Power to the people

By Megan McArdle

Ezra says, of the Bush administration on climate change:

In reply, the innovation will accelerate when it needs to accelerate, which is when carbon-intensive technologies grow economically unfeasible. That's why we need some sort of cap or tax: Because that's the only policy capable of sufficiently supercharging and incentivizing innovation. And China and India aren't going to take any action till we do, and will need our help, and the technology we produce, to wean themselves off coal.



That last is a very, very important point--so important that I think it should be driving our greenhouse gas policy, both on the public and the private side. A carbon tax is an excellent place to start. But more broadly, it means we should focus less on making incremental refinements in energy efficiency, and much more on improving alternative energy sources. Incremental energy efficiency refinements are generally intensive in both human and financial capital, which often makes them unattractive to developing countries, even though they save fuel costs. What we need to find is a cost-effective alternative to coal and oil.

Unfortunately, that sounds a lot like "what we need to find is the holy grail". But a hefty carbon tax, combined with a serious effort to remove the obstacles to nuclear, would be a very welcome start.

The best part is, Republicans should also be able to get behind this agenda, since one of the major obstacles to nuclear is a man named Harry Reid.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2007/09/power-to-the-people/2006/