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« Vacation coming to a close! | Main | A casual thought on scientific questions »

July 28, 2009


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Why is cap-and-trade a distraction? (I mean cap-and-trade if done right.)

European cars fuel efficient? Ha! HaHaaahaha... OK, there are exceptions, like small Italian or French cars. But what I see here in Germany is mostly expensive BS tech crowding the streets. It is depressing. Sure BMW, Audi, Mercedes etc. are superior to the 'merrican dream gas guzzlers - but the efficiency gains are eliminated by tonnage and horsepower growth. Germany has no speed limit -- and they never will introduce one, for that would render the ridicu-lousiness of German cars obvious.

Europe might produce better BS tech. But it's the same shame.

George Mobus

Oh thanks for spoiling the illusion Flor! I told you I was a sucker for magic tricks. It was just the fact that all of the cars were so much smaller than the beasts so many people drive here in the US. That and the higher cost of petrol at least give the illusion of lower hydrocarbon use and lower CO2 emissions.

As for C&T the list is long. Schemes like that 'seem' to have worked or at least helped for reducing sulfur emissions from power plants and the economics proved to be acceptable to the conservatives so all the policy wonks just assume that is the best mechanism for CO2 and that it is politically viable. A fair number of scientists who have looked at the details of how it would be implemented (esp. measuring point sources and crediting so-called sinks) have decided that it is far too complicated and probably too slow in terms of getting the kind of response we really need.

I think I've written a piece on the technical problems with C&T for CO2 but I can't remember if it was in a blog or a comment on either Grist or The Oil Drum. In any case here is the Wikipedia article on the subject:

My impression is that this is one of those articles where the various competing interests have been editing over one another so it may not represent a sufficiently clear view regarding the technical problems of measuring and regulating the markets (I've recently read an article suggesting that the next big market bubble might just well be CO2!!!)

Sorry we missed each other while I was over there. Next time I'm in central Europe I'm going to insist on being in on the planning!



Oh, there I go again. Actually I don't want to debate cap-and-trade once more. But then, you are my last hope for some serious criticism. (I did some googling, but only found other fascinating stuff.) Absent that I keep with Romm and Krugman. (My farming friend told me the next big market bubble will be cereals.)



Welcome back George!
While you were away I have been reading through your the evolution of sapience series. It occured to me that a casual viewer of your blog might see the phrases sapient genetic evolution and assume that it means you advocate some kind of Transhumanist GM eugenics to evolve humanity. Of couses having read your series I know thats not your intention or approach but maybe if you have time, another blog post on the possible mechanisms of evolution, expanding on your previous ideas? I have been reading quite widly on the subjects of epigenetics adaptive mutation, H.G.T. Neodarwinism etc recently. I am quite intrigued by the ideas of Bruce Lipton and Johnjoe Mcfadden...speculative I realise, but I could see tentitive signs of how these ideas could be merged with the emergence of Eusapience and was wondering what you thought?


SLEIGHT of hand if you please!

George Mobus

Yikes :^)


George Mobus


In truth I do not want to exclude *any* possibilities just yet. I don't advocate any special approach such as transhumanism, but I don't have any special insight into how evolution is going to play out. So I am reluctant to close doors until the evidence is in!

What I do think is possible is that we can find measurable correlates to eusapience in terms of brain functions and possibly genetic control during development (Evo-devo stuff) that would allow us to invoke other, more natural mechanisms, such as assortative mating to facilitate whatever genetic factors are involved being concentrated.

My final installment on the evolution of sapience (and the future possibility of eusapience) is still in draft. I introduced some ideas at the conference in San Luis Obispo this last June and am now trying to consolidate many ideas. I got very favorable responses from the attendees so am encouraged to develop these ideas more. At this point the only commitment I am ready to make is that mankind should consider the future of our genus and not just assume that Homo sapiens is the end product!

I will have to do some reading/research on the fellows you mentioned. I am not now familiar with their theses. Thanks for the pointers.



If you have ten minutes to spare sometime George, take a look at this taster of Biochemist Bruce Liptons 'Biology of perception' series of lectures on youtube;

..... thought proving stuff- and I cant find any sources to refute these ideas


re; slight/sleight: Well, if you change the metaphor to playing poker, you could say that Mr. Obama's bluffing outrageously while he is slight of hand.

Scott N.

In the grand scheme of political discussion nobody is focused on your point of view.

