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January 28, 2007



Joel, are you certain Kim Strassel isn't writing with tongue in cheek? If not, her argument makes Bush-speak seem subtle and sophisticated in comparison.

Assuming for the sake of argument that Strassel and the WSJ are not morons, I can only conclude that they are scared to death by the tidal wave they see coming. Just why, I'm not quite sure.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Hear Hear! Joel! This is probably the best post I've seen you make yet.

Very accurate.

"climate profiteering"?!?

Is this not the case that these companies that have successfully anticipated / innovated are now derided for being in an excellent position for economic success in the future? - Surely these business leaders in America should be congratulated for their foresight and vision?

Climate change is an enormous and challenging problem - and it is great that business is finally squaring up to actually face it.

I think the potential successes of business in the climate change debate - is related to "incentive based economics". There is a potential incentive to change - due to economic advantages of new technologies.

These companies have the right to make profit, and I hope share an appropriate amount of the wealth generated with the rest of society as is typical - I won't go into huge debate on the economic systems (its off topic).

As long as these companies pay a fair rate of taxation (to fund social programs and the other elements of government) JUST LIKE ANY OTHER INDUSTRIES then that's fine with me!

* by fair rates of tax - I mean, due to the problem of climate change - than this can start low and increase progressively as technology / infrastructure matures (becomes more economical)...

... the idea should be, that then the SUBSIDIES (plus other government help) are removed and taxation increased in line with other industries...

"climate profiteering"??!?? - where do these "conservative" elements believe the funds for the next generation of environmentally friendly technologies will come from? Indefinite government funding?!? Surely these "conservative elements" realise - this is where future wealth creation in the US will come from?

I hope and pray for every successes of companies challenging climate change. They have my full support! I suspect from the majority of right-minded indviduals.

*A funny quote I heard from a US commentator recently was describing "challenging climate change is like a semi-religious obligation in the UK"...

Indeed, doing this will certainly involve some changes to people's way of life.

I think that these won't be hugely drastic. Merely that people will change as they become more aware of their impacts. Consumer power is only increasing in the age of the Internet...

Therefore companies whom incorporate this into their practices will be at an advantage.

Those that don't will fail ultimately - with particular reference to Ford's current $12 billion loss (it's greatest in 103 years!!) , for failing to see the GLOBAL PICTURE... rather than just the US market.

Now Ford is scrambling to catch the innovations of Toyota and Honda...

Mike Kilroy

The Wall Street Journal board and many conservative outlets despise anything the government would do in the "public benefit," which is, IMO, the only reason to have government (or an economy, for that matter).

In my work world of technology, the government set mandated standards for high-definition content from cable companies (which created the current craze for flat-panels), and mandatory e911 for cell phones, which created opportunities for location-based services such as real-time directions.

Government policy ALWAYS creates market opportunities (or stunts them). And that policy should be made in the best interest of the citizenry, then the market can respond. Isn't that American democracy and capitalism at its best?

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Agreed Mike, and when it allows the best parts of human nature to flourish - like altruism .
I refer to a single example - "The Clinton Foundation" (an APOLITICAL organisation) - where people don't need money to make a contribution - even if it's merely encouraging others to do things to benefit society. And the fact that no contribution is too small...

Or the philanthropic endeavours of Mr Bill Gates or Warren Buffet...

The point is - we've probably reached a fundamental turning point in history.

Agreeing with some of the points that HRH Prince Charles mentioned at Harvard Medical School yesterday.

The conservative element (*note - I'd class myself as a moderate) need to understand that the classic sense of the "industrial age" is over - and that we are now in the "information age". If this is not understood correctly then these conservative elements once again could find themselves becoming irrelevant...

John Powers

Wow, this is heavy stuff

Mark C R says it all..
"classic sense of the "industrial age" is over - and that we are now in the "information age"

Such deep thought! How could a conservative fathom such a profound statement?

No no wait..Mike Kilory does...definitively refuting 170 years ago Fred "if we only broke more windows, more glaziers would have work" Bastiat canard-bait.

Can someone also refute Adam Smith's "more than two businessmen talking together in a corner justifies the suspicion that they are discussing devices in restraint of trade" as I think the Godfather of capitalism got it right here, 250 years ago, despite the profound thoughts of Kilroy and the Chemist.


Mark C R (Chemist) UK


Thanks for the complement - I doubt very much anything I have said has been called "profound" before! Thats a new one on me.

By the way - I simply am a moderate - not that I'm part of the "conservative-element" in anyway. I'm as middle ground as you can get.

I'm not overly sure about what you say - I'll do some reading on the people you mention! (e.g. John Adams - all I know is that he was once a President of the United States.... from memory)... it's not high on the list for history education for people in the UK. So I think I did well there.

But I think (the "climate profiteers" and associated topics i.e. post-kyoto) its about being pragmatic here. That is go with what works - or what CAN BE MADE TO WORK!

Personally I don't think emission limits will limit the economy. I have copious amounts of confidence scientists (like myself) and engineers will be stimulated to develop new ways of getting around a problem. The implementation of limits themselves will be simple further impetuous. *with extra spending on R&D resulting from the limits... and the Carbon-Trading Schemes...

If anything these things will benefit the US/EU (western-) economies - since they force everyone to innovate technologically. This can then be sold on to other economies.

