“Renewables are set to overtake coal this decade as the world’s favorite fuel to generate electricity, the International Energy Agency says.”
William Mathis and Jeremy Hodges
Bloomberg, October 13, 2020
“Energy produced by solar panels is now cheaper than that produced by coal- or gas-powered plants in most nations, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday in its annual report on global energy trends.”
THE WEEK, October 13, 2020
"Somebody needs to read poor Greta Genesis, Chapter 9," Jeffress said, "and tell her the next time she worries about global warming, just look at a rainbow. That's God's promise that the polar ice caps aren't going to melt and flood the world again."
Pastor Robert Jeffres
Todd Starnes Show; Fox Radio; September 23, 2019
United States Spend Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education
“A new International Monetary Fund (IMF) study shows that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. The equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP of that year, it also represented a half-trillion dollar increase since 2015 when China ($1.4 trillion), the United States ($649 billion) and Russia ($551 billion) were the largest subsidizers.”
Forbes, Jun 15, 2019
Dennis Paulaha, PhD
Copyright © 2020 by Dennis F. Paulaha.
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no portion of this book may be uploaded, reproduced, or transmitted in any form whatsoever, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing or photocopy, without permission in writing from the publisher, except for short quotes in critical articles or reviews: email@example.com.
First published 2020 by Dennis F. Paulaha.
We are losing a lot of money by continuing to accept the damages caused by those who, while following their own best interests, find it more profitable to pollute the air, water, and soil than to invest in treating their hazardous-to-other-individuals-and-businesses waste. A lot of profits. A lot of income. A lot of economic growth.
We are also losing a lot of money by using fuels that pollute the environment when it is cheaper to use energy that does not.
In other words, although the science of global warming and climate change may seem complicated, the money part is really that simple.
- Dennis Paulaha
Once there was a gang of rich men who ran fossil fuel companies who were told by their scientists that burning fossil fuels was heating up the earth and would lead to climate change that will kill millions of people and destroy the entire world economy.
What do you think we should do? one asked.
Is there a way to fix it? another asked.
We don’t have to fix the problem if people don’t understand the problem.
It’s pretty simple to understand. It’s not easy to hide death and economic destruction.
Maybe the Spinner can help.
The Spinner? What can the Spinner do?
The Spinner fixes problems; and we have a problem.
How do we find the Spinner?
I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows how to contact the Spinner, someone said.
The next time the gang of rich men who ran fossil fuel companies got together, the Spinner was there.
They started to explain the problem, but the Spinner said it wasn’t necessary.
I know what your problem is, the Spinner said.
So, do you have a solution?
I do, the Spinner said, but it will cost you.
When the Spinner told them the fee was a large percentage of their future profits, they thought it was too much to pay.
That’s okay, the Spinner said, it’s up to you. You can pay me or you can lose everything.
And so the gang of rich guys who ran fossil fuel companies made a deal with the Spinner.
So, what’s the plan? one of the rich men who ran an oil company asked.
First, the Spinner said, you hide all the work your scientists did that shows how burning fossil fuels causes global warming and will lead to climate change that will kill millions of people and destroy the entire world economy.
Make sure your scientists cannot talk to anyone about what they know.
Then release some of the information your scientists collected in a way that does not link it back to you.
I don’t understand. I thought we were trying to hide everything.
Not everything, the Spinner said. We want those who believe in science, facts, and rational thinking to see there is a problem.
I thought we were trying to cover up the problem.
You can’t cover up the problem, the Spinner said. It’s real. You know it’s real. I know it’s real. They know it’s real.
Okay. We can do that.
Then you start paying a lot of politicians.
How can politicians support what we’re doing if what we’re doing is going to kill people and destroy the economy?
It’s easy, the Spinner said. We are going to create a media campaign that will get voters to support politicians who deny the science.
I don’t understand, someone said. You said we can’t hide the problem, and now you’re saying we can pay politicians to say it doesn’t exist.
That’s why you are paying me, the Spinner said.
I still don’t understand.
