Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Energy-Consuming Things

Walter E. Williams is upset because John Dingell wants to end mortgage-tax deductions for houses over 3,000 square feet, which use considerably more energy (and raw materials) than the average house.

The problem with Dingell's proposal, apparently, is that its focus on larger-than-average houses is so arbitrary:

The average U.S. home is around 2,300 square feet, compared with Europe's average of 1,000 square feet. So why doesn't Dingell call for disallowing mortgage deductions on houses more than 1,000 square feet? The reason is there would be too much political resistance, since more Americans own homes under 3,000 square feet than over 3,000.
One of the alleged problems with mitigating climate change is that it'll cause economic hardship. But Williams' gripe seems to be that Dingell's scheme doesn't cause enough hardship. If your goal is to discourage oversized houses, it's hardly outrageous to target houses that are more than 700 square feet bigger than the average (especially given that what's "average," these days, is already skewed upwards by the craze for McMansions).

Also, the average size of Europe's housing is beside the point. Europe's houses could be smaller than ours for a number of reasons, ranging from the antiquity of its cities, to its generally high density, to the comparatively small land areas of its constituent countries, to the fact that so much of its housing was destroyed in WWII and rebuilt with counterpart funds under the Marshall Plan. It's a wee bit counterproductive to suggest that we should adopt this standard or none at all.

It's nowhere near as counterproductive as what comes next, though:
[C]ongressmen are using climate change hysteria to funnel money into their districts. Rep. David L. Hobson, R-Ohio, secured $500,000 for a geothermal demonstration project. Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., got $500,000 for a fuel-cell project by Superprotonic, a Pasadena company started by Caltech scientists. Money for similar boondoggles is being called for by members of both parties.
Boondoggles, indeed. If God had meant us to use geothermal energy, he would've filled the earth with molten rock.

I'd say that the concept of technological progress is alien to Williams, except that he spends the next paragraph prattling about it:
Al Gore might even consider me carbon neutral and possibly having carbon credits because my carbon offsets were made in advance. For example, for the first 15 years of my life, I didn't use energy-consuming refrigerators; we had an icebox. For two decades I listened to radio instead of watching television and walked or used public transportation to most places. And for more than half my life I didn't use energy-consuming things such as computers, clothes dryers, air conditioning and microwave ovens. Of course, my standard of living was much lower.
So people can invent things that make life easier or better, after all...even when they're receiving government money, as Raytheon was when Percy Spencer invented the microwave oven. Go figure!

Williams ends by prescribing the NCPA's crackpot tract "A Global Warming Primer" as an antidote to climate alarmism:
What about public school teachers frightening little children with tales of cute polar bears dying because of global warming? The primer says, "Polar bear numbers increased dramatically from around 5,000 in 1950 to as many as 25,000 today, higher than any time in the 20th century."
Public school teachers, mind you; teachers in private schools all agree with the NCPA.

This misinformation about polar bears is so widespread, thanks to fiends in human form like Williams, that Polar Bears International has created a page to debunk it:
The early estimates of polar bear abundance are a guess. There is no data at all for the 1950-60s. Nothing but guesses. We are sure the populations were being negatively affected by excess harvest (e.g., aircraft hunting, ship hunting, self-killing guns, traps, and no harvest limits). The harvest levels were huge and growing. The resulting low numbers of bears were due only to excess harvest but, again, it was simply a guess as to the number of bears.

After the signing of the International Agreement on Polar Bears in the 1970s, harvests were controlled and the numbers increased. There is no argument from anyone on this point. Some populations recovered very slowly (e.g., Barents Sea took almost 30 years) but some recovered faster.
In other words, Williams is using the fact that the bears responded well to conservation efforts as proof that they're not threatened by climate change.

Sometimes I really wish I believed in Hell.

(Photo via Monthly Review.)


chris said...

I'll see your Walter and raise one Kristen
Links to Townhall should have warning lights or something.
Funny, while Walter is yelling at the dirty hippies on his lawn, the stock photo embedded in his column shows the record low Arctic summer ice.
Teeming with polar bears, of course. And NCPA researchers.

@whut said...

But Williams' gripe seems to be that Dingell's scheme doesn't cause enough hardship

Classic misdirect+canard double-play on W.E.W's part. Trash something because it does not go far enough, never admitting to the fact that he wouldn't support the scheme anyways.