"He's a snake in the grass, I tell ya guys; he may look dumb but that's just a disguise; he's a mastermind in the ways of espionage." Charlie Daniels, "Uneasy Rider" Rob Bradley cheers on coal, but are all those who want to better manage commons and environmental impacts "Malthusian" idiots, or only in the case of coal? - TT's Lost in Tokyo

Rob Bradley cheers on coal, but are all those who want to better manage commons and environmental impacts "Malthusian" idiots, or only in the case of coal?

Rob Bradley has a new post up at MasterResource, cheering on big (and now "clean") coal, which has apparently received assurances from the Obama administration - after being bad-mouthed by NASA scientist Jim Hansen, Steven Chu and Obama himself - that, despite pressures from the "Malthusian anti-energy crusade" regarding climate change impacts, the recent massive TVA fly-ash spill and opposition to destructive mountaintop removal practices in Appalachia, coal will remain profitable during Obama's term and central to US energy supplies.  Hooray!

But I wasn't quite clear on all of Rob's message, so I asked him a few questions in the comment thread:

Rob, are the John Badens, Terry Andersons, Bruce Yandles, Elinor Ostroms and others who want to find ways to manage our commons better - by improving ownership, incentives and pricing signals - also part of a[n evil] “Malthusian crusade”?

I just wanna make sure I know who to hate.

As for that big fly-ash breach/spill in Tennessee, I’m glad that you didn’t point out how this was a result of government ownership of TVA, with the added benefit that costs will be borne not only by direct and indirect victims, but by taxpayers as well. No sense in pointing out how government is so often in the way, particularly if it detracts from our “we hate enviros!” message. Last thing we ever want to do is to reach a shared understanding with enviros of the institutional underpinnings of problems, since that means our funders might lose some of their fairly purchased, government-given special privileges.

While it's clear that "free-market" Rob cares little about whether the coal industry continues commercial activities that shift the environmental costs and risks (including potential costs arising from GHG emissions) to others, I forgot to ask Rob whether, as a hearty cheerleader for those poor coal underdogs, he also supports their position that the government should subsidize their change in business model by (a) having Uncle Sam pay the bulk of capital costs for IGCC (integrated gas combined cycle plant) [something like $1 billion for the first one with CCS], (b) giving them a further break (reduced royalties) on the sweet deals they already have for stripping coal from public lands and (c) - now that the federal government is getting into the busy of running the financial sector - making sure that power producers that want to use coal have easy access to credit, by twisting the arms of those uppity Wall Street financiers who with their fancy new "Carbon Principles" and "Enhanced Due Diligence" seem a bit too reluctant to extend credit for coal-fired power plants.

Here's hoping Rob weighs in further.  I want to make sure I'm not messing up when I try to distinguish the "white hats" from the "black hats".   From what I can tell so far, seeking to manipulate government policy for your own benefit is evil - as long as you're not a coal firm, and we call the evil ones "Malthusians".  Right?

Published Thu, Feb 5 2009 7:54 AM by TokyoTom


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