It’s simple. When you start releasing bits and pieces of information, it will get those who believe in science to devote their lives to research showing that what you are doing is causing global warming and climate change.
But that will be easy, because it’s true.
I know, the Spinner said. So do you. But you are not going to admit it.
Even if we don’t admit it, the truth is easy to find and see.
It’s not about truth, it’s about a solution to a problem, the Spinner said.
I don’t see any solution here, someone said.
You will, the Spinner said. If we make the debate about science instead of money, you win. If the argument is about money, you lose. It’s that simple.
Because it is impossible for the other side to win a science argument.
I don’t understand how we can win a science argument if the facts are on their side, someone said.
You can win because it is easy to undermine facts and science with ideas people who don’t like science will accept. And what we are after is getting people who don’t like science to vote for what you want, which is little or no regulation.
Are there enough people who don’t like science?
There are more than enough, the Spinner said. All you have to do is keep putting out ideas scientists don’t know how to cope with. The greatest weakness of science is that it tries to be honest. That’s what gives us an edge. We just have to keep turning out ideas people who don’t like science will like.
What kinds of ideas?
That’s the easy part, the Spinner said. I am going to give you a number of ideas, not necessarily in the order in which we will use them. You start with one, add another, then another, set one aside for a while, then go back to it, and just keep going. It’s not a timeline. It’s more like setting up a Whack-A-Mole game they have to deal with. Every time they think they have dismissed one of our ideas, another pops up. Then the one they think they dismissed pops up again.
Fake religious claims are always good, the Spinner said. Scientists do not know how to deal with religious arguments. They know how to deal with facts, but not with someone who says, Jesus told me to do it, or God told me it is what He wants. That is what makes fake religious arguments even better.
Here’s one we can get started with. It’s Genesis 8:21.
“And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart [is] evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.”
How do we use it?
You get a US Senator to say global warming isn’t something to worry about because, according to Genesis 8:21, God said He would not destroy the Earth again with another flood.
But that’s not what the words say, someone said. The Bible verse doesn’t even talk about a flood.
That’s why it’s a perfect Bible verse to use, the Spinner said. People who hate science will follow what they are told it says, because they want religion to triumph over science.
But what about the smart people?
Smart people will try to point out that what God said in Genesis 8:21 is that He would never again kill all living creatures, not that he wouldn’t bring another flood and not that He wouldn’t kill all of mankind.
Wouldn’t the smart people win the argument? someone said.
They can’t win, the Spinner said. Arguments over what the Bible says aren’t won by those who have the words on their side. As soon as we get people who want religion to beat science to follow the idea, they won’t be swayed by what the Bible actually says. That’s the beauty of bringing religion to a science debate.
How does that help us?
As soon as your Senator begins spreading the word about what he says God said, he follows it up by saying his understanding of the Bible reaffirms his belief that government shouldn’t be in the business of trying to address rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Okay, I get it, someone said, but everyone who reads the Bible will know he’s lying.
Doesn’t matter, the Spinner said. Two things come out of this. One is that we round up a lot of people who so badly want to dismiss science that they don’t care what’s true or what God really said. The other is that it starts a debate over what God actually said, which is a debate that is not about you.
That’s good, someone said.
It’s what you want, the Spinner said, because, once again, it is avoiding the money issue, the debate you can’t win. And because a large part of the global warming problem is based on the fact that rising temperatures will flood the earth, you simply let your Senator say what he believes, which is, I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God. And I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood. And there you go.
Isn’t that blasphemy? someone said.
Of course it is, the Spinner said, but it’s not our problem. That’s on the Senator and the people who repeat the lies because they hate science more than they love God.
It sounds like you are saying people who knowingly misstate God’s words are not real Christians, someone said.
It’s not up to me judge, the Spinner said, but anyone who is not only willing to lie about what God said, but is doing it to destroy God’s creation could be in a lot of trouble for a very long time.
So you are saying there are people who hate science so much they are willing to lie so they can use religion as a weapon? someone said.
Religion beating science is a great victory for them, the Spinner said. And you.
