February 24, 2007


A Conservative Conservationist?: Why the Right Needs to Get Invested in the Search for Climate Change Solutions (Mark Sanford, February 23, 2007, Washington Post)

When George W. Bush, The Post and the insurance giant Lloyd's of London agree on something, it's obvious a new wind is blowing. The climate change debate is here to stay, and as America warms to the idea of environmental conservation on a grander scale, it's vital that conservatives change the debate before government regulation expands yet again and personal freedom is pushed closer toward extinction.

The fact is, I'm a conservative and a conservationist -- and that's okay. [...]

I believe conservatives have a window of opportunity, but that window is closing fast.

First, conservatives must reframe the environmental discussion by replacing the political left's scare tactics with conservative principles such as responsibility and stewardship. Stewardship -- the idea that we need to take care of what we've been given -- simply makes sense. It makes dollars as well, for the simple reason that our economy is founded on natural resources, from tourism and manufacturing to real estate and agriculture. Here in South Carolina, conservation easements are springing up across the state as landowners see the dual benefit of preserving the environment and protecting their pocketbooks.

Second, conservatives must reclaim lost ground from far-left interest groups by showing how environmental conservation is as much about expanding economic opportunity as it is about saving whales or replanting rain forests. When corporations such as BP and Shell America pursue alternative energy sources, they not only cut carbon emissions but help cut our petroleum dependency on OPEC nations. When South Carolina restaurants recycle their oyster shells, they not only restore shellfish habitat but take a job off local governments' plates and ensure continuing revenue streams for local fishermen.

Third, conservatives must respond to climate change with innovation, not regulation. This means encouraging private research and implementation of more eco-friendly construction, more energy-efficient workplaces and more sustainable ways of going about life -- all of which cuts costs and protects God's creation. It means looking past the question of whether your car's exhaust melts polar ice caps and instead treating our environment as an investment our future depends on.

Conservatives can't rule out regulation and be significant players on the issue. If there's something worth conserving it's necessarily worth using reasonable means to achieve that end. Obvious examples that are consistent with conservative principles include consumption taxes and things like banning incandescent bulbs, Battle of the light bulbs (Marc Lifsher and Adrian G. Uribarri, 2/24/07, LA
A new light is about to burn more brightly: the stubby, squiggly fluorescent bulb. Environmentalists love it, Wal-Mart is promoting it and Australia is eyeing it as an easy way to save energy and curb global warming.

Now, California lawmakers are giving it some wattage by considering a ban on the sale of old-fashioned incandescent bulbs beginning in 2012.

The proposed switch represents a revolution in a lampshade, because incandescents account for 95% of light bulb sales. Replacing each descendant of Thomas A. Edison's invention with a low-energy, long-lasting, compact fluorescent bulb would slash electricity consumption by 75%, proponents say.

Retired aerospace engineer Frank Vincent is sold. "I use them. It saves me energy and it saves me money on that energy," said Vincent, 63, who was shopping Friday at a Wal-Mart store on Crenshaw Boulevard.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has thrown considerable marketing might behind the newfangled bulbs, urging its 100 million customers to buy at least one. The world's largest retailer says that would collectively save them $3 billion over the bulbs' life.

Note that while the environmental effects are speculative the economic benefits are certain.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 24, 2007 10:13 AM

Sanford's and Walmart's efforts make for nice window dressing, but one can't ignore the 800 lb Gorilla in the room.

You can't base good policy off of bad science, and you can't repeal the laws of economics.

First, Bush's "20% cut in energy use" rhetoric is flawed from the get-go. Peter Huber (a Stewardship Conservationsist Conservative) pointed out in a great article a few years ago, that all "conservation" does in increase consumption.

All those light bulbs won't "save" a kilowatt because the moment the savings occur, they will be re-applied to better uses.

This is not to argue against efficiency and convservation. It is to argue against promoting the impossible (20% cut in energy use) because it simply sets up failure, which leads, in turn to greater and greater calls for "regulation."

If the right were smart re: climate change, they would argue the obvious. That China and India are the culprits, and that the US will go along with anything that truly cleans up the world's air.

Kyoto has NOTHING to do with cleaning the air. It is an obvious attempt to hobble the United States economically.

There is NO political downside to pointing this while simulatneously re-introducing Nuclear power as a way not only to produce needed energy, but to produce the energy necessary to pump Carbon out of the atmosphere.

We could even make hay out of carbon taxes and gas taxes, provided they reduce taxes on income and capital.

Conservatives are treading on dangerous ground here, and it is most likely that they will biff this. Bush's idiotic paean to "20% reduction in energy use" is a case in point.

REAL reduction in energy use will only occur if and/or when the left wins its "anti-life" and "anti-civilization" crusade, and Bush's insipid rhetoric is only assisting them.

