Are You Stomping the Environment Flat?

Reducing, recycling and repairing your ecological footprint for Earth Day

Are you an ecological bigfoot? Various environmental groups now offer websites where you can supposedly find out. The site provided by the folks at Redefining Progress informs me that if everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need the resources of 6.5 Earths to supply everyone. I took the test again, this time selecting all the ecological choices, including living a 500-square-foot apartment filled with second-hand furniture in a large apartment building heated with biomass, using electricity generated by solar panels, equipped with low flow toilets and showers, buying all my food at farmers markets, planting my own garden fertilized by compost from my food scraps, eating a vegan diet, recycling all my paper, plastic, aluminum, glass and electronics, owning no car, never flying and traveling no more than 2,000 miles by bus or rail each year. If everyone lived like that we would only need 0.93 earths to accommodate everyone.

What happens if I choose a slightly less-ascetic lifestyle? For example, what if I decided to drive my hybrid car 10,000 miles per year, added occasional dairy products to my diet, and did not grow a garden? Redefining Progress calculates that the planet would be on its way to destruction because we would need 1.10 earths to provide that same lifestyle for everyone.

The Global Footprint Network (GFN) offers an Earth Day Footprint quiz which appears to be a version of the Redefining Progress quiz. Here I scored even worse—it would take 8.7 Earths for everyone to enjoy my lifestyle. My ecological footprint takes up 39 acres, whereas the American average is only 24 acres. The GFN claims that there are only 4.5 biologically productive acres per person worldwide.

Then there's the Eco-Footprint site by Conservation International. Answering the questions honestly, I scored a 22, making me an "eco-novice" which is much nicer than calling me an eco-criminal. At the end of the quiz, participants are offered a chance to pledge to "recycle, reuse and repair so I use fewer materials and reduce pollution and to make my home energy efficient by using compact fluorescent light bulbs and high-efficiency appliances." By selecting all of the ecological choices I achieved a score of 83, making me an "eco-warrior."

Next, I clicked over to the Carbon Footprint site. Its calculator estimated that my wife and my lifestyle fueled 39 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The site informed me that this is almost double the American average of 20.4 tons. But since I included my wife in the calculations, it means that we are typical Americans with regard to our per capita carbon dioxide emissions. My chief carbon sin is air travel, which emits more than 15 tons of carbon dioxide per year. The site informs visitors that the average footprint of people living in industrialized nations is 11 tons and the world average is 4 tons.

So in a quest to lower my impact on the environment, I calculated our carbon footprint if we cut our use of electricity and natural gas in half, switched our two cars for a single Toyota Prius and reduced our annual mileage by half, tripled our train travel, and never took an airplane. Furthermore, what if we became vegetarians, ate only local organic food in season, bought only second-hand clothes, furniture and appliances, never went to movies, bars or restaurants, and recycled or composted all our waste? Even then our combined carbon footprint would be 7.3 tons per year, but that would get us just below the world average of 4 tons per capita annually.

The Carbon Footprint site obligingly links to projects promising to offset my annual carbon overindulgence. For example, the site suggests that a check for $600 to fund verified clean energy projects—such as a wind energy project in India or burning biomass in Africa—instead of fossil fuels would offset the 39 tons of carbon dioxide my current lifestyle requires. Or I can buy offsets by funding a reforestation project in Kenya for $800, or pay to plant trees in Britain for $1300.

The bad news, according to the folks at Carbon Footprint, is that "to combat climate change the worldwide average needs to reduce to 2 tons." In other words, the average American must reduce his or her carbon emissions by 90 percent. Where in the world do people currently emit less than 2 tons of carbon dioxide per capita annually? Answer: Places like Togo, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Uganda and Mali.