So you are saying there are politicians who call themselves Christians who are willing to burn in hell for eternity to help us lie to the American people.
I am not the one who decides where someone will spend eternity, the Spinner said. I do know they are willing to take your money and destroy the incomes, profits, wealth, health, and happiness of the American people without a second thought.
I don’t get it, someone said.
You should, the Spinner said. You know as well as anyone that it is always about the money.
SCIENCE IS TOO HONEST
Along with the religious war, we never let up on the war on science, the Spinner said. We can’t limit the fight against incomes, profits, and economic growth to Biblical word games and blasphemous actions.
How can our politicians keep claiming the science is false when smart people know it’s real? someone asked.
The beauty of science, the Spinner said, is that honest scientific arguments are conditional.
What does that mean?
It means scientific theories are conditional on the assumptions behind them, which is why it’s so easy to drag out political actions based on science. Honest scientists won’t say they are one-hundred percent certain cigarettes cause cancer. Or one-hundred percent certain lead in paint harms children’s brains.
Because honest scientists accept the fact there is always more than one variable involved, the Spinner said. There is a simple classroom physics experiment about air resistance that has a feather and a penny in a tube. When the tube is turned upside down, the penny drops faster than the feather. When the air is sucked out of the tube, creating a vacuum, and the tube is flipped, the feather and the penny drop to the bottom together—at the same speed.
What does that have to do with the science of global warming?
A lot, the Spinner said. Scientists know air resistance affects how fast various objects fall. But not all physicists will agree on the time it will take a feather and a penny dropped off a roof to hit the ground. No matter how exact the gravity formula is, in an environment with air resistance and wind, a penny will obviously fall faster than a feather. But if both are dropped off the roof of a ten-story building, there is a non-zero chance the feather could actually hit the ground first—if, for example, the penny is blown into an open window or onto a ledge. Even if both fall all the way to the street, no physicist would claim to know exactly how long each would take. Ask 100 physicists and you are almost certain to get 100 different estimates for the feather and 100 for the penny.
I still don’t see what that has to do with global warming.
It’s simple, the Spinner said. If we know 100 different physicists are likely to have 100 different estimates of the time to will take a penny and a feather dropped off the roof of a ten story building to hit the ground, think how easy it is to pay someone you say is a scientist to claim gravity isn’t real because not all scientists agree on the exact time.
But gravity is real, someone said.
Of course it is, the Spinner said, but because of air resistance, wind, and who knows what else, your scientist can claim that what real scientists know about gravity is a hoax; that it is nothing but personal opinion; that is not worth more than the opinion of your scientist. Then they can argue about it forever.
But we’re not trying to undermine what scientists know about gravity and air resistance, someone said.
Exactly, the Spinner said. But it is the same with global warming and climate change, and the resulting physical and economic destruction. All honest scientists, including your own real scientists, know what is happening and what is going to happen, but there is no total agreement as to exactly when it will happen, exactly how high sea levels will rise, exactly what will happen to the number and severity of storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, insects destroying the food supply, floods destroying cities, now many people will die, and on and on. So you have someone you say is a scientist say that because all scientists do not agree on exactly what will happen and exactly when it will happen, global warming is a hoax.
Which means we win, someone said.
We win big, the Spinner said. All we need are enough people to side with the politicians and scientists you pay to claim it is all a hoax. And I can guarantee you there are more than enough.
Which means a roadblock to regulations.
Exactly, the Spinner said.
We are also going to use the good old freedom idea, or what I like to call freedumb, the Spinner said.
What does freedom have to do with fighting off real scientists? someone asked.
It doesn’t fight off scientists, the Spinner said. It fights off politicians who might want to use facts and science to impose regulations on the use of fossil fuels. It’s good, because it works. And it is old, because it has been around since the dawn of democracy.
Why call it freedumb?
Because it is fake freedom based on a dumb premise.
What is the premise?