Bush is either as stupid as his critics say he is, or (far more likely) he is banking on that old political saw that "people are stupid."

People are NOT stupid! They they are IGNORANT, and there are no net benefits to keeping them that way.

Posted by: Bruno at February 24, 2007 11:26 AM

banning incandescent bulbs

You social engineers just love finding some symbolc object or behavior and banning it, don't you?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at February 24, 2007 12:35 PM

No, the light bulbs themselves, not the symbolic ones that represent ideas in comic strips.

Posted by: oj at February 24, 2007 2:27 PM

except that forced innovation favors the US, with the world's only innovative economy, not the mere assembling states.

Posted by: oj at February 24, 2007 2:29 PM

"Forced innovation" of necessity becomes politically corrupt. The FORMER SOVIET UNION was the paragon of so-called. self-proclained "forced innovation." Comsymps saw the future, they lied, and said that it was working.

The absence of force in innovation is the truly progressive concept of operations. Allowing individual actors to make choices whether to accept or spurn technology accentuates the economic advantage of the adaptive individual over the non-adaptive. It operates as a kind of tax on negligence and nescience.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 24, 2007 3:17 PM

Note that while the environmental effects are speculative the economic benefits are certain.

Sure, along with the benefits of not having to change them. All of that, of course, argues against needing an actual ban, though.

Posted by: John Thacker at February 24, 2007 3:41 PM

We need prescription reform in the US.

Posted by: Jim C at February 24, 2007 4:21 PM


There is no such thing as homo economicus. You have to break the baker's window to get him to put in the triple panes that will save him hugely.

Posted by: oj at February 24, 2007 6:03 PM


No, exactly wrong. The problem with Socialism is that it requires the remedy rather than just banning the harm. The problem with your libertarianism is that it simply accepts the harm.

Posted by: oj at February 24, 2007 6:05 PM

Ummm, if I use less energy, I pay less in taxes, don't I?

How long before the leeches start screaming for more money?????

Posted by: Sandy P at February 24, 2007 6:24 PM

Raoul & Lou and all,

It isn't about "socialism" or "forcing" anything.

The fact is that social engineering and socialism, though often overlapping, need not.

Taxing gas or carbon (in exchange for reduced taxes on labor and capital) is simply good policy.

The perfect tax system is one that taxes waste and stupidity, and anything else society wants less of. At that vanisihing point where you have successfully taxes away all waste and stupidity, you no longer need taxes, as you will be living as close to Utopia as you can get. (addressing Sandy's point).

No one need ban anything.

Posted by: Bruno at February 24, 2007 6:47 PM

Bruno is exactly right. Kyoto is an attempt to "tax" America's economic success, nothing more.

The Euros (and Asia) exempted China and India because they want someone else to 'threaten' American economic power. They ignore the rules themselves (when convenient or of necessity) because they are much closer to the abyss than we are.

It would be interesting to see how the Senate might vote on Kyoto today, if Bush suddenly dropped it on Harry Reid's desk. Would there be 15 votes in favor? Would there be 5? Or would the Dems go completely nuts and give it 40-45 votes?

OJ: the problem with your idea of creative destruction is that government coercion is almost never 'creative' and almost always (in the realm of economics) destructive far beyond what is needed. You would rather have the government inflict "harm" than the marketplace. Change is way too cruel that way.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 24, 2007 11:56 PM

To the contrary, it's always creative and the destruction is its purpose. Look at all the new products created as a result of cracking down on cigarettes.

Posted by: oj at February 25, 2007 7:13 AM

Interesting no one has reflected yet on how aesthetically dismally fluorescent bulbs render a room, its ambience, and its occupants. The reason people use incandescent lamping and halogen sconces is for atmosphere and warmth. The market will never relinquish mood and warm lighting, even if citizens have to pay extra taxes for the "privilege" of using them. "Social Conservatives" have a well-deserved reputation for being aesthetic philistines. Fluorescents in the living, dining and bedrooms ... it boggles the mind.

Posted by: HL at February 25, 2007 7:31 AM

HL - not to get into the discussion of the economics* of light bulbs, there are different kinds fluorescent bulbs. We use a great fluorescent lamp on our office desk. There were two choices of bulbs, a bright white we found too harsh and another that emulated sunlight we found easy on the eyes as well as good illumination for close work and a nice ambience in the room.

I don't like overhead fluorescents because the headache-inducing flickering.

*If fluorescent bulbs are cheaper and more efficient than incandescent, why must their use be mandated? When people find a good thing, they'll flock to use it without Big Brother strong arming them.

Posted by: erp at February 25, 2007 9:11 AM

Where's the downside to the precious paying higher taxes?

Posted by: oj at February 25, 2007 9:31 AM

Quite. There is no downside.

Fond regards,


Posted by: HL at February 25, 2007 6:19 PM