Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?
Ryan Avent explains the latest reason why the New York Times should be really embarrassed:
Environmental policy: Maybe the playing field needs leveling: DAVID BROOKS' latest column has drawn plenty of deserved criticism…. [According to Brooks,] former Vice President Al Gore tried to convince people that global warming was a big deal, leaving Republicans with no choice but to run from the issue. Ezra Klein has a useful take on the political incoherence of the piece. I'd like to focus on this, however:
The biggest blow to green tech has come from the marketplace itself. Fossil fuel technology has advanced more quickly than renewables technology…. [H]e who lives by the subsidy dies by the subsidy. Government planners should not be betting on what technologies will develop fastest. They should certainly not be betting on individual companies.
A carbon price would be useful. America was very close to getting one during Barack Obama's first term, but the single Republican Senator willing to work on the bill—Lindsay Graham—faced intense pressure from his party to abandon the talks and eventually did…. But I wish Mr Brooks would grapple for a moment with the complexities of carbon policy. What does it tell us, for instance, if fossil-fuel technology has advanced more than green technology?… Fossil fuel research can build on a much larger body of knowledge than green research, and the returns to innovation in fossil fuel industries, given their enormous size, are incredibly vast. Based on these scale advantages, we would expect to see much more innovation—and production—from fossil fuel producers as opposed to green-energy producers for a given change in the price of fossil fuel energy. Unless, of course, the state provides an R&D subsidy to offset this disadvantage.
In the presence of market failure, government inaction is a bet on a certain set of technologies and industries. The important question is not whether the government should favour one industry or another; it's whether the net effect of its favouritism is the most welfare enhancing.
And Ezra Klein cannot believe his eyes:
The sad history of climate policy, according to David Brooks: To summarize [according to Brooks]: Addressing climate change by pricing carbon — an idea Brooks supported then and supports now — was a bipartisan project in 2003. It became a partisan project because Al Gore thought it was important enough to make a documentary about. Republicans began opposing efforts to price carbon, in part because they hate Al Gore. That left funding renewables research as the only avenue for those worried about climate change. Funding renewables research means funding some projects that won’t work out, and some that might make Al Gore rich. This led to bad publicity that tarnished the whole program.
The passivity of Brooks’s conclusion is astonishing. This isn’t a story of overreach, misjudgements, and disappointment. It’s a story of Republicans putting raw partisanship and a dislike for Al Gore in front of the planet’s best interests… conservatives building an alternative reality in which the science is unsettled, and no one really knows whether the planet is warming…. It’s a story, to put it simply, of Democrats doing everything they can to address a problem Brooks says is real in the way Brooks says is best, and Republicans doing everything they can to stop them. And it’s a story that ends with Democrats and Republicans receiving roughly equal blame from Brooks…. [Brooks] doesn’t want to say who’s right and who’s wrong, which is the only tool pundits have to help those who are right and push those who are wrong. Instead, he wants to say everybody is wrong, and isn’t it just a shame. For a clearer take on this issue, read Eugene Robinson’s column.