That absolutely everything government does takes away individual freedom, which, for those who accept the idea, means every government regulation is bad, even if it increases incomes, profits, wealth, safety, or security, because every new regulation cuts off another piece of their freedom. In other words, for anyone who buys into the poverty is freedom idea, government regulations and government helping people and the economy are the worst things that can happen to them, because individual freedom is more important than money, safety, and security.
Who would believe such a silly idea?
It can make poverty feel like freedom, the Spinner said. It is also the foundation of country music, along with loss. For years, country music with an upbeat story was dismissed as not being true to its tradition of poverty and loss. There is still no better prop for a country music video than a rusty old pickup truck.
Well, someone said, I can guarantee you the big pile of money I have gives me a lot more freedom than having a pile of nothing and a rusty pickup truck.
I know, the Spinner said. I have never met anyone with a big pile of money who thought they would have more freedom if they gave it all away. Including country music stars who make millions of dollars singing anti-government, poverty-is-freedom songs.
Maybe we should hire some country music stars.
You don’t have to, the Spinner said. Country music is already doing what you need done.
But regulations are bad, someone said.
Maybe for you, the Spinner said, but not for most people and the economy. Think of what would happen if, at eight o’clock on a Monday morning, all traffic laws and regulations in New York City (or any city) were revoked; no one had to pay any attention to stop signs or stoplights or speed limits or one way signs or parking restrictions or which lane they drive in or where they park. By 8:10 a.m., at the latest, there would be no traffic. The entire city would be bumper to bumper, door to door cars, with no way out. No one could move forward or backward. The only way to get out of a car would be to crawl through a window. And you might not even be able to do that. Even in a small town, if all the stop signs were removed in order to make traffic move faster, the truth is, it will move slower, not faster, because everyone will have to slow down at every intersection to see if someone is coming. And if someone is coming, to decide, each time, who gets to go first. Plus the accidents. A huge cost in time and money in exchange for the false freedom of not being regulated by government stop signs.
So how do we use the freedom idea?
You pay people, including politicians, to keep promoting the idea that government regulations destroy individual freedom, including regulations on extracting, transporting, and using fossil fuels, the Spinner said. Every time someone talks about regulating fossil fuels, someone else yells about a government attack on freedom.
And you think it will work?
I know it will, the Spinner said. Just look around. The 2008 financial collapse that led to the Great Recession was caused by a lack of regulations in the financial world, especially on mortgages and derivatives. So after the fall, the government created some regulations to protect people and the economy. And the regulations are already pretty much gone. Which means Americans are free to have another financial collapse and another Great Recession.
And we are free to do what we do best, someone said.
That’s the idea, the Spinner said.
WE ARE THE REALISTS
We are also going to play word games that aren’t tied to religion.
Do word games work? someone asked.
Of course, they do, the Spinner said. Nothing is better than redefining words or their applications when you want to reassure people that what they want to believe is true is true.
Even when it isn’t?
Especially when it isn’t, the Spinner said. The more dishonest the idea, and the more facts there are to dismiss it, the easier it is to get people who hate facts and education to accept the lie.
Instead of calling someone a denier because he or she does not want to believe global warming is real, we call them realists. Instead of calling someone an educated elite because he or she is smart enough and educated enough to believe in facts and science, we call them alarmists.
So we say someone who denies facts and science is a realist?
Exactly, the Spinner said.
But that’s the opposite of being a realist.
Exactly, the Spinner said. We are making them feel good by telling them it is realistic to deny facts and science and that anyone who is worried about global warming because of facts and science is an alarmist.
But what stops smart people from saying it isn’t so?
It doesn’t matter what they say, the Spinner said. Whenever smart people say something logical or make a fact-based statement, our people call them alarmists.
But that doesn’t change the facts.
We are not trying to change the facts, the Spinner said. We can’t change the facts. What we can do is give our people words they can use to play elementary-school name-calling games. Smart people do not know how to deal with someone who responds to being told they are ignoring facts with school yard taunts.
So when smart people tell our people they are ignorant, our people say, I know you are, but what am I?
And we win, the Spinner said.
I can’t believe that will work, someone said.
