Greens and Gosplan

James H. Fetzer and J.R. Dunn
Greens are crowing over the Supreme Court's move to throw itself into the global warming debate in Monday's Massachusetts v. EPA decision,  which found that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that can be regulated by government. (I haven't read the decision so I'm not sure if "can" translates as "must".) 

But they may be cheering too soon. The record of the courts acting as referee for social engineering programs outside their area of expertise is not a particularly impressive one - think "forced busing". In whichever such case you care to examine, you find millions wasted, the problem as bad (if not worse) than it was before the judges became involved, and nothing accomplished apart from the judicial system obtaining yet another coat of tarnish.

Combine the courts with the dubious assertions of global warming enthusiasts and you have real recipe for trouble. The courts are in the habit of issuing orders, otherwise known as commands. And ruling the economy by command is always a self-defeating strategy in the long run. The old Soviet Union fell apart, despite (or because of, more accurately) the best efforts of Gosplan  - the state economic planning agency that attracted the brains of the best and the brightest of the Soviet educational system

Yesterday came news of a clear example of what we're in for. Over two years ago, the state of Hawaii mandated use of ethanol-based fuel for all automobiles. This time, it was not the courts but the legislature and governor which produced the mandate. It must have seemed like a smart idea. Hawaii is, after all, a leading U.S. producer of sugar cane, a perfect source of ethanol. Shifting cars over to an ethanol mix would not only cut petroleum use, but aid agriculture, generate $100 million or more in plant investment, and create 700 jobs.

Two years and more have passed, and yesterday, according to the Honolulu Advertiser   not only has no ethanol been produced, but the ground for the plants hasn't even been broken. The delay is blamed on "financing, permitting, engineering and other problems". In other words, one branch on the state government is interfering with what another is trying to bring off. The schedule for the first batch of Hawaiian ethanol has been pushed back to some time late next year.

In the meantime, Hawaii has been forced to import ethanol from places like El Salvador, to the tune of 50 million gallons a year. At whose cost? Hawaiian drivers, needless to say.

The program is still considered a success. Gasoline use rose "only" 4% last year. It would have gone up more if it wasn't for ethanol - you can trust them on that. And oil imports? They went up nearly 9% just the same.

The final kicker to the whole program is that, even when all the planned factories are up and running, they'll provide only 30% of the required ethanol. No further companies have expressed serious interest, for reasons that I'm sure are mysterious to any good Hawaiian bureaucrat.

The point here is that these Gosplan-type operations never work. A cursory glance at the records of the USSR, Red China, or Nazi Germany will reveal the futility of command-and-control planning clearly enough. And we don't even have to look that far - we have America's version, imported almost intact from Germany: the NASA space program. A decade of Herculean effort and incredible expense constructed Saturn-Apollo to put men on the moon Another decade of herculean effort and incredible expense resulted in the useless and dangerous Space Shuttle. Today, forty years on, we're planning another decade of expense and effort to build an expanded and upgraded version of Apollo. To do what? To go back to the moon.

The universal failings of Gosplan programs are no secret. They're well-enough known to raise suspicions that the Greens can't be all that serious in insisting on them to the effective exclusion of all else. But the Greens truly don't know any better. They believe that's how things are done. Which has both good points and bad - we're going to see truly titanic amounts of money and resources wasted in the years to come, amounts that will make the Hawaii spending look trivial. But at the same time, the Green dream of some sort of global environmentalist state will never come to pass. They'll see to that themselves, through their own actions. Along with those of their lawyers, the judges, and the bureaucrats. One way or another, the Greens will regret making planet-saving a legal matter.
Greens are crowing over the Supreme Court's move to throw itself into the global warming debate in Monday's Massachusetts v. EPA decision,  which found that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that can be regulated by government. (I haven't read the decision so I'm not sure if "can" translates as "must".) 

But they may be cheering too soon. The record of the courts acting as referee for social engineering programs outside their area of expertise is not a particularly impressive one - think "forced busing". In whichever such case you care to examine, you find millions wasted, the problem as bad (if not worse) than it was before the judges became involved, and nothing accomplished apart from the judicial system obtaining yet another coat of tarnish.

Combine the courts with the dubious assertions of global warming enthusiasts and you have real recipe for trouble. The courts are in the habit of issuing orders, otherwise known as commands. And ruling the economy by command is always a self-defeating strategy in the long run. The old Soviet Union fell apart, despite (or because of, more accurately) the best efforts of Gosplan  - the state economic planning agency that attracted the brains of the best and the brightest of the Soviet educational system

Yesterday came news of a clear example of what we're in for. Over two years ago, the state of Hawaii mandated use of ethanol-based fuel for all automobiles. This time, it was not the courts but the legislature and governor which produced the mandate. It must have seemed like a smart idea. Hawaii is, after all, a leading U.S. producer of sugar cane, a perfect source of ethanol. Shifting cars over to an ethanol mix would not only cut petroleum use, but aid agriculture, generate $100 million or more in plant investment, and create 700 jobs.

Two years and more have passed, and yesterday, according to the Honolulu Advertiser   not only has no ethanol been produced, but the ground for the plants hasn't even been broken. The delay is blamed on "financing, permitting, engineering and other problems". In other words, one branch on the state government is interfering with what another is trying to bring off. The schedule for the first batch of Hawaiian ethanol has been pushed back to some time late next year.

In the meantime, Hawaii has been forced to import ethanol from places like El Salvador, to the tune of 50 million gallons a year. At whose cost? Hawaiian drivers, needless to say.

The program is still considered a success. Gasoline use rose "only" 4% last year. It would have gone up more if it wasn't for ethanol - you can trust them on that. And oil imports? They went up nearly 9% just the same.

The final kicker to the whole program is that, even when all the planned factories are up and running, they'll provide only 30% of the required ethanol. No further companies have expressed serious interest, for reasons that I'm sure are mysterious to any good Hawaiian bureaucrat.

The point here is that these Gosplan-type operations never work. A cursory glance at the records of the USSR, Red China, or Nazi Germany will reveal the futility of command-and-control planning clearly enough. And we don't even have to look that far - we have America's version, imported almost intact from Germany: the NASA space program. A decade of Herculean effort and incredible expense constructed Saturn-Apollo to put men on the moon Another decade of herculean effort and incredible expense resulted in the useless and dangerous Space Shuttle. Today, forty years on, we're planning another decade of expense and effort to build an expanded and upgraded version of Apollo. To do what? To go back to the moon.

The universal failings of Gosplan programs are no secret. They're well-enough known to raise suspicions that the Greens can't be all that serious in insisting on them to the effective exclusion of all else. But the Greens truly don't know any better. They believe that's how things are done. Which has both good points and bad - we're going to see truly titanic amounts of money and resources wasted in the years to come, amounts that will make the Hawaii spending look trivial. But at the same time, the Green dream of some sort of global environmentalist state will never come to pass. They'll see to that themselves, through their own actions. Along with those of their lawyers, the judges, and the bureaucrats. One way or another, the Greens will regret making planet-saving a legal matter.