Self-Defeating Alarmism and Technological Advance

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Jamie Condliffe points out an example showing the advantage of solving our challenges — specifically environmental problems — with human advancement rather than governmental restriction:

… the Guardian reports that a system installed in the Tuticorin plant uses a new proprietary solvent developed by the company Carbon Clean Solutions. The solvent is reportedly just slightly more efficient than those used conventionally, requiring a little less energy and smaller apparatus to run. The collected CO2 is used to create baking soda, and it claims that as much as 66,000 tons of the gas could be captured at the plant each year.

Its operators say that the marginal gain in efficiency is just enough to make it feasible to run the plant without a subsidy. In fact, it’s claimed to be the first example of an unsubsidized industrial plant capturing COfor use.

Those of us who argue against climate alarmism tend to take the view that gumming up the economy with dreamy, fashionable, green schemes will prove counterproductive because it assumes government operatives (with all the incentives of donations and revolving doors) can pick the technology of the future, rather than simply letting technology evolve.  Politicians simply aren’t well positioned to predict how technology is going to change industries moving forward.

And of course, my experience of passing a coal burning pant in Somerset, Massachusetts, puts the Tuticorin innovation in context of this article by Michael Holtzman in the Fall River Herald:

[Somerset Selectmen Chairman David] Berube likened the probability of Brayton Point [coal plant in Somerset] leaving and impacts in its wake to predictions of a hurricane.

On the extremes of a hurricane, “maybe we’ll get walloped, maybe we’ll get nothing,” he said.

On a worst-case scenario, every department might need to be cut 10 percent, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative state funding will cease and Brayton Point taxes might drop to $1 million a year on the 300-acre waterfront property, Berube said.

Forcing Brayton Point closed (after it had invested so much in a water-cooling system) may make environmentalists feel righteous, and those of us who live near it certainly won’t miss its appearance in our view if it’s ever actually taken down rather than left to rot (or transformed into a nuclear plant or something).  But the closure will affect the tax base locally, and the hit to our regional energy system will be a drag on the economy, forcing us to devote money unnecessarily to a resource that we’d previously had covered.

We can’t know what technological advances will slow or never be developed at all because of their demands.



  • Mike678

    While not all the actions by the environmentalists are destructive to the economy (I consider myself one, though the more extreme members of these assorted groups seem to lack any balance or larger context in their zeal to protect us from low energy prices. Perhaps we need a “Save RI” to save us from “Save the Bay” (whose actions drove up natural gas prices and cost us jobs) and other uninformed environmental zealots.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Gee, and “Save the Bay” sounds so “good”.

    • Mike678

      You have to give then credit. They can twist words to make anything sound good.

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