That brings me to the Global Footprint Network's sustainability calculations. According to the GFN's Living Planet Report (2006), the minimum criteria for sustainability is measured by using the United Nations Development Program's Human Development Index (HDI) as an indicator of well-being, and its ecological footprint calculations as a measure of demand on the biosphere. "We only found one country that meets both minimum criteria, which doesn't mean that they are necessarily sustainable but they are providing long lives and high education and minimum income without using more than what is available globally worldwide per person. And this country is called Cuba," explained GFN executive director, Mathis Wackernagel on National Public Radio's Living On Earth show last November. Wackernagel added, "If we say Cuba meets the sustainable development criteria, we don't say that's the nirvana, the most beautiful life you could imagine." Indeed not.

Comparing the HDIs of the United States and Cuba, one finds that the U.S. ranks 12th out of 177 countries measured while Cuba ranks 51st. In the three primary dimensions, the U.S. is 31st in life expectancy, 19th in educational achievement, and 2nd in per capita income. By contrast, Cuba ranks 32nd in life expectancy, 35th in education, and 94th in income—and that's assuming that Castro's government is truthful in its statistics. According to the U.N.'s HDI report, Cuba's per capita carbon dioxide emissions dropped from 3 tons per capita in 1990 and 2.3 tons in 2004. "If all countries in the world were to emit CO2 at levels similar to Cuba's, we would exceed our sustainable carbon budget by approximately 3 percent," says the HDI report.

And where do countries that emit less than 2 tons of carbon dioxide per capita annually rank on the HDI? Out of 177 countries and territories ranked, Togo is 152; Nigeria, 158; Bangladesh, 140; Ethiopia, 169; Uganda, 154; and Mali, 173.

As noted above, the creators of Carbon Footprint claim that everyone in the world must eventually emit no more than 2 tons of carbon dioxide per year. When did Americans last emit so little carbon dioxide? Around 1870. Taking historical U.S. carbon emissions and multiplying them by a factor of 3.67 in order to derive total carbon dioxide emissions and then dividing that amount by the number of people living in the country, we find that Americans emitted per person roughly 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide annually back in 1870. In those days, per capita GDP was $194 per year which would be equivalent to about $2,500 today.

It is true that many of us in the rich countries could cut back a bit on our use of energy and other resources without too much pain. But 1.6 billion people around the world still lack access to electricity and 1.1 billion live on less than $1 per day. These poor people desperately need access to cheap sources of energy to improve their lives.

Assuming that these ecological footprint calculations have some merit, the upshot is that if one does not want to "redefine progress" as a return to 19th-century poverty (and surely no one does), then accelerated technological innovation aimed at finding low-carbon sources of cheap energy is crucial. How to achieve that goal is what the real environmental debate should be on this 38th Earth Day.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Bingo||

    Apparently my carbon footprint is 4.9 tonnes??

  • Guy Montag||

    YEAAAA!!! Finally, the Festivus Lenin's Birthday Earth Day post!

  • dj hojo||

    ORIGINAL

    On April 22, Celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day

    Craig Biddle

    Because Earth Day is intended to further the cause of environmentalism-and because environmentalism is an anti-human ideology-on April 22, those who care about human life should not celebrate Earth Day; they should celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day.

    As I wrote for The Objective Standard's "Exploit the Earth or Die" campaign:

    Either man takes the Earth's raw materials-such as trees, petroleum, aluminum, and atoms-and transforms them into the requirements of his life, or he dies. To live, man must produce the goods on which his life depends; he must produce homes, automobiles, computers, electricity, and the like; he must seize nature and use it to his advantage. There is no escaping this fact. Even the allegedly "noble" savage must pick or perish. Indeed, even if a person produces nothing, insofar as he remains alive he indirectly exploits the Earth by parasitically surviving off the exploitative efforts of others.

    Exploiting the Earth-using the raw materials of nature for one's life-serving purposes-is a basic requirement of human life. According to environmentalism, however, man should not use nature for his needs; he should keep his hands off "the goods"; he should leave nature alone, come what may.

