Global Warming and the Free Market
I took some flack from a couple of you for not identifying the organizations behind globalwarming.org in my earlier post. Mark W. and Tom were particularly harsh, and I suppose deservedly so. I was trying to save some fodder for later (I'm always tempted to throw everything into one enormous post; fortunately my editor keeps that from happening too often), but those who called me out were right, a note of identification would have been helpful.
So here's a whole post on the subject.
Globalwarming.org is "a project of the Cooler Heads Coalition" and the site is updated by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI advocates "the development and promotion of free market approaches to environmental policy."
Oh, and it received $465,000 from ExxonMobil in 2003, according to Chris Mooney's exhaustively-researched book, The Republican War on Science. The site exxonsecrets.org offers a bio on CEI, or if you don't like that source, here's a Democracy Now interview posted right on CEI's Web site. The interview is from April 2005, by which time CEI had received close to a million and a half dollars from ExxonMobil.
Sourcewatch provides this list of CEI's funders. Sourcewatch also offers a couple case studies of CEI's work, including the think tank's claim that stricter fuel efficiency standards would sacrifice highway safety because they discriminate against heavier vehicles which are safer for their occupants (and, Sourcewatch points out, more dangerous for everyone else.)
Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal calls CEI 'the best environmental think tank in the country'. And that says a lot coming from those tree-hugging hippies over at the WSJ [insert sarcasm point here].
Generally, the Journal's enthusiasm for the free market is great, but I admit, I am skeptical of the CEI's argument that a lack of regulation will convince self-interested corporations and consumers to do what's in the best interest of the environment, even when (as is often the case) it costs more to do so. It seems that the free market hasn't always done the greatest job of keeping emissions in check.
It's pretty self-evident, right? If it's cheaper to produce a product by polluting more -- as is almost always the case absent regulatory fines -- few if any manufacturers are going to lower their profit margins and/or risk a drop in sales to capture that handful of consumers who are willing and able to pay more to buy the environmentally-sound version of the product. In most cases, it would be economically foolish to decide unilaterally to reduce emissions or conserve resources, thereby giving competitors an advantage.
But what do you think: Are tougher laws needed, or is the free market the best regulator of environmentally-friendly business practices?
Have something to add on CEI or any of the other organizations opposing climate change science? Have your say here.
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Posted by: SandyK | October 4, 2005 04:45 AM
Posted by: DeeK | October 5, 2005 05:59 PM