Of course it will, the Spinner said. It works for children, and it works just as well for adults who hate facts and education.
It isn’t rational, someone said.
Of course not, the Spinner said. The last thing you want to do, other than getting into the money debate, is to have a rational argument. If the argument is rational, someone is likely to win. And in this case, it will not be you. If everything your people say is irrational, then no one can win the argument. Which means you win.
Because it puts off regulations.
KILL THE MESSENGER
Along with elementary-school name calling is the time-proven tactic of killing the messenger, the Spinner said. Nothing is easier than publicizing damaging information about someone, whether it is a scientist, a politician, or someone in the media, in order to get people who hate science and education to dismiss the facts he or she is presenting.
What if we can’t find anything bad about those who have global warming facts and science on their side? someone asked.
Then we make stuff up, the Spinner said. Which is even better.
How is making stuff up better? someone asked.
Because truth is not stranger than fiction, the Spinner said. However bad the truth about someone is, we can make up even worse things.
But isn’t it easy to disprove?
Yes and no, the Spinner said. It is easy for smart people to disprove lies. But there is overwhelming evidence that when people who hate science and education believe a lie, trying to disprove that lie with facts makes them believe the lie even more.
So we make up horrible lies about anyone who is getting positive public attention discussing the physical and economic damages resulting from extracting, transporting, and burning fossil fuels, someone said.
And you have your media people tell the stories over and over again, day after day, the Spinner said. The more horrible and the more unbelievable the lies, the better, because the more horrible and the more unbelievable the lies are, the easier it will be for your media people to use them over and over, day after day, and the more they will be believed by people who hate facts and education. And once they believe the lies, nothing can change their minds.
Which means we win.
Kill the messenger and we kill the facts, the Spinner said.
ASK FOR MONEY
We are also going to get Congress to give you, or us, billions of dollars of taxpayer money every year, the Spinner said.
Why would they do that? someone asked.
We’ll call it subsidies, the Spinner said.
But why would they give us money?
Because you give them money, the Spinner said.
You give them millions, and they give you billions in return, the Spinner said. It's better than drilling for oil. Or mining coal. There's not a better return on investment in the world.
And all they have to do is call it a subsidy?
Well, the Spinner said, we can add a little patriotism to the idea.. We can use the idea that extracting, transporting, and burning fossil fuels, especially in pickup trucks, is at the very core of American values.
I don't see how the smart people would go along with it, someone said.
Smart people can’t stand up to Bibles and pickup trucks, the Spinner said.
The Senators we pay are fiscally conservative, someone said.
What is that supposed to mean? the Spinner said.
It means they are against government deficits, someone said.
No, they’re not, the Spinner said. Politicians who claim to be fiscally conservative love government deficits. It's a shared cruelty game, which is why angry people vote for fiscally conservative politicians.
How does it work?
You know how it works, the Spinner said. Your politicians give you taxpayer money, either by calling it a patriotic subsidy or trickle down tax breaks for the rich, which you are, and which they say will be good for the economy, and when they do it, it creates a government deficit.
Then they act surprised that there's a deficit, the Spinner said, even though they know they are the ones who created it.
And then comes the cruelty, the Spinner said. After creating a deficit by giving you and your rich friends taxpayer money, they then say they have to take money away from taxpayers, either by taking it from the Social Security fund or eliminating programs and policies that help taxpayers with education, food, medical help, or even survival.
That’s cruel, someone said. The smart people won't like it.
Of course not, the Spinner said. Smart people aren’t going to like anything we do. That's why we, I say we because I'm taking a big part of your profits, are lucky there are so many angry people in this country who are so easy to manipulate.
But what if the tax cuts for the rich and our multi-billion dollar subsidies actually help the economy? someone said.
You’re kidding, right? the Spinner said.
Won’t smart people explain it to everyone?
They can't, the Spinner said, because the love of shared cruelty overrides any concerns angry people have with their own financial well-being, the future of their own children and grandchildren, or the country itself. That's why we can win.
I still think it sounds cruel, someone said.