    Environmentalism is not concerned with human health and wellbeing-neither ours nor that of generations to come. If it were, it would advocate the one social system that ensures that the Earth and its elements are used in the most productive, life-serving manner possible: capitalism.

    Capitalism is the only social system that recognizes and protects each individual's right to act in accordance with his basic means of living: the judgment of his mind. Environmentalism, of course, does not and cannot advocate capitalism, because if people are free to act on their judgment, they will strive to produce and prosper; they will transform the raw materials of nature onto the requirements of human life; they will exploit the Earth and live.

    Environmentalism rejects the basic moral premise of capitalism-the idea that people should be free to act on their judgment-because it rejects a more fundamental idea on which capitalism rests: the idea that the requirements of human life constitute the standard of moral value. While the standard of value underlying capitalism is human life (meaning, that which is necessary for human beings to live and prosper), the standard of value underlying environmentalism is nature untouched by man.

    The basic principle of environmentalism is that nature (i.e., "the environment") has intrinsic value-value in and of itself, value apart from and irrespective of the requirements of human life-and that this value must be protected from its only adversary: man. Rivers must be left free to flow unimpeded by human dams, which divert natural flows, alter natural landscapes, and disrupt wildlife habitats. Glaciers must be left free to grow or shrink according to natural causes, but any human activity that might affect their size must be prohibited. Naturally generated carbon dioxide (such as that emitted by oceans and volcanoes) and naturally generated methane (such as that emitted by swamps and termites) may contribute to the greenhouse effect, but such gasses must not be produced by man. The globe may warm or cool naturally (e.g., via increases or decreases in sunspot activity), but man must not do anything to affect its temperature. And so on.

    In short, according to environmentalism, if nature affects nature, the effect is good; if man affects nature, the effect is evil.

    Stating the essence of environmentalism in such stark terms raises some illuminating questions: If the good is nature untouched by man, how is man to live? What is he to eat? What is he to wear? Where is he to reside? How can man do anything his life requires without altering, harming, or destroying some aspect of nature? In order to nourish himself, man must consume meats, vegetables, fruits, and the like. In order to make clothing, he must skin animals, pick cotton, manufacture polyester, and the like. In order to build a house-or even a hut-he must cut down trees, dig up clay, make fires, bake bricks, and so forth. Each and every action man takes to support or sustain his life entails the exploitation of nature. Thus, on the premise of environmentalism, man has no right to exist.

    It comes down to this: Each of us has a choice to make. Will I recognize that man's life is the standard of moral value-that the good is that which sustains and furthers human life-and thus that people have a moral right to use the Earth and its elements for their life-serving needs? Or will I accept the notion that nature has "intrinsic" value-value in and of itself, value apart from and irrespective of human needs-and thus that people have no right to exist?

    There is no middle ground here. Either human life is the standard of moral value, or it is not. Either nature has intrinsic value, or it does not.

    On April 22, let the world know where you stand. Don't celebrate Earth Day; celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day-and let your friends, family, and associates know why.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Sorry Ron, to much to read with too many numbers(I've been looking at numbers and reading all day). Someone help me, please. Is that about some douche chiming about everyone's fair share of the planet resources? If so, my fair share is whatever I can afford . . . hope I didn't make an ass of myself, but I probably did.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Ron? Where did I get that? I meant dj hojo. Sorry.

  • Episiarch||

    Post too long, jerk.

    I will always remember my mother telling me about attending the very first Earth Day event. She said that when it was over and everybody left, the entire event grounds were covered in trash.

  • Guy Montag||

    Bingo,

    Make sure you put that in your online profiles. Some chicks think a big footprint is important.

  • ed||

    celebration of Earth Day

    With the exception of captive, malleable schoolchildren, who exactly "celebrates" Earth Day? Is a bunch of boring, didactic speeches by the superstitious and power-hungry really a celebration?

