Will a green industry be an engine of economic
growth? Many want us to think so, including our new President.
Apparently a booming green economy with millions of new jobs
is just around the corner. All we need is the right mix of
These include a huge (de facto) tax on carbon emissions imposed
through a cap-and-trade regulatory scheme, as well as huge government
subsidies for “renewable,” carbon-free sources. The
hope is that these government sticks and carrots will turn today’s
pitiful green energy industry, which produces an insignificant
fraction of American energy, into a source of abundant, affordable
energy that can replace today’s fossil-fuel-dominated industry.
This view is a fantasy—one that could devastate America’s
economy. The reality is that green energy is at best a sophisticated
There is a reason why less than 2 percent of the world’s
energy currently comes from “renewable” sources such
as wind and solar--the very sources that are supposedly going
to power the new green economy: despite billions of dollars in
government subsidies, funding decades of research, they have
not proven themselves to be practical sources of energy. Indeed,
without government mandates forcing their adoption in most Western
countries, their high cost would make them even less prevalent.
Consider that it takes about 1,000 wind turbines, occupying tens
of thousands of acres, to produce as much electricity as just
one medium-sized, coal-fired power plant. And that’s if
the wind is blowing: the intermittency of wind wreaks havoc on
electricity grids, which need a stable flow of power, thus requiring
expensive, redundant backup capacity or an unbuilt, unproven “smart
Or consider the “promise” of solar. Two projects
in development will cover 12.5 square miles of central California
with solar cells in the hope of generating about 800 megawatts
of power (as much as one large coal-fired plant). But that power
output will only be achieved when the sun is shining brightly--around
noon on sunny days; the actual output will be less than a third
that amount. And the electricity will cost more than market price,
even with the life-support of federal subsidies that keeps the
solar industry going. The major factor driving the project is
not the promise of abundant power but California’s state
quota requiring 20 percent “renewable” electricity
More than 81 percent of world energy comes from fossil fuels,
and half of America’s electricity is generated by burning
coal. Carbon sources are literally keeping us alive. There is
no evidence that they have--or will soon have--a viable replacement
in transportation fuel, and there is only one in electricity
generation, nuclear, which “green energy” advocates
We all saw the ripple effects last summer when gas prices shot
above $4 per gallon, and higher transportation costs drove up
prices of everything from plane fares to vegetables. If green
policies cause a permanent, and likely far greater, hike in the
cost of all forms of energy, what shockwaves would that send
through our already badly damaged economy?
We don’t want to find out.
Regardless of one’s views on global warming—and there
is ample scientific evidence to reject the claim that manmade
carbon emissions are causing catastrophe--the fact is that kneecapping
the fossil fuel industry while diverting tax dollars into expensive,
impractical forms of energy will not be an economic boon, but
an economic disaster.
We in developed countries take industrial-scale energy for granted
and often fail to appreciate its crucial value to our lives--including
its indispensable role in enabling us to deal with drought, storms,
temperature extremes, and other climate challenges we are told
to fear by global-warming alarmists.
If we want to restore economic growth and reduce our vulnerability
to the elements, what we need is not “green energy” forced
upon us by government coercion but real energy delivered on a
Keith Lockitch, PhD in physics, is a fellow at the Ayn Rand
Center for Individual Rights, focusing on science and environmentalism.
The Ayn Rand Center i promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand,
author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
The role of the Asian countries in global climate change
has changed enormously since the Kyoto Protocol was signed
and they can be expected to play a much more active role in
any new agreement to address this important global issue.
As recently as the early 1990s the perception in Asia was that
the region was an “impactee” rather than an “impactor.” That
is, the region was likely to be affected by global climate change,
but the duty to reduce future greenhouse impacts rested with
the industrialized countries.
This was reflected in the Kyoto Protocol, which did not place
any limits on emissions from the developing countries, while
requiring the industrialized countries to reduce them by an
average of 5 percent from the levels of 1990 by 2012.
All of the industrialized countries agreed to limit their emissions,
with the notable exception of the United States and Australia.
(The new government in Australia has just signed the Kyoto
Protocol.) U.S. delegates argued such limits would have an
on the American economy. At the same time, they said, there
would be no significant global climate change benefits so long
developing countries such as China, India, and Brazil continued
to increase their emissions of greenhouse gases.
For a better perspective, let us look at the current status
of emissions from the larger Asian countries and compare them
emissions from the leading industrialized countries. Many gases
contribute to global climate change, but the largest contributor
is carbon dioxide (CO2). The use of fossil fuels is by far
the largest source of man-made CO2 emissions, and shall be
of our discussion here.