We should be thankful that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Keith Olbermann do not acquire higher financial reward based on their ability to capture the focus of the public discussion. Based on the persuasion percentage in the political discussion these individual deserve salaries in the billions. These guys are not greedy, Rush's 8 year $400 million, Sean's 5 year $100 million, and Keith's 1 year $7.5 million dollar contracts are a drop in the bucket compared to the salary they could command based on the public focus of their opinion.

Certainly these individuals are convincing orators, but noone should blame them for the public's inability to express a wider point of view. If I am not making since, I would suggest drumming up a political discussion at a family reunion, a bar, a coffee shop, or with your backyard neighbor. Whether the argument is about abortion, taxes, pollution, fiscal responsibility, liberty, freedom, or terrorism I would suggest Rush, Sean, or Keith's subatomic focus has more influence in the discussion than anything having direct bearing to any participant in the conversation.

A political argument should not be left sitting on the backyard fence beside the beer bottle. Good citizenship depends on individuals polishing their point of view so it can be understood and respected by others. Providing the tools for developing personal points of view and providing a more democratic method for argument is my suggestion for understanding the tricks that magicians use.

If Wikipedia can democratize the factual essay, if Craig's List can cut out the middle man in selling your junk, and if Google can render the Dewey Decimal System obsolete then certainly the editorial page can be put in control of the people.

Now for my plug.

The Do Good Gauge


WRT cap & trade I was pretty much convinced by reading the newsletter James Hansen from NASA puts out. He explains why a carbon tax would be much more effective and fair than cap & trade. For anyone interested:

In my opinion cap & trade is just another Wall Street scheme that will be extremely detrimental to the whole momentum that is needed to take on AGW, but hey, what's new?


Neven, thanks for the link. On cap vs. tax Hansen offers mostly polemics - a bit embarrassing for an eminent scientist.

At least he mentions the price volatility that a cap would introduce (report from the Congressional Budget Office, Feb. 2008). Now, that's 1) a natural thing for any limited commodity (e.g. oil, cereals, fish) and methinks 2) would be an incentive to invest in more stably/ predictably priced things.

To put a tax on addictive substances (e.g. gasoline, alcohol, tobacco) methinks is not promised to work (even without Hansen's dividend). Most addicts will just spend more money. A cap, on the other hand, models exactly (if done right) the problem at hand: pollution space is a limited resource.

Hansen's other point about Wall Street (Chicago) speculators, is just irrelevant paranoia. Pollution space is a (limited) commodity like anything else (e.g. oil, cereals). You can get millionaire (or bancrupt) with speculating on anything. And good speculators actually act as insurance against price swings. Fraud and market manipulation is a problem of trade regulations and oversight (where there's some homework to do of course), not of the specific commodity traded. And Waxman-Markey are well aware of that. See also Krugman:

The only problems are perhaps with the emissions monitoring/ accounting system. But then, this needs to be done anyhow if emissions are to be controlled.


Sorry for answering this late, Florifulgurator. I didn't check this topic to see if someone answered.

I'm not really qualified to judge these economic issues, but hey, this is the Internet, I can say whatever I want!

I admit it's a gut feeling, but what I like about a carbon tax is that you can levy the tax on fossil fuels at the source, the port of call or the mine or whatever. So there goes the monitoring/accounting system you mention.

A cap is about putting a price on pollution. But pollution is a symptom, whereas the cause of this pollution is fossil fuels. I prefer solutions that are aimed at the cause of problems, not at the symptoms.

What I like too is that you get rewarded for living a frugal life, which is a blasphemy in the church of everlasting consumption. When you say that most addicts will just spend more, I say that this will probably not be possible for most of the junkies. They will want cleaner energy.

Another point: I simply mistrust anything that resembles a stock market. Cap & trade leaves the door wide open for fraud, corruption, evasion, delay IMO. When all the companies are in favour of a scheme like this and not fighting tooth and nail like they do with everything surrounding AGW (except the greenwash commercials), you just know that there's something fishy.

Finally, Al Gore is completely silent on carbon tax and puts his weight behind this bill, knowing full well that it won't cut it (because it won't, not by a long shot). If he really is as worried about the climate as he portends to be he should be much more vocal wrt the flaws of the Waxman-Markey Bill. I have always wondered what's in it for him to come up with An Inconvenient Truth. He's a politician after all. Now I know: He has invested heavily in all kinds of companies that will benefit hugely from a cap & trade emissions scheme, offering carbon compensation etc.

So all in all a lot of gut feelings. I don't know how people who are smarter and know more of economics look at it, but cap & trade for me is just more of that same ol' same ol'.

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