Bigger disaster than global warming: Government getting it wrong
By ROBERT MEADOWS
Port Orchard Independent columnist
June 13, 2008 · Updated 3:42 PM
The rising costs of energy may give us a preview of how things will be when the heavy hand of government intrudes even more to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because of global warming fears.
Perhaps skepticism about the likelihood of a detrimental rise in global temperatures will get a boost from the effects on our everyday lives, even if the planet’s temperatures do eventually start to rise again after the plateau of the past 10 years.
There may be some actions proposed by the folks who fervently believe the man-made global warming hypothesis that do not involve lower productivity or higher costs for fuel, but the typical solutions cause both.
Now that a combination of cooler temperatures and greater demand for petroleum products is occurring, we can see what the future may bring.
Cooler temperatures have shortened the growing season this year, so there is little hope for bumper crops that can be used to produce “biodiesel” and ethanol fuels for motor vehicles.
Contrary to global warming advocates’ predictions of a smaller snow pack in the mountains and earlier melting, this year we have greater amounts of snow and less melting – leading to reduced hydroelectric production and greater demand for “fossil fuel” to produce electricity.
China has continued its move away from the economically ruinous Socialist policies that kept the Chinese from competing in the world’s markets for petroleum products, so they and other developing economies now bid for the same oil as we do.
The result is much higher cost for motor vehicle fuel, which is what the biodiesel and ethanol advocates thought would make their products competitive in the market as alternatives to petroleum.
It hasn’t worked out the way they expected.
The costs of producing biodiesel have risen even faster than the costs of petroleum, so this fledgling biofuel industry is suffering.
Even their helpful friends in government are having second thoughts, as King County Metro, for example, reassesses its plans to use biodiesel rather than fuel made from crude oil in its buses.
Venture capitalists are already moving away from the current generation of biodiesel production methods, so dreams of expanding the industry by raising the money to build more biodiesel refineries are on hold.
Ethanol still enjoys its government subsidies, but people are finally beginning to pay more attention to the studies which indicate that ethanol made from crops like corn is a losing proposition. It may not be effective in reducing carbon dioxide emissions or dependence on crude oil.
Those are two of the government’s big ideas for providing alternatives to petroleum fuels, and neither seems to be viable.
Yet our Legislature recently mandated the use of biodiesel fuel in this state.
When the requirement begins this December, we will apparently see prices go even higher since much of the production of biodiesel fuel in this state is now exported to markets where its price is competitive.
Whether government mandates more costly alternative fuels or imposes a “cap-and-trade” cost on any energy producer that emits carbon dioxide, the result is higher cost to the ultimate consumers.
So, as your home heating bills and motor vehicle fuel costs rise to the point that you can no longer ignore them, consider how our society may change in such an environment.
A little more than a century ago, the biggest problem perceived by urban planners was a greater population density in cities than was healthy — either for society as a whole or individuals.
The private automobile and petroleum fuel provided a method to reduce population density, since the automobile was far better than the horse and buggy for daily commuting over longer distances.
What would happen if the automobile is no longer an affordable way to live in the suburbs and commute to the commercial and industrial centers?
Quite a few people in South Kitsap can probably tell you what the short-term effects are, since they have already seen their disposable income reduced by the higher fuel costs.
If this period of higher costs and cooler temperatures persists for much longer, we may even get an idea of the long-term effects.
People may choose to live closer to where they work, as they did a century ago; but what happens when they lose one job and need to find another?
The private automobile made it practical to search for the next job in a larger geographic area, but what if it is no longer practical?
Consider these local effects and try to imagine the overall impact in our country, not just our county, whenever one government mandate or another is suggested as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or dependence on foreign sources of crude oil.
When government gets it wrong, the effects can be severe and widespread, especially if global warming fears increase our costs while leaving our international competitors unhindered in their economic growth.
Robert Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.