A Growing, Greener Economy

The Washington Post notes that US carbon emissions dropped 1.3% last year as the economy grew by 3.3%.

European carbon emissions continued to rise, despite Europe embracing the Kyoto Protocols.

This is an example of why efforts like Kyoto are ultimately counter-productive. The problem isn’t in the developed world, where technological advances allow for greater efficiency over time, but in the developing world where the voracious appetite for electricity and fuel is causing rapid expansion of inefficient power plants and millions of new vehicles to be put on the roads. The Kyoto Protocol does nothing to stop that, but penalizes the growth of the developing world, which in turn reduces the capital available for developing more efficient technologies.

The US is in fact a leader in environmental technologies — but we need to do more. That means seriously developing a 21st Century power grid featuring clean nuclear technologies, cleaner coal, and less dependence on Middle Eastern oil. All of that requires doing things that environmentalist groups hate — developing nuclear plants, engaging in more domestic oil drilling, and increasing our coal production. We have viable and rational options for more energy independence, but if the goal is to rely on wind, solar, or other unreliable technologies, we won’t be able to pull it off. Wind and solar are excellent ways of supplementing our power grid, but they’re not (yet) viable over large scales.

Michael Chrichton had it right — the environmentalist movement operates from religious rather than scientific principles — which is why it’s important that policymakers stop encouraging the indulgences of carbon credits and the ritual shunning of nuclear power and concentrate on what works. That may not be what the environmentalist movement wants, but we all need a cleaner environment and a more efficient economy, and to get there we need to balance the needs of both.