Pure Genius: More Oil for Climate Change

Treating lung cancer is outrageously expensive (have you seen “Breaking Bad“?). What if I suggested that we should grow more tobacco, and get more people to smoke cigarettes, so the increased revenue can help pay for treatment costs?

Or how about this: let’s produce more tobacco and create some brilliant marketing campaigns to get more people to smoke, but only do that in third-world countries so it’s somebody else’s problem, not ours. That way, we won’t have more lung cancer and emphysema and bronchitis here in the good old U.S.A., and we can use some of the revenue to help pay for treatment here in the good old U.S.A. — where we’re so good.

Wait a minute … did I say grow more tobacco to pay for lung cancer? I meant drill for more oil to pay for climate change.

16 responses to “Pure Genius: More Oil for Climate Change

  1. ‘Force feed the obese’, was my commentary.

  2. I only had to read the first paragraph of your post, tamino, before this sprung to mind:

    http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/08/broken-window-fallacy.asp

    But exporting the tobacco to another country… well now, that is a new twist ;-)

  3. It’s insane the crap politicians come up with.

  4. What’s worse is that, in this analogy, we all share one giant lung.

  5. That story reads like a piece from The Onion.

  6. What is contemptuous are the ordinary people out there who consider this post “religious” in style and substance as opposed to scientific so as to more easily dismiss or exclude the message AND promoting delay in conscientiously assessing and addressing the issue. Hannah Arendt’s “The Banality of Evil” comes to mind

  7. Torsten,

    No, it’s from the Lindsey Graham campaign.

  8. It might seem crazy to suggest that politicians care about money and funding, but perhaos this suggests that the politicians’ only priority is to burn as much oil as possible and that no situation.

    No damage from global warming? Then let’s burn the oil without worrying. A little damage from global warming? The oil is worth the cost. Lots of damage from global warming? We need the oil to pay for the damage caused by the oil.

    No matter what happens, they will come up with a moral-sounding excuse to burn their oil.

  9. If you study the history of Alaska, consider the current population of the state and its geographic distribution, and look at the detailed import/export balances by sector, then you will realize that the governor is really between a rock and hard spot with no easy way out (particularly when you consider that the governor is an elected political animal).

  10. After overcoming the shock of the Orwellian newspeak it was amazing to hear a republican governor acknowledge that the problems these villages are experiencing are actually due to climate change. Can he give up the bullshit of his simplistic libertarian economic view that this problem can be solved, as he states, at the local level? Apparently yes he can. This NYTimes article says Alaska is applying for Federal Aid to help with village relocation but………….they’re gonna have to compete for it. Show me who out there is hurtin’ the most! Alaska is seeking $162M. Didn’t DOD just piss away $.5B on training 5 Syrian rebels? …….oh well.

    Hopefully this link works:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/us/alaska-seeks-federal-money-to-move-a-village-threatened-by-climate-change.html?_r=0

  11. This comes to mind; all the flavors of compromise, though it’s mild. But I am sick and tired of compromising with all this guff!

    “The Opinion Pages | Editorial
    “Oil Exports Should Be Paired With Clean Energy Tax Breaks”
    by the Editorial Board, October 12, 2015

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/12/opinion/oil-exports-should-be-paired-with-clean-energy-tax-breaks.html

  12. It may not be as totally crazy as it seems. Of course his is not the right solution, but the situation is an example of how the sale price of the product (carbon) was not enough to cover the production costs plus the externalities (climate change). According to the article Alaska gets 90% of its revenue from oil (another problem) and has been hit hard by the drop in oil prices.

    There’s a lesson here to be learned in the economics of carbon pricing but I don’t think Gov. Walker is likely to get it.

    • David Sanger,

      You make a good point. Those who adhere to an 18th century economic model and its modern variants that views resources like the earth atmosphere and oceans as infinite sinks never price in the externalities imposed by the abuse of these resources. The Stern Review says this about the negative externality of climate change (from Wikipedia):

      The Stern Review on the Economics Of Climate Change says “Climate change presents a unique challenge for economics: it is the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen.”
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality#cite_note-8

  13. I suspect the “90% of its revenue” is with respect to state government revenues, not with regard to the value of all exports from the state. While I agree with the principle of including externalities in the well-head price, this is only indirectly relevant to the governor’s predicament. To understand that predicament, you might look at the state population over time in relation to oil exploitation. Then consider how much food is imported by the state to feed that population and how much of whatever can be exported to pay for that food.

    I really know nothing about Gov. Walker. But I know Kenai had a population of about 2,500 when I arrived in August 1966 and about 15,000 when I left in June 1968 (look up Swanson River and Cook Inlet associated with oil and natural gas). I later lived in Anchorage from 1977 to 1993.

    Not knowing Gov. Walker, I will not express any judgment of whether he “is likely to get it” or perhaps “got it long ago.”

    Historically, the only way we know to reduce global human CO2 emissions is economic collapse. There is probably a lesson to be learned here, but I don’t think we are likely to get it.

  14. “Historically, the only way we know to reduce global human CO2 emissions is economic collapse.”

    At the global level, perhaps. However, many of the developed economies–the US, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and more–have in fact reduced emissions through structural changes such as energy efficiency and substituting lower-carbon energy sources for ‘dirtier’ ones. And they’ve done it while economic growth continued.

    Complete OECD stats through 2012 here:

    https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=AIR_GHG

    There is the question of how much of this is accounted for by ‘exporting’ emissions to non-OECD manufacturing states. I doubt that’s the whole story, though, although it’s likely part of it.

    • There have been several (largely) independent studies of “imported emissions” indicating increased CO2 emissions in the developed economies you mentioned when CO2 emissions are accounted for on a consumption, not production, basis. It takes longer to get the numbers (international trade data is necessary). Then there are also questions about how far down the supply chain to trace embedded carbon emissions and how to aggregate and allocate between sectors. Nevertheless, it becomes clear that the idea of “decoupling” CO2 from GDP growth in developed countries is a myth so far. This does not say it is impossible, only that it hasn’t been seen to happen yet.