that those costs ranged from plus $156 per ton of CO2 saved to minus $408. Now if someone told you that you could buy something for $156 or you could be paid $408 for taking the the exact same thing, what would you do? Well if you're the Clean Air Board you'd say, Oh, I'll have a random amount of every measure. In fact, the measure they bought second most of was Renewable Electricity for $133/ton carbon saved. By their own calculation, they could have bought a whole lot more carbon reduction for under $20/ton using cap and trade. But they didn't. They wanted a whole bunch of the $133 carbon instead. There is no difference. Saving a ton of carbon dioxide one way or another has precisely the same impact on the climate.
I am not making this up. The State Legislative Analyst’s Office, said "Selection of particular measures and the mix of measures appear not to have been directly influenced by cost-effectiveness consideration." Right. I mean who would have thought to consider cost-effectiveness? We're talking environment. It's sacrilegious to consider cost.
What's going on? What I really don't understand is why most environmentalists will not say one word about this. The five reviewers did and they are all environmentalists. But does it really require a Ph.D. to figure out it's best to buy the cheap one and not the super expensive one? Or is their something funny going on in the environmental world?
Bottom line for saving the environment: Don't waste other peoples money. (1) It's morally reprehensible, (2) It will make you unpopular, (3) This will reflect badly on environmentalists generally. (4) This will mean we take less care of the environment.
Wasting other people's money means: Using tax dollars to abate carbon but not buying the cheapest abatement available, and instead, buying your pet projects.