  • ||

    @Episiarch & Naga

    Sorry...I thought people would actually be interested in a non-socialist perspective on the topic.

    Carry on Comrades!

  • Bingo||

    Good idea Guy, added to sig ;)


    ---

    Core 2 Duo @ 6.17 Ghz / 5 Gb DDR3-2300 / nVIDIA 9900GT SLI
    Cadillac Escalade, 20 inch DUBS, FLOWMASTER Exhaust, audio by ChRoNiC CuStOmZ
    AR15 w/ Rails, IR Illuminator, EoTech, Laser Sight, Widebeem Flashlight, Tite-beam flashlight, Chrome mags
    58 Conservation Int'l "Eco-Ally" / 4.9 Tonnes of CO2
    "All your Base are belong 2 me" - ]ak47[-Sh4rpSh00ta

  • MikeB||

    I only got 11.425 from the carbon footprint calc. I was disappointed. However, the site never asked about a boat. I guess those impoverished Britains never anticipated such spectacular wealth. I must burn about 15 gallons of ethanol free gasoline a week with that thing. It only gets 2.5 miles to the gallon.

    I second what the poster said above: women probably prefer a man with a huge carbon footprint. I do try my best

  • ||

    Hrrm, I looked and looked but I saw no disclaimer. Bailey, you are slacking!!!

  • ||

    Kwix: Don't you think that the whole post might be something of a disclaimer? ;-)

  • MikeB||

    Okay, I got the boat in as a second car. Now I am up to 23.330 tons of carbon. I loved the final page with the picture of my foot next to the smaller average American foot. This may back-fire on the message they are attempting to promote.

  • Naga Sadow||

    dj hoso or whatever,

    non-socialist enviromentalist? I scoff at your notion!

    Not that I read your post or anything, character assassination being easier than reading

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    To celebrate Earth Day, I fired up my 500 inch Chrysler (two 750 dual feeds). BUT, like Al Gore, I swapped out the carbon footprints by turning the sprinklers off last night. Even Steven! Trading carbon for water.

  • Naga Sadow||

    You are an inspiration in weasel thought and therefore my hero. I would join you in the festivities but my Z28 is in shop right now. Dual feeds? Really? Not bad, I've got dual three inch exhaust on my camaro.

  • Naga Sadow||

    TWC,

    Wait a minute! Dual feed on a chrysler? What do you drive exactly?

  • Guy Montag||

    Am I reading this right? 8.09 Earths, 313.73 "footprint"? Did I finally beat Ron at something?

    How should Tiny Tim have answered question #27, since some of his clothes were made of paper?

  • Guy Montag||

    TWC,

    Is that a pair of two barrels or two four barrels?

  • Naga Sadow||

    Guy,

    A pair of two barrels. One on each side.

  • ||

    dj hojo

    In the future, just provide the link.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  • Guy Montag||

    A pair of two barrels. One on each side.

    Pretty sweet.

  • modd||

    If I work for the airlines, when I travel for leisure I do it space-available, no room then I stay. Since I don't create demand which causes added flights to schedule, can I claim myself exempt? The plane would go regardless of whether or not I fill the seat.

    At work, I eat the left-over food that pax don't or my crew meal which is boarded regardless of whether I eat it or not. Can I count that as skipping meals?

    In the same sense, if a flyer flies and the plane is nearly empty, does he or she have to divide the total carbon output by the total pax count. ie should he seek cattle-cars? Should he avoid Super-80 gas hogs?

    Or does the fact that I work in an industry so eco-irresponsible make every dime I have blood money?

    If say I was a certain someone flying to an eco-meeting of sorts to design ways to force others to be eco-conscious would I have to buy carbon offsets or is the intention of do-goodliness enough?

    I notice that a lot of eco-people drink bottled water. Do I get points for drinking out of the faucet and not buying those plastic bottles in the first place? If I live in a place where it rains incessantly, am I really wasting water?

