Τετάρτη, 3 Απριλίου 2013

You Can Love Nature and Still Hate the Tyranny of Environmental Regulations


Environmental activists and politicians would like you to think
that we must love their regulations -- or hate trees and
animals.


I love trees and animals.


But you can love nature and still hate the tyranny that
environmental regulations bring.


The Environmental Protection Agency just announced it will boost
gas prices ("only" a penny, although industry says 6 to 9 cents) to
make another minuscule improvement to air quality.


In New York City, my mayor wants to ban Styrofoam cups, saying,
"I think it's something we can do without."


Congress already dictates the design of our cars, toilets and
light bulbs.


Originally,
environmental rules were a good thing. I love the free market, but
it doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution. I could sue
polluters for violating my property rights, but under our legal
system, that's not even close to practical.


So in the '70s, government passed rules that demanded we stop
polluting the air and water. Industry put scrubbers in smokestacks.
Towns installed sewage treatment. Now the air is quite clean, and I
can swim in the rivers around Manhattan.


But government didn't stop there. Government never stops. Now
that the air is cleaner, government spends even more than it spent
to clean the air to subsidize feeble methods of energy production,
like windmills and solar panels. Activists want even more spending.
A few years back, the Center for American Progress announced they
were upset that "Germany, Spain and China Are Seizing the Energy
Opportunity ... the United States Risks Getting Left Behind."


In this case, we're better off "left behind." After spending
billions, those European governments made no breakthroughs, and now
they're cutting back.


The Endangered Species Act was another noble idea. We all want
to save polar bears. But now the bureaucrats make it almost
impossible for some people to improve their own property.


Louisiana landowner Edward Poitevent wants to build homes and
offices north of Lake Pontchartrain. He could provide safe
high-ground housing to people eager to move away from areas that
were flooded during Hurricane Katrina. But he is not allowed to
build because the government decided 1,500 acres of his land should
become a preservation area for a threatened species called the
dusky gopher frog. None of these frogs currently live on his
property. Poitevent told me, "The Fish and Wildlife Service has
certified that the frog has not been seen in the state of Louisiana
since 1967."


Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they were "not
available" to talk with me about this. Instead, they posted a video
on YouTube that says they work "with" landowners: "The Service has
many voluntary partnership-based programs that can provide
technical and financial assistance to manage species."


That sounds nice, but the government's handbook on
how to work with them is an onerous 315 pages
long.


The environmentalists so torment those who resist their schemes
that some landowners tell each other, "If you find an endangered
species, shoot, shovel and shut up!" That's mostly a joke. But it
does happen, and it's one more way government regulations
backfire.


Throughout the world, most reductions in pollution have been
achieved because of capitalism, not government control.


Fracking for natural gas reduced greenhouse gas emissions.


Even much-hated coal and oil provide benefits. Science writer
Matt Ridley says, "Burning of fossil fuels is helping the
rainforest in the Amazon to grow."


Ridley also points out modern industrial farming allows people
to grow more food on less land, and so people cut down fewer trees.
"New England used to be 70 percent farmland -- it's now 70 percent
forest."


You can even see the difference between areas that get greener
and ones that don't from space: The Dominican Republic is
noticeably greener than its immediate neighbor, Haiti, mainly
because the Dominican Republic uses fossil fuel instead of burning
wood from its forests for fuel, as Haiti does.


Industry and technology, not regulations, are humanity's
greatest contribution to the environment. Leave people their
freedom, and they come up with new, smarter, more efficient and
thus cleaner ways of doing things. Stifling that process with
regulation isn't "progressive."

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