A Dated Carbon Approach
By Sebastian Mallaby
The Washington Post
Monday 10 July 2006
These days almost nobody asserts that global warming isn’t happening. Instead, we are confronted with a new lie: that we can respond to climate change without taxing and regulating carbon. The Bush administration – and many Democrats, too – promise technological salvation: hydrogen fuel cells, ethanol distilled from grass, solar power, windmills, whatever. It’s more fun to call for whiz-bang technologies than regulations and taxes.
But it’s also dishonest. We already have technologies to cut carbon. Hybrid cars have been around for years, but almost nobody drives them. Small cars have been on the market even more years, but they aren’t consumer hits either. There are dozens of technologies to insulate buildings and design heating and cooling systems in efficient ways. The problem is we don’t use them.
You can even cut carbon using no technology whatever. Mexico City has reduced its output of carbon dioxide by almost 55,000 tons a year by opening one efficient bus route; the key innovation here was the creation of two bus lanes. The new buses run on diesel – not exactly a technological breakthrough. But because they are rapid and frequent, the buses have brought car use down and reduced emissions.
So what matters is not just the technologies we have but the incentives to deploy them. The average Western European uses half as much energy as the average American, and that’s not because there’s more technology in Europe. Rather, Europeans have embraced anti-carbon policies ranging from gas taxes to emissions caps, from an absence of extravagant mortgage subsidies that encourage super-size homes to congestion charges for drivers in London and Stockholm.
Jaime Lerner, Alicia Bay Laurel, Hawaii County Planning Director Chris Yuen and his wife Noelie Rodriguez, Professor of Sociology at Hawaii Community College in Hilo, after Jaime’s lecture at University of Hawaii Hilo on September 29, 2004, which Noelie and Chris organized.