California and Britain Climate Change "Treaty"?

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The Associated Press is reporting that Britain's Tony Blair and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are plotting how to get California into Europe's new carbon market as way for the Golden State to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. To wit:

Britain and California are preparing to sidestep the Bush administration and fight global warming together by creating a joint market for greenhouse gases. . . Such a move could help California cut carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases scientists blame for warming the planet. President Bush has rejected the idea of ordering such cuts.

Whole article here.

My Reason Foundation colleague Shikha Dalmia recently took a gimlet-eye view of Europe's carbon market and found it wanting.

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  1. I wouldn’t think a carbon “market” would do anything to reduce carbon emissions unless it is coupled with a government mandate that (a) capped carbon emissions and (b) passed out official permits to emit carbon that can be traded (and thus bought by companies that can’t otherwise meet their mandated cap).

    These emissions markets are, really, nothing more than attempts to reduce the cost, at the margin, of state-mandated emissions caps. The reductions, if any, come from the caps, not from the markets.

  2. U.S. Constitution
    Article I, Section 10

    1. No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation;….

    2. No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws; and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.

    Considering the above, just how in the heck can Kal-ee-fawn-ya enter into an agreement with the EU? Is this just a voluntary framework that companies can join?

    Kevin

  3. “My Reason Foundation colleague Shikha Dalmia recently took a gimlet-eye view of Europe’s carbon market and found it wanting.”

    Is that the one where she says a Hummer is more energy-efficient than the entire EU?

  4. What Kevin asked.

  5. I think the Constitution would preclude a “treaty” between a state and a foreign jurisdiction having any independent force, or being enforcable by the foreign jurisdiction. The executive and/or legislative branches of a state government are free to enact regulations or laws which happen to mirror or be in some way based upon foreign laws or international agreements. Ahnold and Blair’s discussions would be in the nature of coordinating independent initiatives, not negotiating a treaty.

  6. I have some more exciting science news for Shikha Dalmia:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/49180

    Sorry, but she forfeited all credibility with her enthusiastic report on how Hummers produce less CO2 during their life cycles than hybrids.

    I have no comment on the blog post. Just on Shikha Dalmia. She gets a big wag of the finger.

  7. This is really just a trade agrement. States were going around making side trade agreements a few years ago and if memory serves me I think they got pounded by the courts. I can’t see the courts not pounding California over this. Foreign relations is the exclusive power of the Federal Government through the treaty powers and the President’s power to send ambassadors and conduct foreign affairs. I seriously doubt this will ever happen.

  8. thoreau: No! A Reason science reporter saying very silly things about climate change? Surely not! I won’t believe it! (collapses in fit of vapors)

  9. thoreau: No! A Reason science reporter saying very silly things about climate change? Surely not! I won’t believe it! (collapses in fit of vapors)

    She has written a fairly strange article. Carbon hasn’t “settled” at ?9, it’s back up around ?16-18. Volumes are still good. The problem wasn’t oversupply per se, it was poor handling of information release – the environment ministers aren’t as market-savvy as the central bankers. She can’t tell the difference between “England” and “the UK”. Her assertion that permits are awarded on the basis of “expectations of economic growth” is just wrong. Member states cannot award as many as they like, because overall EU emissions are capped by Kyoto. Audits of emitting companies are already part of the process, and are handled at national level, just like auditing annual accounts.

  10. Sorry, but she forfeited all credibility with her enthusiastic report on how Hummers produce less CO2 during their life cycles than hybrids.

    No, the article was on total energy consumption covering total life cycle of Hummers vs hybrids.

    The analysis is still suspect, but on a different metric than CO2.

  11. Carbon trading in Europe was a different wacky article from Shikha Dalmia.

  12. “No, the article was on total energy consumption covering total life cycle of Hummers vs hybrids.

    The analysis is still suspect, but on a different metric than CO2”

    Oh come on, like you have to give a fair hearing and listen to the arguments of anyone who disagrees with “climate change”. There is a scientific consensus that within twenty years the oceans are going to boil in punishment for our decadent, capitalist lifestyles. Get with the program here.

