This post is about the actual conflict between the economy and environment, and particularly the environmentalists' habit of saying NO to every new project, even if the new project will retire an older, polluting project. The WSJ gives this example:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is determined to publicize just how much environmental opposition derails all kinds of energy projects—including renewable energy. The Chamber just launched a new website, “Project No Project,” that aims to chronicle runaway NIMBYism across the U.S.The New York Times jumps in with coverage of the debate AMONG enviros:
The Chamber’s point is that for all the talk of embracing clean energy as an alternative to dirtier old energy sources, plenty of green angst is directed at precisely the things—like new transmission lines—that would bring clean energy closer to reality.
As the Obama administration puts development of geothermal, wind and solar power on a fast track, the environmental movement finds itself torn between fighting climate change and a passion for saving special places.Here's another example of stopping something new that's an improvement on the old:
So why do some environmentalists object to desalination? I've concluded it's out of a kind of wishful thinking: If only everyone were to conserve, if the population could stay at current levels, if we could find a solution that has no environmental impacts -- if, if, if. In this respect, environmental advocates are behaving no differently from residents who object to Orange County's "toilet-to-tap" project -- though they have no qualms about drinking recycled wastewater from the Colorado River. Perhaps all of us prefer to ignore the realities of difficult choices in the belief that somewhere a perfect solution exists.I am guessing that the environmental justice movement ("we are tired of putting pollution where poor people live") will also have something to say about this. Since poor people often live on cheap land, they often end up with industrial projects. (Notice how the windmills are still not erected off Cape Cod.)
Gallup has been asking about this tension for many years. This year is the first time that Americans say that the economy takes precedence over the environment, and here's the picture!
Note that there is a tie between environment and energy. On both questions, republicans tend to favor the economy, and democrats tend to favor the environment.
As an environmental economist, I agree that there is a tension between economic GROWTH and the environment. Under current form (using fossil fuels, polluting without taxes, exploiting greenfield sites, harvesting natural resources, etc.), it's hard to see any difference.
A sustainable economy would be MUCH different. It would not only be smaller (less consumption, less pollution), but also contain fewer goodies (cars, big screen TVs, houses, meat, kids, etc.) Who's interested in that?
Bottom Line: The world is full of trade-offs, and now we are facing them. If we favor the economy, our environment will suffer (and may bite us on the ass). If we favor the environment, our economy will suffer (and may lower the standard of living). Hey -- is Solomon around here somewhere?