More on the Stavins quote
Posted by Rich Sweeney on January 9, 2009
To recap, what Rob actually said was this:
“Let’s say I want to have a dinner party. It’s important that I cook dinner, and I’d also like to take a shower before the guests arrive. You might think, Well, it would be really efficient for me to cook dinner in the shower. But it turns out that if I try that I’m not going to get very clean and it’s not going to be a very good dinner. And that is an illustration of the fact that it is not always best to try to address two challenges with what in the policy world we call a single-policy instrument.”
Translation: just because two things can be accomplished simultaneously, doesn’t mean that doing them simultaneously is more efficient than doing them separately.
This does not mean that Stavins (and others who question the coupling of labor and environmental policy) doesn’t think that its a good idea to promote employment or to reduce carbon emissions because such policies are costly. In fact it means the opposite. It means that promoting work and mitigating climate change are both so important that we should at least attempt to maximize our success in achieving both goals in the face of resource constraints. No one’s saying that it’s impossible that climate policy will create jobs, we’re just saying its not obvious either.
UPDATE: Great minds think alike (riiiiight……). As I was writing this Tim was apparently making the same point. His translation is even better:
the point is not that we shouldn’t try to meet both goals–good dinner and good shower–but rather, the policy of addressing both at once is STUPID.
Also while I’m at it, Romm’s comment (or post of a comment) on John’s post highlight’s my point exactly. Romm writes:
BTW, it’s quite unclear that the poor would be hit the most by energy tax increases; the rich generally consume way more resources than the poor and would thus bear a higher burden of energy taxes. It’s empirically clear that energy subsidies in the US, in China or India go overwhelmingly to the well-off. Conversely, an energy (or CO2) levy would fall mostly on the rich.
Ummmm, no. This is just like the green jobs myth. Its sounds great, the greens want to believe it, and, you know what, its even technically possible. But its not obvious, and should therefore be verified before we allow it to define our public policy. And when you look at the data, alas, it’s not true. It turns out energy price increases are in fact regressive, just like we thought. Note that my paper does not take this to mean that we shouldn’t raise energy prices instead, but simply that we should take economic reality into consideration rather than our green wishes when we design a carbon bill.