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Green politicking can do real harm

Tim Worstall has a superb rebuke to the idiotic argument that
greedy speculation, rather than greenie politicking, was the real
cause of the high food prices, hunger and food riots of 2008:

In short, futures allow
speculation upon the future: which is why we have them, for
speculation upon the future allows us to sidestep the very things
which we do not desire to happen in that future.

Now, of course, you could design
an alternative method of doing this. The wise, omniscient
and altruistic  politicians and bureaucrats could send a
fax to all farmers telling them to plant more. Signs could appear
in every breadshop telling us all to eat our

Except, of course, those wise,
omniscient and altruistic politicians and bureaucrats are precisely
the fuckers that got us into the mess in the first place by
insisting that we should put wheat into cars rather than

Rob Bradley has a superb series of posts on how it was not just
greedy speculation, but also greenie politicking that got BP and
Enron into trouble. I particularly treasure this quotation from the
celebrity environmentalist Lester Brown in 1998:

“Within the fossil fuel industry
itself … some companies such as Enron, British Petroleum, and Royal
Dutch Shell are already looking to the future, and beginning to
invest in alternative energy sources. Enron’s chairman, Ken Lay,
who publicly discusses the need to reduce carbon emissions and to
stabilize climate, sees Enron at the heart of the transition from
fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The infrastructure it has
built to store and distribute natural gas can one day be used for
hydrogen as the solar/hydrogen economy unfolds…In an important
speech at Stanford University in May 1997, British Petroleum’s CEO,
John Browne, said: ‘The time to consider the policy dimensions of
climate change is not when the link between greenhouse gases and
climate change is conclusively proven, but when the possibility
cannot be discounted and is taken seriously by the society of which
we are a part. We in BP have reached that point.’ This was a big
jump for big oil.”

Says Bradley:

Just imagine if
John Browne
used the time and resources BP spent on climate alarmism
and ‘beyond petroleum’ on real safety and
environmental issues.

BP might still have a
capitalization of $150 billion and not face a potential worst-case
scenario of bankruptcy and ruin. And more importantly, the U.S.
Gulf would not be in an environmental crisis.

Just imagine if Enron’s Ken Lay
had used the time and resources spent on
alarmism and forced energy
on accounting, risk
control, and the real things that promote business sustainability.
(Lay was a

big Christopher Flavin/Worldwatch

Enron might still be with us

Diverted management
attention has an opportunity cost
. Left
environmentalists lobbied and praised BP and Enron for putting
form over substance. A few shouted ‘greenwashing’, but most
applauded their coveted split within the fossil-fuel industry on
climate and energy.

Enron is no longer around.
Instead it has become the poster child of
capitalism run amuck
. And the
Deepwater Horizon accident-for which, in an effort to

save about $5 million
, BP
will pay tens of billions of dollars-may sink BP as an independent

By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  Uncategorized