    Yes so many holes to punch in the quiz models. Does the eco-lobby have anyone who studied economics, that other eco word?

  • ||

    Recycle? Reuse?? Reduce??? ... Refuse!!!!
    (As in, refuse to obey the greens' dictates.
    Roughly speaking, I agree with Biddle.
    A bit more precisely, I think that a good
    chunk of environmentalism is a bit like
    anti-abortion sentiments. Many greens appear
    to be trying to punish people for their
    standard of living, under the pretext of
    cutting pollution, like many anti-abortion
    people are trying to punish people for sex,
    under the pretext of care for fetuses. The
    _only_ greens that I'll trust are those who
    show they aren't just in it to punish someone
    else's consumption. There are a handful of
    pro-nuke greens, and I only trust them.)

  • herodotus||

    The eco-footprint test asks what my eating habits are.

    Why is being a vegan more 'green' than being an omnivore? Does this mean that lions are less 'green' than antelopes? And if so, what should be done about it?

  • Guy Montag||

    The antelopws should eat the lions, of course. We need to teach nature to be more green and earth friendly.

    It is just like domesticated pets. They can be trained to be herbovours, thus advancing their species.

    Okay, paragraph 2 was from memory from some crackpots I saw on television in the early 1990s or so, on a talk show. Paragraph 1 was the bridge between herodotus' comment and that absurd notion.

  • Rocco||

    At the Redefining Progress site, an American with my lifestyle uses 4.6 Earths. A Mexican one uses 1.94. A Nigerian uses 1.06. The solution is to move to Nigeria. I already got an email from some dude there offering me money.

  • ||

    One thing I find funny about these calculators is that they usually ignore green energy or offset purchaces.

    I purchase all of my electricity through my local energy company's green program (adding about $5 to my otherwise $30 monthly bill), and offset all of my driving and flying through Terrapass at a cost of about $200 per year. I consider it $260 well spent. Yes I think I have only seen one carbon calculator that let me account for this.

  • ||

    Hmm...19th century lifestyle updated to 21st century technology, while keeping CO2 emissions to about 2 tons/person/year. I wonder if the Amish, with their cell phones and solar panels and such, make the 2 ton number? What is their acreage per person?

  • Joel||

    The eco-footprint quiz is kinda lame by the standards of those of us who live in the frickin' desert and have to account for every drop of water and every amp of power. "Turn the thermostat down 3 degrees?" Are you wimps insane? I've gotta cut my own firewood! You think I don't conserve what I burn? And whatthehell's a thermostat, anyway?

    And...um...aw, hell. I'm pretty sure they'll hate me for heating with wood in any case, so never mind. I got points for solar power, though! I'm so frickin' proud.

    "Ski instead of snowmobile?" This is a joke, right?

    Morons.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Guy & Naga

    Two Holleys

  • -||

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    It used to be a 426 wedge but it's bigger now with a clay smith .550 lift cam and big valves. 2.25 as I recall and an Offy tunnel ram. The Mallory ignition is obsolete but still works pretty well.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Two Hollys is better'n Two Holleys any day. The fantasy is that tTwo Holleys will get you Two Hollys.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    And for the record, it is three hours earlier on this coast. Say Good Night, TWC.

    Good Night, TWC.

  • Where did you find Holly that ||

    Holly may or may not reduce my carbon footprint.

  • JohnD||

    Sorry Jeff, but your analogy is flawed. The pro abortion people have no respect for human life. The extreme enviros have no repect for human life. They think that plants and animals are more important. I beleive that is a more accurate analogy.

  • ||

    JohnD, your analogy is flawed too.

    [I r editing ur post!]
    The pro abortion people have less respect for non-sapienthuman life. The extreme enviros have less repect for human life than plants and animals, which they think are more important. I beleive that is a more accurate analogy.