Do you want the money or not? the Spinner said.
DEATH AND DESTRUCTION
What about the death and destruction? someone asked.
It’s real, the Spinner said. I know it’s real. You know it’s real. Cities are going to be flooded, people are going to die, economies are going to be ruined, incomes and profits are going to be hurt, wealth will be destroyed, warmer winters are going to let insects thrive who will then destroy massive quantities of crops, droughts will destroy more crops and lead to water shortages, and lots more.
So what can we do about it? someone asked
You could stop what you are doing, the Spinner said. But you don’t want to do that, do you? I think you have already made it clear you want to keep doing what you are doing, without letting concerns about your children and grandchildren get in the way.
But we can still have our politicians and media people keep claiming scientists can’t prove any of the death and destruction is caused by climate change, or that climate change is caused by global warming, or that global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels, someone said.
You can, the Spinner said, and there is one more thing you can do.
What is it?
Keep everyone focused on the cost of prevention, the Spinner said. Keep them thinking about the money scientists say it will cost to limit the future death and destruction. Keep them talking and thinking about greenhouse gases that are possibly but not guaranteed to be coming from burning fossil fuels. Keep them talking about and thinking about solutions that require spending lots of money and taxing people to get them to limit their emissions.
Won’t people get mad when they see how much it will cost to reduce emissions?
It will, the Spinner said. And as long as the discussions are about imposing costs on people to fix the problem, people won’t like it.
Because no one wants higher prices or to pay more taxes, someone said.
A wise man once ran a business based on the belief that for people to really care about a problem, it has to be immediate, personal, and unavoidable, the Spinner said. That’s why we can win the death and destruction argument.
It’s simple, the Spinner said. The death and destruction are not immediate, they are somewhere in the future, but the costs of avoiding future death and destruction have to be paid now. The damage from extracting, transporting, and burning fossil fuels is not necessarily personal; it is not personal for someone in Iowa who is watching people standing knee-deep in ocean water in their driveways in Miami Beach, Florida, and not everyone in Florida lives in Miami Beach. And for most people, none of the problems they hear about are unavoidable. Whether it is the increasing number of hurricanes and tornados or the droughts in the Southwest, if it doesn’t affect someone personally, to them, it is avoidable.
What does that mean?
It means the cost today of avoiding future destruction is personal, immediate, and unavoidable, so no one likes it, not even those who are afraid. So if your politicians and media people keep pointing out and complaining about the cost of regulations and taxes, along with our Whack-A-Mole game of denial, you can keep a lid on regulations. We can’t stop all regulations, but we can stop an all out war on global warming.
Phoenix is the hottest city in America and it is setting monthly temperature records and yearly records for the number of days over 110° Fahrenheit. But not everyone lives in Phoenix. And not everyone who does live in Phoenix wants to pay now to avoid an even hotter future. And for those who do not believe in facts and science, it is easy to get them to vote against anything they think will impose costs on them today, because, to them, it is taking their money to finance a hoax.
THE ACHILLES’ HEEL
And that brings us to the argument you can’t win, the Spinner said. The argument about money.
What money? someone asked.
The money people, businesses, and governments save by switching to less expensive renewable energy, the Spinner said. To be accurate, it is not really an argument, it is simple facts about incomes, profits, and economic growth.
What about the idea that the United States shouldn’t do anything about global warming because India and China aren’t? someone asked.
That idea won’t work if the issue is about money, the Spinner said. Aside from it being a childish If Mikey jumps off a bridge, I get to jump off a bridge line of reasoning, and aside from the fact that it is not true, given that China is a world leader is producing solar energy equipment, when businesses see they can lower their costs and increase their profits by switching to lower cost renewable energy, they won’t care what India and China are or are not doing.
What about people? someone asked.
