With other animals

“Think of the disproportion,” Lord Edward was saying, as he smoked his pipe. “It’s positively…” His voice failed. “Take coal, for example. Man’s using a hundred and ten times as much as he used in 1800. But population’s only two and half times what it was. With other animals… Surely quite different. Consumption’s proportionate to numbers.

Illidge objected. “But if animals can get more than they actually require to subsist, they take it, don’t they? If there’s been a battle or a plague, the hyenas and vultures take advantage of the abundance to overeat. Isn’t it the same with us? Forests died in great quantities some millions of years ago. Man has unearthed their corpses, finds he can use them, and is giving himself the luxury of a real good guzzle while the carrion lasts. When the supplies are exhausted, he’ll go back to short rations, as the hyenas do in the intervals between wars and epidemics.” Illidge spoke with gusto. Talking about human beings as though they were indistinguishable from maggots filled him with a peculiar satisfaction. “A coal field’s discovered, oil’s struck. Towns spring up, railways are built, ships come and go. To a long-lived observer on the moon, the swarming and crawling must look like the pullulation of ants and flies round a dead dog. Chilean nitre, Mexican oil, Tunisian phosphates–at every discovery another scurrying of insects. One can imagine the comments of lunar astronomers. ‘These creatures have a remarkable and perhaps unique tropism toward fossilized carrion.’

POINT COUNTER POINT, by Aldous Huxley, 1928

Missing the Mark

So… it’s probably important to note how alternative energy antagonists fund misinformation and disseminate it into the public sphere.

In 2010, New Jersey passed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act. This act “require[s] that a percentage of electricity sold in the State be from offshore wind energy” and will be financed through $100M in taxpayer subsidies. But is this a good deal for ratepayers? Americans for prosperity commissioned the Beacon Hill Institute to find out – and the results are devastating.

What’s devastating is how utterly easy it is for people with deep pockets to spread misinformation. Whether it’s taxes or creationism. All you need to do is syphon a few of your millions toward some pliant writers or scientists and suddenly you have bogus evidence! to pass around. Michael Conathan at TP:

  • The study dramatically underestimates the economic savings realized from the environmental benefits by assuming a static price for the valuation of reduction of greenhouse gasses – which will inevitably rise over time – and by applying an absurdly high discount rate of 10 percent to the benefits when most economic studies use rates of 3-5 percent.  The discount rate mistake alone could lead to underestimating the benefits of offshore wind by as much as 50 percent. (This Bloomberg article contains a concise description of how an excessively high discount rate dramatically undervalues future benefits.)
  • It also artificially inflates the costs of the project compared to fossil fuel generation by failing to account for the reality that as costs go up, people will reduce their consumption thereby partially offsetting the price increase. Furthermore, the study estimates the cost of natural gas and coal based on historical prices rather than based on forecasts of future market conditions. While natural gas prices are difficult to predict, experts believe coal prices will rise in the future.

And this isn’t some game for the vast majority, or even for the lucky few believe it is. The consequences of this kind suffused idiocy becoming dominant in our so-called culture provide all kinds of new growth opportunities, though not the good kind. When journalists get to be more coy about serious matters, politicians can be more craven on behalf of corporations that support them. Apparently, less 40% of Americans now believe in evolution. Ask yourself how that is even possible.