Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Financial Crisis Silver Lining

Economist: Global warming a back-burner issue

Todays economic issues could have an unanticipated silver lining.  With real issues to deal with, like "do I have a job anymore?", or "do I have  enough money to pay my rent and buy food?", the issues that have been on the table for heated national discussion appear to have been re-prioritized.  This shift in attention may provide just the right amount of cool-down to the Global Warming argument that will allow a much needed rational examination and evaluation of the issue by the public.

A Washington D.C. economist says global warming is not America’s most pressing concern in these economically challenged times.
“We have to look at the big picture,” says Margo Thorning, a senior vice president and chief economist with the American Council for Capital Formation. “... I don’t think global warming is our worst problem by far.”
Thorning says electricity is essential for emerging countries working their way out of poverty. And her data shows the increased bulk of carbon dioxide emitted into the environment comes from places like China, India and Africa.
“Global warming is an issue, but to me, it’s less important an issue than alleviating the need for electricity that people have,” Thorning says. “I am interested in people living longer, happier, healthier lives. They need electricity. ... They cannot claw their way out of poverty and abject misery without electricity.”
Thorning says the United States’ sagging economy would take another hit if measures were taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through alternative energy sources.
“People need to be aware of the real costs associated with various policy proposals out there,” says Allen Wright, director of public affairs for Koch Industries.
The shift to other energy sources — like wind or solar — comes with a hefty price tag that would either have to be paid for through higher taxes or an increase of as much as 20 to 30 percent in electricity costs, she estimates. Neither option would boost the economy, she says.
“When you raise electricity prices, that slows production — that makes it harder for companies to stay in business and make money,” Thorning says. “It tends to depress business investment.”
Meanwhile, she says, the average household would have nearly $1,000 less to spend each year if the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill, which stalled on the floor of the U.S. Senate last session, suddenly gained traction.
“Households would have to spend more on electricity and less on clothes, food, health care and fun,” Thorning says. “It’s a drag to have to pay more for energy.”


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