It’s the same for consumers. They don’t care what India and China are doing, but they do care about the cost of heating and cooling their homes. And they do care about what it costs to buy, service, and operate their cars. As soon as they can buy electric cars for the same or less as cars with internal combustion engines, electric cars that can go hundreds of miles between charges, electric cars that can be recharged almost as quickly as filling a gas tank, electric cars that have virtually no maintenance, other than replacing tires and wiper blades, they will buy them. They won’t care what India and China are doing, and most won’t care whether or not electric cars that are cheaper to buy and cheaper to operate and more fun to drive are better for the environment.
Not everyone will buy electric cars, someone said.
Of course not, the Spinner said, but the direction is unstoppable. Even new car dealers, who don’t like to sell electric cars, because they make most of their profits servicing internal combustion cars, not selling them, will have no choice. They will have to take their electric cars off the back lot and let customers buy them. Trucks will be even worse for you, or us, the Spinner said. Electric pickups, electric delivery trucks, and electric semis with more power than diesels and that cost much less to operate and service will take over, because of profits.
But cars and trucks still have to buy electricity from companies that use fossil fuels to generate electricity, someone said.
That’s true, for now, the Spinner said, but electric utility companies are already switching away from fossil fuels to solar and wind; not just because of regulations, but because it is cheaper, and is getting even cheaper every day. And it won’t be long before people and businesses can charge their cars and trucks with home solar collectors. And to generate more electricity than they use.
What about our people saying we should not move too quickly to deal with global warming, because of the cost? someone said.
That’s gone, too, as soon as people and businesses focus on the money they can save by switching instead of on the cost of limiting greenhouse gasses, the Spinner said. When people look at the money—at incomes, profits, and economic growth—they won’t listen to anyone talking about waiting.
Because it’s about the money, someone said.
It is a case of greed is good, the Spinner said. It’s about real money. Real money everyone can see they can have by switching to lower cost renewable energy. It won’t matter how successful we are with the Whack-A-Mole denier game, because even if you can convince a bunch of angry people that global warming isn’t real, or if it is real, it is not caused by extracting, transporting, and burning fossil fuels, no one else will listen; not if they can have something better and cheaper.
It sounds like we are at a tipping point, someone said.
That is exactly where we are, the Spinner said. We are at a point where one big technological breakthrough, possibly in batteries, possibly in the efficiency of solar collectors, will let lower-cost renewable energy fuel one of the greatest economic expansions in history.
So we could be out of business before we know it?
Not at all, the Spinner said. You will be in business and making profits for years, because it is impossible to make an overnight switch away from fossil fuels. But once people focus on the money they are losing by not switching, they are also going to start looking at the dollar benefits of controlling greenhouse gasses instead of at the costs of doing so. And when they do, it will likely be the end of your subsidies.
Even if we keep giving money to politicians? someone asked.
It is going to be tricky to find politicians who are willing to give billions of dollars in subsidies to fossil fuel companies when voters can see their incomes and profits will increase faster if the money is used to fund research that will make the switch to lower-cost renewable energy as fast as possible, the Spinner said. Given facts that no one can dismiss, the logical, rational objective will be obvious. It will be to have government help make the switch to less expensive energy as quickly as possible, because every day they wait costs people and businesses money. Incomes could be higher. Profits could be higher. Economic growth could be better. There could be funds to combat homelessness, poverty, and other issues that require resources. From the standpoint of the country and the world, measured in incomes, profits, and economic growth, there will be little support for forcing everyone to be poorer just so you, the ones who are selling more expensive energy sources, can be richer.
But we can hang on for a while? someone said.
The fossil fuel industry is not going out of business overnight, but the bottom line is the bottom line, meaning the switch to renewable energy is going to be about profits. It’s going to be about government subsidizing the inevitable change because of profits. It’s going to be about government increasing jobs, incomes, profits, and economic growth by speeding up the switch to lower-cost renewable energy the way it did with the World War II GI Bill that subsidized education and home buying and that was responsible for the greatest period of economic growth in American history and which, as later studies showed, led, because of the higher incomes and profits it created, to adding as much as twenty times more to government tax revenues than the program cost. The same was true for the building of the interstate freeway system. And it will be the same when government helps generate another golden age for America.
What can we do? someone asked.
