Really Stupid Ideas: John McCain – Environment – Global Warming edition

I begin to think that John McCain and George Bush made major — and really scary — speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday in the hope that any serious examination of what they actually said would disappear in the intensity of the very serious ™ examination of Obama’s hatred of small town America and Hilary’s capacity to distinguish between the sound of AK 47 and Dragonov fire.

But they both said very interesting — stupid, but interesting — stuff, and if we wait for media grandees to help us figure it all out,….it could be a while.

Bush, of course, decided to punt action on global warming not just to the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania, but three or four down the road.  I’ll probably blog about it, but the real story is not the last President, still desperately trying to burnish his already impressive claim on the title of worst President evah.

The real concern now has to be the thinking of those trying to take his place.  And here, McCain has given us all real, renewed cause for worry bordering on panic.

McCain delivered his much anticipated speech on his economic “plan” (sic) on Tuesday.  There was an extraordinary amoung that was frightening in both his analysis and his policy proposals (that’s a grand term for what was rather a grab bag of half formed ideas).  I’ll blog a soon — I really ought to do it with my next post — about the real killer for American science (and probably our lng term economic health and national security too, now that I think of it) within the fine print of what he said.  What makes this one scary is that it stands a chance of being enacted if McCain does become President.

But the real insight into the kind of thinking that McCain would bring to the Presidency came in one of the more obvious non-starters, his proposal to enact a gasoline tax holiday through the summer driving season, Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Now there are all kinds of reasons that this is a really dumb idea.  People have pointed a lot of them out.  It would drain the already underfunded Highway Trust Fund.  (That is: if you liked this, you love driving on John McCain’s infrastructure.)  It will be a windfall for the oil refining companies.  (What a surprise, given the recent history of Republican transfers of wealth from American consumers to oil company owners.)  It would kill jobs, bash mass transit, and save the average driver — wait for it — twenty eight bucks a year.

All of that is true, and probably is sufficient reason why this is going nowhere, at least for now.  But I’ve been surprised that what seems to me the biggest and most obvious point.

McCain has been praised as the first major Republican candidate to take global warming seriously.  That claim is incompatible with this proposal.  Flat out.  One or the other wins.  If McCain wants to combat global warming, then he has to support policies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.  If he wants to encourage driving by making the use of cars cheaper, then by all means cut the gas tax — but Katie Bar The Door for the global climate system.

There is no rocket science here, and there are no loop-holes.  Virtually every thinking economist says that the most efficient way to cut carbon emissions is to impose a carbon tax.*  The only existing even vaguely broad such tax is the gas tax.  A genuine commitment to controlling global warming would raise that tax, and make it truly universal across different emissions sources; alternatively, a cap-and-trade system could perform the same goal, making the cost of polluting the atmosphere an explicit element in the total cost of any economic transaction.

The one thing you really don’t want to do if you have any serious concern about climate change is to provide yet more encouragement for people to drive.

So which do you think McCain would save, if he had to throw a tax cut or an environmental stand under the bus.  Bets?  I didn’t think so.

At least we learned something from the whole affair; McCain is an environmentalist in precisely the same way that George Bush was compassionate and a conservative.

*See this NYT article if you want a backgrounder on carbon tax vs. cap-and-trade schemes..  For broad, digressive, funny and incredibly well informed analysis of global warming and the follies of our leaders, see Eric Roston’s blog Carbon Nation.  I’m a little embarassed to plug it here, because he has just posted a truly generous review of a book I published almost two decades ago. (Yours, for only 2 cents on Amazon!  — the price dropped two cents since I last grumbled.)  Also, look for Eric’s book coming out in a couple of months.

Image:  André Huppertz, Painting – 2.  Licensed under a GNU Free Documentation License.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: bad ideas, Climate follies, Clinton, Economic follies, Journalism and its discontents, McCain, media, Obama, Policy, political follies, Politics, Republican knavery, Stupidity, Who thought that was a good idea?

Tags: , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

10 Comments on “Really Stupid Ideas: John McCain – Environment – Global Warming edition”


  1. You goldurned elitist. Twenty-eight bucks may not matter to you, but for some people it’s the difference between movie night and TV night.

    Yeah.

  2. Eric Says:

    It’s a great political move, though, and no one’s going to call him on it (significantly), with the democrats tearing each other apart. We already give the oil companies enough money in subsides.. why not just make it a government, no-profit company? Oh, shoot, that’s socialism.


  3. […] Stupid Ideas, take two: Hillary Clinton edition. In this post, I tried to lay out why John McCain’s idea (sic) for a gas tax “holiday” (now […]


  4. […] on Really Stupid Ideas Just to provide yet more real-world evidence of the vapid stupidity of McCain’s gas tax, now endorsed by Clinton, here, via Atrios, comes confirmation of the […]


  5. […] mean for science (nothing good, and actually worse than that) — and I’ve already taken whacks at a few of his more obvious gaps and loopiness on more or less scientific topics. There is nothing […]


  6. […] is, McCain has been willing to go along to get along with the party — and nothing in his gas tax holiday idiocy suggests that he has the interest or willingness to think critically about technical questions, nor […]


  7. […] Man take two — McCain does not care about global warming I’ve said this already, here and here. Now its official, and all over the liberal end of the […]

  8. Kelly Santiago Says:

    LALALALALALALA NARDDD!!!


  9. […] the will of the individuals inside it to advance energy research outside the narrow confines of an oil/coal centric approach, and (b) that for all McCain’s stated commitment to increase science funding over his […]


  10. […] goest on.  I’ve already blogged more than once about an approach to climate change that seems to depend on increasing the incentives for the use of more fossil fuels.  An approach […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: