Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Convoluted Logic of the “Climate Lobby”

A letter titled Fine energy companies for spewing carbon pollution appeared in the 10/18/14 NJ Star-Ledger. David Korfhage, identified as the “group leader of the Montclair Citizens Climate Lobby,” writes, in part:

As it stands, fossil fuel companies can sell their dirty energy and dump all the pollution that comes with them into the atmosphere without charge. They get the profit, we pay the cost. It's time for a change.

Just as I have to pay a fine if I dump my garbage on the street, fossil fuel providers should be required to pay a fee for all the carbon pollution their fuels produce.

I left these comments:

“They get the profit, we pay the cost.”

Wrong. We benefit from the products our money pays for. They profit from the benefits we receive from their products. When I pay $50 for a tank of gasoline, I get the gas that powers my car. If I’m not better off with the gas than with the $50, I’d leave the $50 in my wallet and forgo the gas. The same goes for the #2 fuel oil in my oil tank, which heats my house and provides hot water, and the electricity I buy from fossil-fueled generating plants, which provides my illumination, powers my clean water well, and runs my computer so I can leave this comment. Every dollar I send to fossil fuel companies provides me with a benefit greater than the value of the money I send them. Otherwise, I’d hold onto the money, rather than buy gasoline, heating oil, and electricity.

Fossil fuel companies profit by making our lives better. They get the profit, and we get the benefit. Win-win.

“A revenue-neutral fee-and-dividend is the policy we need to end global warming.”

Leaving aside the utter absurdity of that conclusion—which doesn't even deserve a rebuttal—notice the Orwellian language distortion; a common tactic of statists who want to put something over on people.

A dividend is a payout from a company’s earnings, or profits; i.e. wealth production. The yield on ExxonMobil’s stock is a dividend—a reward for investing one’s capital in ExxonMobil. A monthly check funded by a tax on fossil fuels is not a dividend. It is a handout funded by seizing other people’s earnings at gunpoint, otherwise known as a tax. A dividend is the result of a voluntary transaction. A tax-funded handout is based on force. They are opposites.

So all of the hysterical hyperbole about impending global climate catastrophe comes down to---handouts!

There are two additional points I want to make about Korfhage’s comments.

First, the “carbon pollution” so often cited is CO2, the stuff of life. CO2 is not harmful to humans. It is vital, because is feeds the plant growth that produces the oxygen that keeps us alive. CO2 is not a pollutant, unless you’re willing to define human life itself as a pollutant—which, in fact, is precisely how the intellectual leaders of the environmentalist movement view us.

Second, consider Korfhage’s statement, “Just as I have to pay a fine if I dump my garbage on the street, fossil fuel providers should be required to pay a fee for all the carbon pollution their fuels produce.” Notice the bait and switch. If you dump your plastic grocery bags into the street, you are polluting and you get fined, because you, the consumer, did the dumping. Korfhage doesn’t advocate pinning the blame for his polluting on the plastic bag makers. He expects to pay the fine.

Well, why doesn’t the same principle apply to fossil fuel producers? After all, it is consumers, not producers, who dump “carbon pollution” into the air. This is where Korflage’s word trickery comes in. All of a sudden, he—the consumer—is not to blame. But why not? Just as Korfhage doesn’t have to dump his plastic grocery bags into the street, so he doesn’t have to dump “carbon pollution” into the air. Now, one can say, “But Korfhage can still use plastic grocery bags and dispose of them properly, instead of just dumping them (and his other garbage) into the street. He has no choice when it comes to fossil fuels: to use them is to release “carbon pollution” into the air. But this is a distinction without a real difference. The point is, it is the user of fossil fuels who does the dumping. Fossil fuel companies wouldn’t exist if not for consumers who voluntarily buy their products. No consumer, no producer.

Of course, a carbon tax would fall not only on the companies in the form of reduced sales, but mainly on the consumer, who would face higher prices. Doesn’t exactly jibe with Korfhage’s “dividend” (free lunch for consumers) scenario. But then climate change dogmatists rarely think things through.

Related Reading:

Trader Principle—Ayn Rand Lexicon

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