Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Totalitarianism Redux: California's "Carbon-Neutral" Future

We write a lot about the threat that taxes and business regulations present to Californians' freedoms, but there's truly no greater threat to individual liberty here than the one posed by environmentalism. Politicians here are like most politicians elsewhere: they want to confiscate your money and give it to their friends, and little else. But California's environmentalists are a different matter. All too often, mainstream representatives of this movement sail right past the simple idea of preserving beautiful outdoor spaces, embracing draconian policy prescriptions that would significantly curtain Californians' personal freedoms as well as economic activity. If you don't believe us, please harken back to June, when we wrote about the brave green new world being envisioned by the California Council on Science and Technology. Aside from assuming that 20% of the state's energy would be provided by technologies that don't exist yet, the CCST authors were happy to recommmend raising enough tax revenue to replace all natural gas heating in the state via retrofit, to mandate the use of electric cars, and to recommend a number of "behavior change" programs to make us all produce less carbon. You might think that proposals to forcibly return California to the technology of the Dark Ages might only be the work of fringe lunatics, but the CCST report was sponsored by the California Energy Commission, CARB, and SD Bechtel.

Of course, in order for this massive social engineering project to get off the ground, the environmental lobby is going to need the news media to downplay the seriousness of what's being proposed. If you want an example of that, check out this piece at California Watch. While we often appreciate CW's work, such as their reporting on the High Speed Rail project, this article reports breezily on an alarming paper recently published in the journal Science. It's not clear that the CCST authors contributed to the Science report (the organizational affiliations appear to be the same), but their ideas are very similar. (The full manuscript is unfortunately behind a paywall; the abstract is here.) Yet California Watch only focuses on how difficult it'll be for California to achieve huge reductions in greenhouse gases in the next 40 years, and only mentions things like "behavior changes" along the way.

If you want the context, we'll help you out. The authors of the Science article are talking about reducing carbon emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. To put this in perspective, forget about 1990 for a moment: if we were going to bring carbon emissions down by 80% from today's levels, we'd have to bring them to the level they were at in 1935. You know, when only six million people lived in California. You're kidding yourself if you think the changes required to achieve the goal in question won't dramatically affect the way you live your life.


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