Asia’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
During the past two decades, greenhouse gas emissions from
Asian countries, particularly carbon dioxide, have been increasing
rapidly, due mainly to industrialization and population growth.
Four of the 10 countries in the world with the highest CO2
from fossil fuel use today are located in Asia. China ranks
second today, but may overtake the United States as the largest
by next year. India (fourth), Japan (fifth), and South Korea
(seventh) also rank among the top eight emitters.
These rankings do not include the carbon dioxide emissions
from the burning of firewood and other biomass that are large
of energy in many Asian countries. Further, ongoing changes
in land use, particularly as forests give way to agriculture
urban development, also represent significant contributors
to carbon dioxide emissions in many of the larger Asian countries
such as Indonesia and the Philippines.
On average, each American emits more than four times as much
carbon dioxide from energy use as a Chinese, and as much as
20 Indians. This difference in per-capita CO2 emissions has
implications for reaching a binding international agreement
on global climate change.
Issues of equity in addressing global climate change
Each country takes an approach to limiting greenhouse gases
that is beneficial to its own immediate interests.
At climate change meetings, the U.S. delegate might say to
his Chinese counterpart: “By next year, your emissions of carbon
dioxide will be greater than ours. If we put a cap on greenhouse
gases in our country, even more of our manufacturing industries
will move to your country or to other developing countries. This
will mean more jobs lost within the United States and more hardship
for our people. Further, if the industry is simply relocated
to a developing country, the global emissions stay the same.
Our economic loss will be your economic gain.
Thus we won’t put any limitations on greenhouse gas emissions
unless you do the same,” he concluded.
The delegate from China might reply: “Oh, come on. Each
American emits about four times as much carbon dioxide as a Chinese.
We want to offer a good life to our citizens, too, and close
the gap in the living standards of the people in our respective
countries, and we have to use the energy resources that we have,
mostly coal. Further, most of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
today were emitted by the industrialized nations, with the largest
contribution coming from the USA.
It’s your responsibility to reduce emissions first, before
asking us to do the same,” he responded.
There are thus important equity issues to be resolved, if all
countries of the world are to reach an agreement to limit future
emissions of greenhouse gases. The three types of equity issues
that are implied in the fictitious discussion between an American
and a Chinese are:
Equity between countries
Countries come in different shapes and sizes, and have vastly
different populations. One indicator that is frequently used
in comparing countries is the average income of people in countries,
i.e. the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) or gross national
income (GNI). It is an internationally accepted goal to bridge
the gap between the incomes in the industrialized and the developing
There is a fairly good correlation between the average gross
domestic product of a country and its per capita energy use
and the resulting impact on the environment. The developing
around the world, including China and India, point to the per
capita GDP of their countries, and the need to catch up with
the industrialized countries such as the United States, Japan,
They maintain that this cannot be achieved without increased
use of energy and other resources. Thus, they say, their emissions
of greenhouse gases will have to increase for many years.
Equity within countries
In most of the industrialized countries of the world, there
is relatively little disparity in energy use between the urban
rural areas or between different parts of the country. This
is generally not the case in much of Asia.
There, the urban upper-middle class has its automobile or two,
and its use of electricity for lighting and running a TV set,
refrigerator, computer, and other appliances is comparable
to its counterparts in Europe or Japan. By contrast, the rural
may use bicycles or animals for transportation, and consume
only a small amount of electricity due to its high cost.
In fact, there are still over 100 million people in Asia with
no access to electricity.
Reducing inequities within countries can be achieved either
by impoverishing the rich, or improving the lot of the poor.
people would agree that the latter option is preferable, and
this is the approach that Asian developing countries are pursuing.
Such policies require more development and energy use in the
rural areas, and thus higher emissions of greenhouse gases
for many years.
Despite the relative affluence of Shanghai, New Delhi, and
Jakarta, there is still quite a way to go before the growing
of the middle classes extends to the poorer sectors of society
in most of the Asian countries.
Equity of generations
The earth has been getting warmer during recent decades primarily
because human beings put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere
faster than the ocean and the forests can absorb them.
The levels of carbon dioxide, for example, are about 30 percent
higher today than they were in pre-industrial times. Most of
this increase has come from the emissions from Europe, the
United States and, to a smaller extent, Japan. These countries
their economies and reached a good level of affluence before
the implications for the global environment in general, and
climate change in particular, became known.
