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Expensive Green Energy Policies Are Making Life Difficult For The Poor

Walter Russell Mead, Via Meadia

Green policies are increasingly a luxury that only the rich can afford, yet seem to be living halcyon days in places like Europe and California.

The ever-insightful Joel Kotkin writes of the ascendancy of the green gentry pushing these ideas, and the class warfare they’re currently waging in his home state of California:

The environmental movement has always been primarily dominated by the wealthy, and overwhelmingly white, donors and activists. But in the past, early progressives focused on such useful things as public parks and open space that enhance the lives of the middle and working classes. Today, green politics seem to be focused primarily on making life worse for these same people. […]

The green gentry today often refer not to sentiment but science — notably climate change — to advance their agenda. But their effect on the lower orders is much the same. Particularly damaging are steps to impose mandates for renewable energy that have made electricity prices in California among the highest in the nation and others that make building the single-family housing preferred by most Californians either impossible or, anywhere remotely close to the coast, absurdly expensive.

Kotkin’s piece is as damning an indictment of green idealism run amok as you’re likely to find, and if you’ve got the time, you should read the whole thing. He points out that, in the past, green regulations became more stringent in boom times, when the economy could afford to check its growth for the sake of the environment, but would relax when times got tough. That’s not happening anymore, Kotkin argues, because California’s tech giants aren’t terribly energy intensive, and can afford to push for more expensive green energy. Meanwhile, the state’s poor are stuck paying out the nose for the privilege of consuming renewably sourced electricity.

At the heart of this mess lies the simple fact that green policy makes life harder, whether by restricting what we’re allowed to consume or by passing along the costs of subsidizing non-competitive renewable energy sources to the consumer. That’s why the green movement hasn’t been able to gain broad support, and why, when it’s given a chance to implement its suggestions—whether in CaliforniaGermanySpain, or Italy—it has failed so completely. It’s time to go back to the drawing board, and focusing on ideas that help the environment while making people’s lives better—like telework, for example—would be a good place to start.

Via Meadia, 6 November 2013