Adjust to the change, the Spinner said. The companies that started your industry drove whaling ships out of business. And the internal combustion engine that ran on your products drove horse breeders out of business. Now you have to decide what’s next. And I can guarantee you, it is not going to be easy to be on the wrong side of a change that will increase incomes, profits, and economic growth and usher in one of the greatest economic expansions in history.
As an economist, I understand how decisions made in our own best interest can add to the common good, even though that is not our intention, and even if we have no interest in the common good.
As an economist, I also understand how decisions made in our own best interest can, because of what Milton Friedman called neighborhood effects and other economists call externalities, either benefit or harm others and can either add to or subtract from the common good, whether or not we care about others or the common good.
As an educated person, I know there are many people who know much more than I do about a long list of topics, from plumbing to writing, and I know I know less about every other discipline than those who have chosen to specialize in it.
As an old guy, I know that if global warming and climate change are real, the unimaginable physical and financial damages caused by what we have been doing and are continuing to do are going to be borne less by my generation than by today’s young and by those who have yet to be born.
And as someone who believes in facts and knowledge, who believes it is possible to at least try using what we know to make rational decisions, and who, whether because of economics, empathy, or compassion, believes that even if the scientists end up being wrong about how dramatically global warming will change the world, I would rather error by trying to do what I believe is right for my children, for my grandchildren, for all the other children of the world, and for all future generations, because I believe if we do not stand up today and confront what those who are much smarter than me are saying is a very real threat not only to the physical world but to mankind itself, those who follow us will be living in a world they will be helpless to fix.
My attempted contribution to the solution is simple. It is to try switching the conversation from the costs of controlling global warming to the massive gains in incomes, profits, and economic growth that will be ours if we do a better job regulating the negative neighborhood effects tied to the extraction, transport, and use of fossil fuels and, equally important, to focus on the huge additions to incomes, profits, and economic growth as lower-cost renewable energy replaces fossil fuels.
As an economist, I look at profits as the driving force in a free production and exchange economy. And if we look at the impact of lower energy costs on profits, it is clear that renewable energy is not just for tree huggers anymore.
Renewable energy is the next great economic leap forward.
By lowering costs, it is going to be the next great generator of higher profits, incomes, and economic growth, whether fossil fuel companies and global warming deniers like it or not.
Which is why it is time to change the global warming debate from a negative argument about who will pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a fact-based focus on the positive, on the fact that the faster we make the switch to lower cost renewable energy, the richer we will be.
And because one big side effect will be a massive decrease in what are called greenhouse gases, it is not going to matter which side of the global warming science debate someone is on. Profits and individual choice are going to decrease carbon emissions whether or not they cause global warming.
Nantucket whalers were put out of business by in-ground oil and electricity, not because of a cry to save the whales. The work-horse industry was put out of business by the internal combustion engine, not because of a concerted effort to end the pollution horses were causing in cities.
And there was nothing they could do about it.
Because it was about money and incomes and profits.
And the side effects were good.
Whale oil lamps were fire hazards, did not give off much light, and polluted indoor air. Electric lights let people read at night, and were responsible for major advances in education and knowledge.
Work horses were slow, could not haul very large loads, and polluted the streets. Automobiles expanded business and helped unify the country.
And that is where we are today.
If we want higher incomes, higher profits, more and better jobs, and faster economic growth, we are going to get it if we do not let the fossil fuel industry (today’s whalers and work-horse breeders) prevent or delay the change to protect their own short term profits at the expense of American workers, American business, and economic growth.
Another important side effect, of course, is by decreasing the world’s dependence on oil, the geopolitical system of the entire world is almost certain to change for the better.
- Dennis Paulaha, PhD
Dennis F. Paulaha received B.S. and M.A. degrees in economics from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington. As a university professor, he taught macroeconomic and microeconomic theory at the principles, intermediate, advanced, and graduate level, monetary theory and policy, environmental economics, and special issues courses. In the real world, he wrote economic/investment newsletters with as many as 70,000 paid subscribers and was vice president of research for a national brokerage company.