I must take issue with the April 10 Comment headlined "Same Rules For Everyone" in which Charles Crumpley argues that California's effort to become the first state to impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions could be "stupid" because it will increase costs to consumers and encourage businesses to move to states that don't have such limits.
An underlying assumption in the editorial is that efforts to control greenhouse emissions will damage the economy. There are many reasons and much data to forecast the opposite. Some businesses could possibly, in the short term, suffer from new greenhouse emission-control standards. But many other businesses will come into existence out of this new state-wide effort and legislation.
In the past, California led changes in other economic areas that had as big an impact on well-established industries as this one, if not bigger. The software revolution, at its onset, certainly had a negative impact on B2B and B2C businesses providing services that suddenly became obsolete. Still, it led California to an even more stable position as the richest state of the country.
Industry changes are always a part of economics, and economics, unfortunately, is based on the needs of human beings. Responses to global warming have become a prime necessity.
The editorial claims that some businesses might leave California because of increased costs to consumers. As you know, an increase in price does not automatically mean a decrease in demand. This is true in general, as many economic factors affect demand, but it is especially true considering California's demographics. Businesses will think twice before leaving the state with the highest absolute population growth in the country.
Crumpley concluded by stating that "a far better route is to defer to the federal government and have national or even global standards."
Unfortunately, as everyone can see, this is just not
happening. As the editorial mentioned, the federal government has balked on adopting the Kyoto accord, no carbon emission reduction treaty alternative to Kyoto has been proposed by the United States, and there was no shift in domestic policies.
Yes, the rules should be the same for everyone (at least, or, better yet, should be set in proportion to levels of carbon emissions). Go tell it to the current U.S. Administration. The United States, by far the major carbon polluter in the world, has pulled itself out of "the rules" and has made no effort to create new rules.
In the meantime, until things change, yes, all our hopes are in the hands of what Crumpley called pioneers. But pioneers are the ones who lead the way and live better before the rest.
California consumers are often educated and sensitive about environmental issues. As a consumer living in California, I would be happy to spend a little more in the short run on electricity, knowing that I will save money with alternative sources of energy possibly starting now, and more once they are forced by new regulations to be developed on a full scale.
Gasoline might end up costing a bit more, and so what? I am going to buy much less gasoline. Just driving a hybrid will slash my monthly gasoline expenses of about 40 percent or maybe 50 percent or more.
I think it's unlikely, as the editorial said, that some businesses "could cluster in a business-friendly state or in countries with fewer environmental standards than the United States. And that could lead to an increase in emissions globally."
This looks like an excuse. If California has stricter standards, that does not mean that other states should be allowed to relax theirs. As far as international is concerned, arguably there are no industrialized countries with looser carbon emission standards than the United States. The more we push toward control, the more likely the "same rules," (Kyoto standards or new standards) will be respected by everyone, including the developing nations. But the only way to get there is to get started, and a good place to start would be here, since for now the one really big player not playing by the rules is the United States.
Finally, I would like to comment on some of the words Crumpley used, such as: "It's nice and everything to be an eco-friendly state." I am surprised to see that he looks at the global warming emergency in the tones of "nice and everything."
In case it's still not clear, responses to global warming are not a matter of being nice, but a matter of saving our wealth and life from catastrophic changes that are already starting to take place. It is a choice to ignore all current facts and all data about present and future trouble, but that's suicide.
Let's lose the "eco-friendly" talk, because it makes people think of pandas, whales, pesticides and polluted rivers, and it really does not convey the gravity of this emergency we are facing.
Lorenzo Campus is a graduate student.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.