  13. carrick-

    Fair enough, I phrased it poorly. It was suggested in the article that the energy consumed by a Hummer over its lifetime was less than the energy consumed by a hybrid, and energy consumption was used as a proxy for CO2 impacts. The analysis was suspect for a number of reasons:

    1) Playing fast and loose with distinctions between marginal and average impacts. Libertarians consider themselves to be very econ-savvy, so that was particularly unforgiveable.

    2) As even Shannon Love conceded, analyzing the entire life cycle of a product and every associated activity is a dubious exercise. There’s lots of room for double counting, selective omissions, and confusions between marginal and average impacts.

    3) IIRC, most of the article focused on a single analysis by a single source with some clear conflicts of interest. That single source could still be right, but Shikha Dalmia didn’t give much attention to other sources, IIRC. (I’m open to being corrected on that.)

    4) Simple order of magnitude estimates make the analysis seem dubious: If making a hybrid and driving it for 100,000 miles (the lifetime estimate in the article), and repeating twice to get to 300,000 miles, uses more energy than making a Hummer and driving it for several years, then the energy used to manufacture a hybrid must be on the same order of magnitude as the energy used to drive a Hummer for 300,000 miles. (We’ll leave aside problems with those mileage estimates, although those are also dubious.) This would imply that automotive manufacturing alone must use about as much energy as drivers. (And remember that the comparison was with the least fuel-efficient cars on the market.) As I recall, energy use by drivers and ALL manufacturing are on the same order of magnitude in the developed world.

    In summary, Shikha Dalmia is an absolutely horrible journalist, she’s all too willing to swallow ideologically convenient BS, and she should never again be cited as a source for anything.

    Yes, yes, I know, she could still be right. So could a broken clock. The bottom line is that when a source is disreputable you look elsewhere for info.

    Seeing her cited as having anything interesting to say on matters of energy just seriously ticked me off.

    Sadly, there was a good point buried in the analysis: Hybrids may have some hidden environmental drawbacks, so we should take claims about hybrids with a grain of salt. If she had wanted to make that claim, and draw upon multiple independent sources to make it, then she would have contributed something very interesting to our discussions. But instead, she decided to undermine a potentially good point by swallowing a load of BS. Which is yet another reason why she shouldn’t be taken seriously: She undermines potentially good arguments by not separating wheat from chaff.

  14. “No, the article was on total energy consumption covering total life cycle of Hummers vs hybrids.”

    Sorry, but that article issued forth such a stench that it’s hard to keep a straight face whenever I see Dalmia’s name come up now. Maybe she should get into doing culture war stuff.

  15. budgie-

    The next thing you know, even Geraldo Rivera will be treated as a serious journalist!

    Oh, wait… Um, yeah. I gotta go weep now.

  16. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. She wrote two articles, both of which deserve ample ridicule. I was just saying that you should abuse her for the things she really wrote, not the things you think you remember.

    The first article was on the “failure” of the European carbon trading initiative. This one deals with the global warming issue. The second was on life cycle comparison of energy use. This one deals with oil import issues. The hummer/hybrid was not specifically driven by the global warming issue.

  17. carrick-

    I’m well aware that the one on Hummer vs. hybrid was not specifically on global warming, and that it was distinct from the one that Ron cited in his post. My point is that it was such a piece of junk that she lost all credibility with me.

    And I’m aware that the Hummer vs. hybrid article dealt with energy use, but energy use is a decent proxy for CO2 production.

  18. I will agree that it was rather sloppy of me to use energy consumption as a proxy for CO2 when summarizing her article. I should have said that her article specifically focused on energy use.

  19. Sorry, but she forfeited all credibility with her enthusiastic report on how Hummers produce less CO2 during their life cycles than hybrids.

    And I’m aware that the Hummer vs. hybrid article dealt with energy use, but energy use is a decent proxy for CO2 production.

    OK, I see from the second statement how you got to the first. I didn’t make the same connection that you did when I read the article. I found it more about “those hybrids are saving any oil like you think they are”.

    At any rate, it’s sad when someone takes a respectable technique like life cycle analysis and ties it to such a bad chunk of science.