Remember we can't compete with low wage economies like-for-like!! We have to compete on our wits...

So think around the problem is what I believe. This is a long term strategy...

Look at the successes in the IT sector. Mr Gates and company... are a precursor of what I imagine regarding the "information" or "knowledge-based-economy" ... but spanning every sector...

Contrary to what you think - I believe that the limits on CO2 emissions - WILL STIMULATE TRADE - ah la an anti-John Adams-situation you quoted.

We are forced to develop technologies to get around that problem... and can sell them to each other.

I don't think this is an unrealistic vision. Infact, I'm pretty confident about it.


"The Chemist"

Now off to * read up on John Adams (it's not too hard to know who that is) AND * what is meant by "Fred Bastiat: "if we only broke more windows, more glaziers would have work"" - I think he refers to Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850)... a French Economist...

**** Economists Bloody' economists!!! I suspect John Powers is one such specimin.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Oh my mistake - its Adam Smith.

Excuse my ignorance - I have NO IDEA who that is...

Probably yet another economist!...

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Ok... I have the jist... of Adam Smith (AND John Adams!)

I have to point out - that these works were when economics took place between nations when the boundaries of the economics were well within the limits of the environment!

We've past those limits - so to prevent the collapse of the environment AND therefore the economy...

Maybe it is wise to establish some "limits" on the free-markets until technology catches up? Knowing very well human ingenuity - that shouldn't be very long! Especially in the "information age"

As they've (I'm quoting Stern) - economists have failed to account for the problems of environmental limits yet. A grosse market failure!! That could destroy the very basis of the economy - too much in the "here-and now" and not in the long term.

Stick that one - economists!

1-0 to the Scientists.

John Powers

Breaking these laws of economics is about as likely as breaking the laws of gravity...they are not time dependent.

It is not going to happen.


Mark C R (Chemist) UK

The laws of gravity get broken everytime the space shuttle goes into space John...

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

PS. I dont think economics is as "strictly defined" as the laws of the universe either.

They are the results of human nature and psychology ...

Therefore as human constructs - they can be changed at any time of our choosing.

Unfortunately, the "physical laws of the universe" have no input from human nature.
"Economic laws" do have.
So there's a fundamental difference...

John Powers

"The laws of gravity get broken everytime the space shuttle goes into space John..."

Wow, Newton would have a field day on that one. The massive amount of wrong in that statement would astonish most 8th grade physics students.


Martin Edic

There is a difference between 'profiteering' and 'profiting'. Profiteering is when a commodity company like Exxon Mobil reports its highest profits ever because they didn't simply maintain their margins and raise prices based on increased costs of goods sold (underlying increase in oil last year) but instead took the opportunity offered by the increase and increased their margins to increase profits. Given that oil prices are driven by war, more demand, terrorism, climate change, etc. this is not good business (profiting) but criminal activity (people are dying over oil and they are taking advantage of the consequent price run up).
This, of course, is my simplistic opinion.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

"Wow, Newton would have a field day on that one. The massive amount of wrong in that statement would astonish most 8th grade physics students"


I'm highlighting the fact it depends on the context you're talking about.

The law of gravity says that to go into space you must break the force of gravity...

Just like the economics you talk about - physics likewise is open to debate...

Anyway John.

I think we're all in line for a "new structure" to the economic system. And I think clean tech and alt energy will give a fairer more balanced element to it, that everyone has a stakehold in.

Thats my humble opinion.

John Powers

"The law of gravity says that to go into space you must break the force of gravity..."

No, it does not break anything. As related to the launch of rocket, the law of gravity allows one to understand the vertical force necessary to overcome gravitational attraction. People have known this for at least 400 years.

My point is, when tried and tested science is not fitting with political opinion, a certain element, both Right and Left want to change science.

When I read things like "clean tech and alt energy will give a fairer and more balanced element" on top of GE and Caterpillar trying to capture regulations before they even get started, it makes me cringe.

Why can't we let the energy market take care of itself? If gasoline costs $4 (in the USA), there are literally hundreds of alternatives that will develop. Why do we insist on using the energy market to drive some bizarre oligarchical socialism that deems our corporate saviors necessary to prevent global warming, that somehow will provide an equitable distribution of resources?


robert veach

Excellent article Joel!
I have been talking to anyone I meet about the advantages of buying green products and most people do not have the time or energy to educate themselves about products or services that meet this criteria. I have also been promoting a new company that will make it VERY EASY FOR ANYONE TO GO GREEN AND REALLY (I MEAN REALLY)EFFECT THE ENVIRONMENT!! TAKE A LONG LOOK AT THIS:
Robert Veach


Sorry to inform you of this, but you need to know.

GE, ADM, et al are not meeting a market need they are creating a market for their unwanted product via mandates. Mandates often have unintended but very harmful impacts on the environment. The impact of increasing demand for biofuels provide a good example of this.

Virgin rain forests are being destroyed to plant palm oil plantations. The palm oil from these plantations is used to feed the growing demand for biofuels. These biofuels, which caused the destruction of the rain forests, will then be marketed by self serving companies as a green, environmentally friendly fuel.

We need less of this not more.


This is a very nice post, and I want to see how others react to this.

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