    [I have made your analogy more accurate]

  • ||

    fwiw,
    mainstream enviros have more respect for human life than non-human life, but still plenty of respect for the latter. Jeff's comment of "Many greens appear
    to be trying to punish people for their
    standard of living, under the pretext of
    cutting pollution,"
    is his wrongly projecting the extremists onto the mainstream due to his own fears of the former.

    Also just from demand water and steel cores (never mind the waste and weapons proliferation fears), conventional nuke power does not have a bright future.

  • ||

    While I don't agree with this carbon footprint crap and all the scare tactics used by that crowd, I do think that consideration for the toll paid on the environment should be taken. I definitely do not agree with biddle about consuming as much as you can just to spite the earth.

    Surviving off renewable resources is one thing, burning up non renewable ones to temporarily fuel a better lifestyle is another. I'm not doom and gloom about the issue, I just think we definitely need to consider alternative energy resources because if you do care about future generations, this kind of stuff may catch up in some way. Its just the fact that more people are on the earth than ever before which multiplies the pollution created, and more pollution per person is being created than ever before.

    Whether or not thats having a profound impact is simply a question of whether or not the facts support it. Either way, I think it is a better policy to live off renewable resources than non-renewable ones if possible, though do not advocate sacrificing your lifestyle to do so.

    Through science we can surely create alternatives to fuel. Even nuclear energy has seen vast improvements, and should be used more to supply electricity needs.Being conscious of the environment does not mean picking the environment over humanity, because humanity is chained to the environment.

  • Dazed||

    Do I get extra credit on the points if I print this article to a pdf instead of with ink and paper and store it on my hard for my future reference instead of in a paper file in the store room that has to be heated? Hmmm.... maybe I'm getting the hang of this. Of course I'd get more points if I were sitting in the dark and I weren't using up electricity and hazardous materials surfing the net for articles on being green and taking online tests on how to save electricity....... Maybe I'm not getting the hang of this.......

  • LarryA||

    what if we became vegetarians, ate only local organic food in season,

    It would be really interesting for most folks to find out what that means. Around where I live we have peach season and apple season. That leaves about ten months of nothing much in the way of veganism. Our other major crops are domestic meat and wild game. It's a long way to the nearest corn field.

    "Eating locally" results in a boring diet, featuring periods of the year when food is scarce and less nutritious for having been "organically" stored. It's a huge problem for people with medical dietary problems. Variable weather means years when surplus crops are wasted followed by years when everyone goes hungry.

    And this country is called Cuba," explained GFN executive director, Mathis Wackernagel on National Public Radio's Living On Earth show last November.

    We really need to end the embargo, so these folks can see paradise first-hand.

  • ||

    I did only the Redefining Progress (myfootprint.org) quiz. These guys need to learn the lesson of Julian Simon: Earth's infinite resource is human ingenuity.

    They asked "Have you purchased offsets?" Well, no, but I sure have tried to sell some (to my friends). I've offered to forgo no less than 19 Lear Jets in my next year's budget, all for a paltry $100 each. No takers, yet; it must be my poor sales technique.

    I got credit for "Drought tolerant landscaping" because my "lawn" is weeds and -- if they die, they die.

    I got credit for "Wash cars rarely" for similar reasons.

    My family's carbon footprint is 140.2 tons, 53% over the U.S. average. :-)

    I got a "Food footprint" of... wait, what? There's a FOOD footprint now??!

    It takes 8.3 Earths for everybody to live the way I do. That assumes, of course, that everyone in the third world will consume much more without producing any more. Good assumption, there, Footprint Boy.

  • economist||

    According to the second law of thermodynamics, we're all going to die in ten billion years anyway due to the natural diffusion of energy, while our own contribution in the universe as a whole is negligible, so why not live it up?

  • ||

    Ron,

    The bad news, according to the folks at Carbon Footprint, is that "to combat climate change ([sic] the worldwide average needs to reduce to 2 tons."

