Opinion

State’s environmental policy reads like a bad joke

The argument for climate change policies is best expressed in the slogan of Anchorage bar Chilkoot Charlie’s: “We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you.”

This sums up the justifications made by people like William Brent in his recent op-ed (Nov. 20, Puget Sound Business Journal) pushing for more government regulations.

He and others claim that higher taxes, increased regulation and more government spending will create jobs and a stronger economy.

In reality, such policies are bad for the economy and are bad for the environment, as demonstrated by years of failed and costly efforts.

New regulations, advocates argue, will force us to adopt new clean technologies.

Advocates don’t offer examples where increased taxes and regulation have helped, instead warning that without “leadership” others will reap the rewards.

For instance, Brent argues, “China is storming ahead of the U.S.” in the area of climate regulation.

This is ironic, given that China has declined to adopt the very rules he calls for. He doesn’t mention Europe, where they have enacted the regulations and taxes he calls for.

What is the result?

Germany, after years of heavily subsidizing solar energy, is now making dramatic cuts.

Spain, where officials have made creating “green” jobs a national priority, is also cutting subsidies after it became clear that such policies were bankrupting the country. Spain’s unemployment rate today is over 18 percent.

In the U.S. we’ve seen similar results. Oregon, called the top state for green jobs by a leading environmental group, has high unemployment and is now trying to limit budget-busting “green” subsidies.

Similar attempts here in Washington have been abject failures.

The state provided incentives to create a biofuel sector and a few years back, the nation’s largest biofuel plant was built in our state, promising new jobs.

Today, however, production is down and jobs have been cut.

To add insult to injury, the Environmental Protection Agency found that biofuels can do more environmental damage than the fuels they replace.

Taxpayers spent a great deal to create few jobs and may actually be harming the environment.

These results should not be surprising because the economic arguments favoring these policies are quite silly.

One common argument is that by generating expensive renewable energy here, we can keep the money here rather than spending it importing cheap oil.

This, however, would increase energy prices, leaving fewer dollars for other local products, like food or health care.

Pay more, get less.

Some argue that this creates jobs. This might be true, in the same way that banning tractors would create farm jobs.

They would be hard, low-paying jobs, but the total number of jobs would be increased.

Prosperity results when we produce what we are best at, like the software that runs the world’s computers.

Brent admits as much, writing, “The U.S. has prided itself for the past century for leading the world in business innovation,” forgetting that it was Bill Boeing and Bill Gates who led that innovation, not government.

Privately, politicians understand the damage they are doing to the economy.

Last year the governor received a confidential briefing on her executive order on climate change.

The document, uncovered in a public disclosure request, argues that “an important side benefit” of the regulation is “an almost certain increase in the regulated community’s interest in getting a national program.”

In other words, the state rules are so onerous that businesses would look to the federal government for relief.

This is characterized as a “benefit.”

Why do politicians and some businesses support these policies? Because they help politicians secure support from special-interest groups.

Helping the environment is actually secondary to the political benefits of appearing “green.”

Businesses support regulations requiring people to buy their products and increase costs for competitors.

Who would turn down free taxpayer dollars? There is a reason Enron was an aggressive supporter of the Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s.

Companies that benefit from government regulation want you to believe increased government spending and regulation will cheat the other guy and you’ll reap the rewards.

At Chilkoot Charlie’s, that slogan is used as a joke, but for some it’s a climate policy.

Todd Myers is the environmental director at Washington Policy Center.

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