Opinion

Inslee’s environmental policy sadly out of touch

I recently picked up Jay Inslee’s book on promoting the “green” economy through government programs.

This paragraph stuck out at me:

“Those ‘nattering nabobs of negativism’ will constantly point out irrelevant facts about how expensive alternatives are compared to fossil fuels, how inconvenient they are, and how undeveloped they are. Those unfortunate victims of the tyranny of the present cannot envision the inevitable growth in efficiency, declining costs, and ever increasing accessibility of clean and renewable energy.”

I think I understand the point, but wishing new technologies didn’t have serious problems does not make the problems go away.

The fact that solar panels, and other green energy technologies, are extremely expensive, unusable and undeveloped is not “irrelevant.”

Those facts are critical to making decisions today and in the future. If technologies are costly, inconvenient and undeveloped, they are unlikely to be used and won’t provide a sustainable foundation for any environmental solution.

Further, if you don’t make decisions based on whether a technology is affordable, usable and developed, just how would one make a decision?

Inslee might argue that solar panels and other technologies will become more efficient over time.

Perhaps.

Technologies can improve over time, although some never become viable. Even as solar panels become more efficient, they may still be less efficient and more costly than other alternatives.

You cannot escape the tyranny of the present by pretending that green technologies will develop while all else is held constant. That isn’t the way the world works.

Sound environmental policy cannot wave off reality in favor of the desire to promote politically favored technologies.

That is a strategy that is certain to waste money and opportunities to make real environmental gains.

Todd Myers is director of environmental policy at the Washington Policy Center.

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