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Global Warming:
Attacking Supply Does Not Cut Demand

March 12, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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Environmental activists who like protests bounce from magnet to magnet over time. Right now the most popular form of protest is against pipelines and other conveyances of carbon-based fuels.

Global warming is very real and will likely have a very negative impact on civilization when crop failures become more common. There could be a major crop failure this year in the U.S., judging from the Drought Monitor map, but then again the rains could resume.

So how do you stop global warming? Ideas abound. A carbon tax is often mentioned. But a certain class of activists like a physical target, and pipelines make a good target. This is particularly true for white activists who get to mix with indigenous peoples (native American Indians).

The Keystone Pipeline protests were a big deal. Lately activists are trying to kill the expansion of an oil pipeline terminating in Vancouver, British Columia. In Washington State activists have successfully blocked plans to creat ports to ship coal to Asia. They are trying to stop an LNG (liquified natural gas) shipment facility. These kinds of protests are taking place in many of the 50 states of the United States, and around the globe as well.

The problem is that, aside from a few stoics and enviro types, people want more energy, not less. Demand is currently greater than supply in most of the world. The more idiotic of my environmentalist friends say "let them eat solar panels, or wind turbines." I'll get back to that, but first let's look at supply and demand in general, before we look at coal, petroleum, natural gas, solar and wind power in particular.

If there is demand, and money to pay for it, someone will supply the demand. Demand for heroin or oxy without money will not generate supply. Trying to cut off supply, when there is demand and money, may drive up product cost at the consumer level, but as alternative supply chains are worked out, costs become reasonable.

In short, stopping a coal railroad in Washington or a pipeline in British Columbia is not going to reduce demand in Asia. In fact, that demand will be filled by adding to carbon emissions, as the same carbon has to be transported further. Or dirtier, less efficient carbon sources are used, as when high-sulfur local coal is substituted for imported natural gas.

Before looking at demand in Asia, look at demand close to home. Americans (with some exceptions) love cars. We love air-conditioning. We love laundry machines and big screen TVs and lawn mowers, leaf blowers and toys running on batteries and, in short, just about anything that consumes energy.

Try to take air-conditioning away from Americans and face an armed revolt. The American who believes life is worth living without air-conditioning is a rare thing.

Believe it or not, Asians (and other non-Americans) are no different. Take India. The population of India is about 1.3 billion and growing. No one had air-conditioning in India 100 years ago. People complained about the heat, but did not expect much beyond a cooling off at night and in winter. Now everyone has heard of air-conditioning, many have experienced it, and most families aspire to having it. They also aspire to a car, a washer and dryer, and a modern kitchen. If they each achieve their aspirations, each will increase their carbon emissions to roughly U.S. levels, which is by a factor of about 10.

If Americans have a right to air-conditioning, why shouldn't an Indian family, or Rohinga or Burmese or Congolese family?

Environmentalist pitbulls should stop and think for a moment.

If closing a coal-fired plant means using less carbon intensive natural gas, but it comes from fracking, are you going to stop trying to block fracking?

Again, most environmentalists say use less power and get it from solar. But only a tiny amount of elecricity is currently from solar, despite Chinese plants spitting out panels at lightning speed. Also, the global-warming break even point for solar panels is about 20 years. They require energy to create and install. So in the short run, they increase carbon emissions.

People will only use less power if they can get the same goods with less power. Air-conditioning uses less power when a building is better insulated. So a lot of public and private programs, like installing better insulation, make sense. But no matter how much insulation is used, with a human or two generating heat inside a house, with it hot outside, power will be sucked. Multiply that by a billion, or two billion, or four billion people, and Houston, we have a problem.

Expect demand per person to increase on a global basis. In India the only thing slowing down carbon dioxide emissions growth is the incompetence of the government, which can't build power plants, be they hydro or solar or wind or coal or gas or oil, fast enough. Most of the un-air-conditioned world is in the same boat.

We should continue to try to reduce demand per person in places like Europe and the U.S. where it is already high. We hope Indians can be taught better habits, like setting the temperature to 78 degrees instead of the American standard of 68.

But mainly, the human population really has to shrink if civilization is not to create an uninhabitable planet in the next century or so. That means we need a global one child policy.

It won't be easy. Some people think spitting out mini-me carbon emitters is a human right. Well it isn't.

State governments, and eventually the U.S. government, can can create a one-child culture through education and incentives. Don't allow any special privileges or tax breaks for a second child. Help people realize that their own lives will be better with just one child. Parents can enjoy a fuller life and the economics is better for both parents and children.

Some liberal ideas have to go. Like free college for everyone. I say, free college for the first child. Same for day care. Same for parental leave. Same for tax breaks.




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