Sunday, September 19, 2010

'Don't any of these academics ever work in the real world?'

A commenter asked that question in response to this opinion piece, and it's a damn good one:

The case for a carbon tax is a compelling one, given our current macroeconomic quandary and our apparent inability to deal with climate change. Each of these factors alone can make the case persuasively. When we take them together, the tax becomes even more convincing as a solution to some seemingly insurmountable problems.
If you look at said factors, they're really not all that convincing at all. Lawmakers might well not like to cut spending projects in their districts, but that's hardly a good excuse to go raising taxes when the economy's still not so good. To their (minuscule) credit, the writers here do tell how much it would raise heating oil and gas prices (around 5 cents per gallon), and coal prices (around 50 percent)....

Hey, wait a minute. Coal prices would jump 50 percent? With half the electricity generated in the United States generated by coal-fired plants, this would be a minimal impact? Wow. If ever you needed proof that academics don't live in the same world as the rest of us, there it is. Of course, earlier in the piece you'll see this, which is the nut graf of the whole thing:

As a general rule, taxes hinder economic efficiency because they raise the cost of doing business and reduce workers' incentives to work and save. But linking a tax to a pollutant can have the beneficial effects of reducing pollution by encouraging the development of nonpolluting technologies. Unlike higher income tax rates, a carbon tax would not weaken incentives to work and save.
I bet you knew behavior modification would be their ultimate goal too, didn't you? Other consequences be damned. And you'll note they said nothing about the energy companies already investing in the development of alternative energy. It's as if they think the people running the energy companies don't know that fossil fuels are called 'nonrenewable resources' for a reason. It's as if they think the energy companies don't know or care that the left in this country is out to destroy them, shaky science be damned.

In other words, it's as if they think the people running energy companies live in some alternate universe just as they do.