Thursday, September 4, 2008

Allen Buckley answers questions on science policy

Georgia Libertarian Senatorial candidate Allen Buckley is one of only a handful of his peers around the country to take the time to complete the Scientists & Engineers for America seven-question science policy quiz.

Typically, the scientists posed policy questions that, in themselves, are almost guaranteed to be longer than most politicians' answers.

Ah, but they didn't count on Allen Buckley, who is a wonk's wonk.

Here's his answer to the paragraph-long question on Climate Change:

The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on the following measures that have been proposed to address global climate change—a cap-and-trade system, a carbon tax, increased fuel-economy standards, and research? Are there other policies you would support?

I believe global warming is occurring. To what degree the cause is manmade, I’m not certain. However, I don’t believe it’s worth risking the planet on the possibility that some of it is not manmade, when the need to replace the dwindling supply of fossil fuels with other fuels simultaneously exists. I’m a believer in clean-burning fuels, including solar, hydrogen, hydro and wind power. I think that the cost of gasoline will continue to rise while the costs of these alternatives will continue to decrease. Thus, fuel economy standards are not needed.

I believe the cleaner a fuel is, the less tax it should bear and the dirtier a fuel is, the more tax it should bear. For example, the current federal excise tax is 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline. If, in the future, one-third of our vehicles run on gasoline, one-third run on batteries and one-third run on hydrogen, and the respective “well to wheels” CO2 output is 6, 3 and 1, then the 18.4 cent excise tax should be allocated so that gasoline bears 33.1 cents per gallon, battery-powered cars pay 16.6 cents per gallon in gasoline-equivalent terms and hydrogen vehicles pay 5.5 cents per gallon in gasoline-equivalent terms. I support similar tax changes for energy other than vehicle fuels.

I recommend rewards (i.e. not grants) be provided for producing systems that convert the U.S. to cleaner-burning energy sources. For example, for vehicles, I recommend a $7 billion reward be granted to the first company or joint venture that produces 10 hydrogen or similarly clean-burning fueling stations and 1,000 vehicles that run on the clean-burning fuel in U.S. metropolitan areas with a population of 3 million or more.


To give you an idea of just how this Libertarian's specificity differs from the run-of-the-mill Demopublican politician, let's watch Michigan Senator (D) Carl Levin field the same question:

The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on the following measures that have been proposed to address global climate change—a cap-and-trade system, a carbon tax, increased fuel-economy standards, and research? Are there other policies you would support?

I believe the best way to address global warming is through an effective and enforceable international agreement that binds all nations to reductions in greenhouse gases, including major emitters such as China and India. If we do not get these countries on board, what we do in the U.S. will only have a marginal impact on controlling global greenhouse gas emissions while potentially creating a negative economic disadvantage to us.

While we are just now beginning to see the preliminary impacts of global warming, most scientists agree the problems of climate change, if not addressed, will only worsen in the future. The potential costs of global climate change are tremendous, and these costs will only mount if we wait too long to address this critical problem.

The U.S. needs to take leadership in developing and deploying new technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government needs to sponsor such research and development in advance of any imposed caps to speed the deployment of new technologies so that emissions limits can be met. With significant investment in research and development, and incentives for manufacturers to invest in new technologies, we can make great technological leaps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions not only here, but around the world.


There's the difference between a Statist Democrat and a Pragmatic Libertarian: Levin proposes, first, to attack the problem through coercing nations by international means to reduce emissions. Of course, it's an easy out, because he knows that China and India are not going to sign on to such treaties, and even if they did, the idea that they would be enforceable is ludicrous.

Notice, second, that Levin thinks only the Federal government can stimulate the research necessary to develop new technologies: he plans to invest [your tax dollars] in incentives and research grants.

In short: Levin wants to have government control and pass out money in advance of development; Buckley favors a market approach and having the government reward success rather than fund speculation.

I'm obvious not a big believer that the S&EA quiz is going to draw national attention, or win Buckley whole barrels of votes--but it does make an important point: Libertarians who want to be taken seriously have to do the same kind of serious thinking about public policy.

2 comments:

Duffy said...

Should the government be in the business of handing out money to people for doing research?

Libertarian Girl said...

I don't think they should be in that business, but giving rewards for a finished product is certainly much better than giving them grants for projects that haven't yet been completed, which is something we're doing now. It would be a more market-based improvement that would get results.

McCain has proposed a prize of some sort but I like Barkley's idea better; it's on a much larger scale.