Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Worst editorial of the day

Posted by Rich Sweeney on January 24, 2008

From the normally reasonable WSJ Energy Roundup:

    Europe has traditionally leaned toward big, and often scary, answers to perceived problems: socialism, communism, fascism, the European Union, the Eurovision song contest. Its latest stab at tackling climate change with a new carbon-emissions trading framework is no different. But is that the best approach to fighting global warming?

The draft proposal of the European Union’s third scheme to regulate carbon dioxide emissions gives Brussels the power to apportion pollution permits to individual industries, taking that power away from the EU’s 27 member states, which admittedly kept caving in to lobbies and showered industry with excess permits. The EU also reaffirms a wider, pan-European energy policy with basically common–and ambitious–goals for all the countries.

Europe’s unified approach assumes there will be some sort of global successor to the Kyoto Protocol in place by 2013; if there isn’t, the EU leaves the door open to water-down its new rules, either by handing out more permits or by raising the barricades against “dirtier” imports. At any rate, the draft proposal still needs to survive a lengthy review process before it will be finally approved.

But for all the lofty talk of finding a global solution to climate change, diplomats can’t agree on how best to proceed, leaving individual countries scrambling to find their own answers. Some, like China, are trying to balance a voracious energy appetite with a wink toward cleaner energy. In the U.S., individual states and regions are moving faster than Washington to set up renewable energy standards where it makes sense and cap-and-trade schemes within regional energy markets. Even inside Europe, some countries have already made big strides toward lower-carbon energy with no help from Brussels (such as France and its big nuclear bet.)

Europe has plenty of experience with one-size-fits-all solutions, and not all of them have worked. European monetary policy kept interest rates low to prod moribund, core countries like Germany, France, and Italy back to life while over-heating faster-growing countries on the fringe.

We’re going to keep looking at Europe’s long-awaited climate change blueprint, but in the meantime: Is this a case where the perfect is the enemy of the good?

Ummm….. was there a point in there? All I read was a bunch of anti-European blabbering leading up to completely unrelated comments on the US, China and the ECB. Only the WSJ could spin this undeniably sensible development in a negative light.

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