CERAWeek 2009: Why Didn’t Daniel Yergin Question Climate Alarmism–and Both Cap-and-Trade and Carbon Taxation?
By Robert Bradley Jr. -- February 15, 2009
At the just-completed CERAWeek, here in Houston, Daniel Yergin had an excellent opportunity to inject some scholarly realism into the climate-change debate. As a wise man of energy and an opinion leader, he could have stated publicly what many in the vast audience mutter privately, such as:
- Global warming has stalled in the last decade or more, bringing into question the high-sensitivity, high-warming scenarios of climate models (the major costs of climate change)
- Cap-and-trade CO2 reduction in the European Union has failed under a variety of metrics–deadweight costs, higher prices, very little gain, unintended consequences
- U.S. voters have put climate-change at the very bottom of their list of concerns and affordable energy high on their list of concerns
- What emerges from Congress in the next several years will be grotesque–almost regulation and higher energy costs for its own sake (with no appreciable effect on climate).
Yergin could have also explained how
- Economists have been able to justify a carbon tax (carbon pricing) under cost/benefit analysis only by assuming full international participation, an “environmental pope” (William Nordhaus), and high damage scenarios that increasingly appear to be unrealistic
- Time is running out for reversing the human influence on climate under anyone’s scenario because of the saturation effect (the logarithmic effect of greenhouse-gas forcing on climate).
Such a powerful message could have helped reorient the energy sustainability question to
- Providing modern energy to the 1.5 billion that live in energy squalor (burning wood and dried dung in the home)
- Ensuring plentiful, affordable, reliable energy to the developed world to promote economic recovery and growth (wind and solar fail on this count).
Instead, Dr. Yergin made statements like this at CERAWeek:
[Oil companies] are not arguing about basic philosophy anymore, but about practical steps. We’re moving into a new era of policy making that will have very important and far-reaching implications for energy markets.
Now the buy-in is pretty much across the spectrum. It is one where the devil is truly in the details.
In other words, “is equals ought.” Let’s not dare to question the political situation we find ourselves in, let’s just march ahead into neo-Malthusian land.
This raises interesting questions about just who Daniel Yergin is and how has his career developed. I cover some of this history in my new book, Capitalism at Work (pp. 57, 178, 252, 258–60, 280–82, 288, 290), and I plan to post on this subject in the future.
Suffice it to say that Yergin is one of the “Big Five” from within the energy sector (broadly considered) who sounded the climate alarm in such a way as to confuse/split the energy industry and get us to the (sorry) point where we are now.
The “big five,” are:
- The late Ken Lay of Enron, who sounded the climate alarm in the same year as James Hansen and Al Gore (1988) and went on to position Enron with seven profit centers around CO2 regulation
- John Browne, who in 1997 put BP on the side of climate alarmism and “beyond petroleum”
- Paul Portney, president of Resources for the Future (1995–2005), who furthered RFF’s embrace of climate alarmism and cap-and-trade and had innumerable meetings with energy companies to sell them on the same
- James Rogers, now head of Duke Energy, a Ken Lay protégé who left Enron in 1988 to join a coal-heavy electric utility, Public Service of Indiana. At PSI, later Cinergy and now Duke, Rogers called for CO2 regulation in hopes of writing advantageous rules as a first mover
- Daniel Yergin (to be continued).