Monday, April 16, 2012

A Contract with the Earth 16: Caps

On page 148 of A Contract with the Earth, Newt Gingrich and Terry Maple say the following:

"...in a command and control environment with mandated caps on carbon dioxide emissions, Europe lags behind the free-market American achievements, with Europe emitting carbon dioxide at a growth rate three times that of the United States, according to data gathered from 2000 to 2004."

This didn't sit right with me, for a variety of reasons. First of all, how can Europe have a high growth rate of carbon emissions, when it sets caps on them? Are the caps too high? Are people choosing not to follow the caps set by law? Second, I thought that Europe had lower CO2 emissions than the United States. In part, I assumed this because of what Arnold Vinick said on The West Wing: "You want to know why Europe's CO2 emissions are so much lower than ours? Nuclear power!" But there are also statistics that show that Europe has lower CO2 emissions than the U.S., which is number 2, after China (see here). Of course, Newt and Maple mention the "growth rate", which is probably different from how much CO2 is actually emitted. But the latter is relevant, in my opinion.

I still agree with a lot of what Newt and Maple argue, notwithstanding my reservations on this point. I agree that command economies are not necessarily cleaner than free-market economies, and I also believe in encouraging green technology. I still think that caps are necessary, however.

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