Past generations of Europeans and Americans did not set out
to damage the global environment, but the results of their
impact all countries of the world. Future generations — particularly
in the developing world — are being asked to sacrifice
to make up for the profligacy of our ancestors. Ironically, the
small islands of Asia and the Pacific, which have made essentially
no contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, are likely to be
the first ones to be hit hard by global climate change.
Reaching equity between generations has been a difficult issue
in many fields, be it the national debt of the United States,
the depletion of mineral and other natural resources, or the
accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
A major problem here is that future generations do not vote
in current elections. It is a rare politician in any country
will sacrifice his or her re-election for the sake of future
Changing roles of Asia’s developing countries
The atmosphere does not care whether the greenhouse gases entering
it come from the industrialized countries or the developing
ones, nor that the changes to the global climate will affect
rich and poor.
A rise in sea level would result not only in the gradual submergence
of the small island states such as the Maldives, but also create
major problems for many of Asia’s largest coastal cities,
such as Jakarta, Bangkok, Manila, and Shanghai.
Tens of millions of people in Asia may have to be resettled,
and massive expenditures from hurricanes could have a larger
impact than before on countries in Asia that are frequently
affected by hurricanes (cyclones), such as Bangladesh, China,
Philippines, and Japan. Also, parts of many countries in Asia,
including northwestern India and almost all of Pakistan, are
already suffering from shortages of water.
A rise in global temperature would, for example, accelerate
the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas that feed the rivers
Northern India and throughout Pakistan, leading subsequently
to even greater water shortages.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that
the world has until about 2020 to reverse the trend of rising
gas emissions and avoid the worst effects of climate change.
A joint statement issued recently by the national science academies
of all G8 nations and Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South
Africa drew attention to the IPCC findings and urged a goal
of confining global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial
The academies said: “Our present energy course is not sustainable … The
problem is not yet insoluble, but becomes more difficult with
each passing day.”
While it may be unrealistic to expect countries such as China
and India to reduce emissions from their present levels, it
is clear that the rapid growth of these and other developing
of Asia require that they play an active part in addressing
global climate change concerns.
One possible approach may be, for example, for the developing
countries to agree not to exceed two tons of carbon emissions
per capita by 2025. On the other side of the coin, developed
countries could make a commitment to reduce their emissions
to two tons per capita by 2025.
By that time, it’s likely that newer technology such as
solar photovoltaic (PV) and fuel cells will have come down in
price substantially, enabling their wider use. All countries
could then reduce their per capita emission targets together
to reach the levels required to stabilize the world’s climate.
In view of their current high levels of per capita emissions,
the United States, Canada, and Australia may require a few more
years to achieve this level, and a special provision could be
made in a new treaty or protocol to permit this, as was the case
in the Kyoto Protocol.
The main objective should be on starting action now, and refining
targets later, rather than finding reasons for delay.
There was an industrialist who used to say, “Why should
we do anything for the future? What has the future ever done
for us?” He changed his mind when it was pointed out to
him that the “future” is not an abstraction, but
the time during which his grandchildren and their children would
be living, and how they will live is what we are determining
The East West Center and global climate change
In 1979, in an era when energy professionals talked mainly
to other energy professionals, and those working on environmental
issues met primarily with others having a similar interest,
Environment and Policy Institute (EAPI) of the East-West Center
initiated a cooperative program on “The Environmental Dimensions
of Energy Policies.”
Probably the first such effort in the Asia Pacific region,
the program brought together senior policy makers and professionals
from a number of major countries in the region, including Australia,
Canada, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, the
of Korea, and the United States. Participants were asked about
the energy-environment issues of greatest concern to them and
where the East-West Center could make an important contribution
through cooperative work.
During the same planning meeting, senior officials and professionals
were asked whether it would be useful to initiate a project
dealing with global climate change. Most of them felt that
it was way
too early and not on the priority list of environmental concerns
in the Asia-Pacific region.
A full decade was to pass before the East-West Center, in cooperation
with the Argonne National Laboratory, hosted a conference on
global climate change in Honolulu in 1989. Many of the participants
have subsequently played important roles in their countries,
and at the international level, in formulating policies to
address the challenges of global climate change.
To mention just two, Qu Geping was China’s first administrator
of their Environment Protection Agency and is a senior member
of the leading group that oversees environment issues in that
country. Dr. Rajendra Pachauri is chairman of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body that shared
the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al