  20. I found it more about “those hybrids are saving any oil like you think they are”

    Some days even proof reading doesn’t help.

    . . . those hybrids aren’t saving any oil like you think they are . . .

  21. Independent treaties with foreign powers? Could this be a first step towards secession? I would *so* love to not be sending my tax dollars to other states. Although, in this instance, perhaps I would just end up subsidizing some lardass German’s vacation in Death Valley.

    Californialand, here we come!

  22. carrick-

    Sounds like we’re on the same page.

    I’m fully willing to consider the possibility that hybrids aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If Shikha Dalmia had simply made that point it would have been fine. But she had to go pimp some junk analysis, destroying her credibility. What’s saddest is that if she was indeed trying to push some sort of agenda (hypothetically speaking), pimping a deeply flawed analysis destroyed her credibility and hence undermined her ability to advance any sort of agenda.

    There’s plenty of room in this world for smooth shills. There’s no room for untalented shills.

  23. No offense guys, but as bad asthat Hummers vs. hybrids articles was, you do yourselves no failures dismissing everything written by her because of that bad article. Do you only listen to people that are always right?

    Address the merits of that specific article before trashing it. So far the only person that has done that was ajay at July 31, 2006 01:42 PM.

    Come on thoreau, I expect better from you.

  24. Such a move could help California cut carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases scientists blame for warming the planet.

    Aside from the possible constitutional bugaboos, it will NOT cut a single carbon molecule from Californias total emissions. The Kyoto is staggering around Europe as a near total disaster (read completely ignored). I say bugger to California and Tony Blur.

  25. 2) As even Shannon Love conceded, analyzing the entire life cycle of a product and every associated activity is a dubious exercise. There’s lots of room for double counting, selective omissions, and confusions between marginal and average impacts.

    Thoreau,

    I don’t underestimate the difficulty of such a sstudy, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t attempt to figure out the total product cost from machine shop to driveway.

    I’ve had the same complaint (but no hard data to back it up) about windfarms. I’ve been very suspicious about wind enerty- ie, can you build windfarms, supply power, maintain windfarms, and build more windfarms on…wind power?

    I too am suspicious that a hummer uses more energy than a hybrid over its entire lifecycle. But think about it, the hybrid would be prone to the same double counting, selective ommission and confusion.

  26. Mo-

    It’s not that I only listen to people who are always right. There’s a difference between being wrong and completely disabling your bullshit filters for ideological convenience. It’s a trend that I’ve noticed at Reason for scientific matters.

    “We’re the tough skeptics. We ask the hard questions. We always look for more info. We challenge the conventional wisdom. We don’t fall for…what’s that? A ridiculous assertion that but environmentalists won’t like? HELL YEAH!!! I’ll write the article on that one as soon as I finish a glowing review of technologies that can create babies with eagle vision and dolphin sonar.”

    (OK, I exaggerated the last sentence, obviously.)

    Shikha Dalmia wasn’t simply wrong. She was wrong in a way that forfeited credibility, and she is part of a trend that has bothered me for a while.

  27. I didn’t take the time to read the original Hummer vs hybrid article when it came out (I was buried by other things). But the basic premise did not really surprise me.

    We’ve been building cars with internal combustion engines for a 100 or so years. So they’re doing a life cycle cost analysis of 20th generation technology (the Hummer) versus 2nd or 3rd generation technology (the hybrid). I would expect the design, production, and reclamation processes for the Hummer to be far more efficient than the hybrid today. But 20 years from now, I would expect the answer to be different.

    So the study was flawed from the very premise, let alone the execution (which from comments here appears to be very flawed indeed).

  28. I liked her Detroit vs. Bangalore article (https://www.reason.com/0606/fe.sd.what.shtml), to a large part because it also had warnings of what Bangalore needs to learn from Detroit’s mistakes.

    But her environment stuff is out there no lies.

    Well, now that we’re talking about it, wouldn’t ethanol be a much more viable alternative if we lifted the Cuba embargo and let their massive sugar cane capacity be used to make ethanol?

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