    Nobody found the above statement suspiciously illogical and fallacious? How can "we" combat Climate Change? The person who made that statement presupposes a non changing state of the climate, which is impossible.

    Also, why are you even talking about our environmental "footprint", as if humans were tenants on Earth? We evolved naturally into this world, or were placed here by god or gods, whichever way you want to see it - it is not like we suddenly came to party and never left. The idea that I have an environmental "footprint" makes me think there are people that really believe I need to apologize to someone just for being alive! Does that make any sense?

  • ||

    Surviving off renewable resources is one thing, burning up non renewable ones to temporarily fuel a better lifestyle is another. I'm not doom and gloom about the issue, I just think we definitely need to consider alternative energy resources because if you do care about future generations, this kind of stuff may catch up in some way.

    We do not need to consider alternatives out of the blue: entrepreneurs and the market can do that for us. Oil was exploited as a cheap alternative to whale oil. So will anything that emerges next to replace oil as the best and cheapest next thing. Instead, if we go the way of the scaremongering environmentalists, the green-equivalent to the end-of-time crackpots that appear each millennium, people may end up worse off if what is viewed as "alternative energy" options are not really viable, and even worse than what they are supposed to replace (like ethanol).

  • ||

    " So will anything that emerges next to replace oil as the best and cheapest next thing."

    Did whale oil have the benefit of enourmous subsides and market protections? Fossil fuels today worldwide do. Until those are removed, any competing energy source will not blossom no matter how much sense they make.

  • Chad||

    "We do not need to consider alternatives out of the blue: entrepreneurs and the market can do that for us."

    But they won't, as long as fossil fuels continue to receive tremendous subsidies (a free public garbage dump being the major one). These subsidies dwarf the subsidies received by renewables. Either make the subsidies more-or-less equal or get rid of all of them. Getting rid of the free dumping priveledges (ie, a carbon tax or cap-and-trade) should be priority #1 and supported by ANYONE who believes in a free market and understands, oh, chapter two of a freshman economics book. You know, the one where they explain the tragedy of the commons.





    "Oil was exploited as a cheap alternative to whale oil. So will anything that emerges next to replace oil as the best and cheapest next thing."

    Nothing is going to be cheaper than coal for more than a hundred years, as long as coal burners can continue to pollute for free. If we take that path, there is no telling how bad the environmental situation would become.


    "and even worse than what they are supposed to replace (like ethanol)."

    First generation ethanol is a minor loss, but is a stepping stone to future generations, which will be profitable by any measure. And there are many other technologies which are purely and greatly environmental wins RIGHT NOW. They just can't compete with subsidized coal.

    I have no idea why you want to fry the planet while loading it up with soot, mercury, sulfur, etc. To save a few bucks on your electric bill? Are you really that dumb?

  • spizzy fa nutz||

    You can never overestimate stupidity

  • ||

    This was an interesting exercise that caught my eye:

    As noted above, the creators of Carbon Footprint claim that everyone in the world must eventually emit no more than 2 tons of carbon dioxide per year. When did Americans last emit so little carbon dioxide? Around 1870. Taking historical U.S. carbon emissions and multiplying them by a factor of 3.67 in order to derive total carbon dioxide emissions and then dividing that amount by the number of people living in the country, we find that Americans emitted per person roughly 2.5 tons of carbon dioxide annually back in 1870. In those days, per capita GDP was $194 per year which would be equivalent to about $2,500 today.

    But I suggest one more adjustment--the GDP per BTU was much lower in 1870, so you should adjust the GDP to reflect current GDP/BTU instead. (I don't have the historic consumption numbers at hand to do this myself.)

  • ||

    What's important here that nobody seems to have thought of is the per capita in the "tons per capita"! If the world's population continues to expand as it has no amount of conservation is going to do much good. China's one-child poicy has been a large part of their huge success. That's the issue the greenies ought to be working on.

  • Nike Dunk SB High||

    is good

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement