Sustainability is the possibility that humans
and other life will flourish on Earth forever.
Reducing unsustainability, although critical,
will not create sustainability.
I have to warn you that the document you will see in a moment is not a joke. It is in reality a “joke,” but it is for real. I got notice of a new bill (H. R. 5668) just introduced into the House of Representatives. Here is the preamble:
To prohibit the Secretary of Energy and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from taking the social cost of carbon or the social cost of methane into account when taking any action, and for other purposes.
I hesitate to give you the name of the bill for fear you will fall into a fit of dangerous, convulsive laughter, but here it is, “Transparency and Honesty in Energy Regulations Act of 2016.” You can view the whole bill at this link.
1984 is surely upon us. This is the best example of “doublespeak” I have seen for a while, although there is a lot more being thrown around in the current political campaigning. Hiding the real costs of anything is the epitome of obfuscation. Economists know very well that so-called external costs, the ones that are not incorporated into the price of goods and services, are just as real as the costs of labor, materials and capital that were included. This bill is an outrageous attempt at increasing the burden on the bottom of the income scale relative to the rich. The only difference between this and attempts to cut taxes on the rich is the tactic.
Social costs that come as a result of economic activities always tend to weigh more on the poor who lack the protections of the rich. When the sea level rises and inundates the coasts, the poor who can’t afford to live on high ground get hurt, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina. Polluted air and water harm the poor more than those who can escape from them. This tactic is a variation of a very old trick to justify government projects that benefit the few at the expense of the many, including nature herself. The Army Corps of Engineers, for years, used a calculus that ignored the environmental costs of the dams. Now, begrudgingly I believe, they are beginning to pull some of those dams down to restore the natural values of the waterways.
Enough said. Keep this scurrilous act in mind next November when you pull the lever in the voting booth. I can live with a reality I do not like and with ideas with which I do not agree, but not with such flagrant ignorance and dismissal of how things really are.