Media bias doesn't operate by outright lies (usually). Instead it operates by settling on and relentlessly repeating an overly-simple and therefore deceptive narrative. The Washington Post's article yesterday morning about how meaningful climate change legislation is being stifled (but only on this side of the Atlantic) by economic concerns ("Climate Change Debate Hinges on Economics"). There are those of us who are grateful for such concerns, but the Post seems disturbed by them. Naturally, the issue is cast as a morality play, with the selfless Europeans facing off against the narrow-minded Americans. The truth is, naturally, a little more, ah, nuanced.
The potential economic impact of meaningful climate legislation -- enough to reduce U.S. emissions by at least 60 percent -- is vast. Automobiles would have to get double their current miles to the gallon. Building codes would have to be tougher, requiring use of more energy-efficient materials. To stimulate and pay for new technologies, U.S. electricity bills could rise by 25 to 33 percent, some experts estimate; others say the increase could be greater.
Most of the technologies that could reduce greenhouse gases are not only expensive but would need to be embraced on a global scale, scientists say.
Nowhere does the article cite any basis for the claim that only reductions of 60% or more are, "meaningful." And since the US isn't the world's largest CO2 producer any more - China is - the Post is either admitting impotence or arguing for an even more aggressive extension of American sovereignty abroad.
In the Senate, five climate change bills have been introduced recently -- with sponsors from both parties. They do not tax carbon but use variations on Europe's cap-and-trade system. Europe modeled its system on the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which the Senate rejected and President Bush later dismissed, saying it would cause the U.S. economy "serious harm."
The last sentence is deeply disingenuous, but the whole paragraph is misleading. In fact, President Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol but never submitted it to the Senate. The Senate later took a non-binding vote, unanimously rejecting the treaty because it didn't include the most-polluting, fastest-growing economies of India and China. The Senate never formally rejected the treaty. And President Bush has never pulled the US's signature from the document.
Deutch says that the technology, seen as a vital part of almost any strategy to slow global warming, won't be commercially viable until carbon dioxide reaches $30 a ton. That would translate into a 25 percent average increase in electric bills nationwide, Deutch said.
"It's certainly affordable for our economy and our society," Deutch said.
Deutch said, thus demonstrating the same incisive acumen that's made the CIA what it is today. Of course, the Post never actually does any analysis on this statement, preferring instead to paint US citizens as pampered children who just don't want to pay more. The Post gives no average energy bill for individuals, the number of people which such an increase might push from saving to spending each month, the institutional costs of such an increase, the jobs it might cost, or the effects of the price increases on consumers, or even the disproportionate effects on smaller and mid-size businesses. You know, the sort of analysis we got when every welfare recipient was on the verge of starvation from reform.
In Europe, there is a much greater sense of urgency about combating climate change, as Bush discovered at last month's meeting of the Group of Eight major industrial nations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Merkel is expected to push for big increases in power plant productivity and more renewable energy, although Germany is already the leading country in Europe for wind and solar power. Spain and Italy are offering incentives of about 40 cents a kilowatt hour for solar-power installations.
Actually, in Europe, there's a much greater sense of urgency about not allowing the US economy to continue to out-compete. The Europeans are terrific poseurs, talking a big game, but doing worse than the US since 2000 in reducing CO2 output, despite the fact that the US economy has grown faster than Europe's over that time. They, and their Democratic friends in Congress, draw the baseline at 1990 in order to capture one-time, non-repeatable events, that in any honest accounting would be thrown out. Despite that, they still have to keep raising the 1990 baseline in order to minimize the amount by which they fail to keep their promises.
As for solar, that's just a technology bet that Germany's made, and is now looking for the rest of the world to subsidize their market. Of all the countries in Europe, Germany's one of the worst for solar power, given its cloudy climate and northern latitude. Their leadership in solar isn't bootstrapped by any domestic demand, it's created by a goverment policy of picking winners.
Overpromising and misinvesting should be signs of deep unseriousness. Sadly, the Post mistakes them for "urgency."