Energy Secretary Steven Chu: Not exactly making friends and influencing people

Michael Giberson

From WSJ Environmental Capital:

When it comes to greenhouse-gas emissions, Energy Secretary Steven Chu sees Americans as unruly teenagers and the Administration as the parent that will have to teach them a few lessons.

Speaking on the sidelines of a smart grid conference in Washington, Dr. Chu said he didn’t think average folks had the know-how or will to change their behavior enough to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“The American public…just like your teenage kids, aren’t acting in a way that they should act,” Dr. Chu said. “The American public has to really understand in their core how important this issue is.”

I’ll resist engaging the paternalism that oozes from Chu’s choice of metaphors, and instead suggest to Dr. Chu the particular value of markets and prices in coordinating the actions of “average folks [lacking] the know-how or will to change their behavior.”  In fact, I’ll more than agree with Chu, I’ll go beyond him.  It isn’t just average folks – no one knows everything that is needed to stabilize the climate in the recent historical range for the same reason that no one knows everything that is needed to make a pencil (as per Leonard Read) – not Presidents, nor Congress, nor Nobel prize winners, nor anyone else.

Markets can coordinate actions even in cases in which no one person has the “know-how or will to change”, though admittedly when dealing with climate stabilization issues creating a useful market will be complicated.


4 thoughts on “Energy Secretary Steven Chu: Not exactly making friends and influencing people

  1. One thing which can be stated with absolute certainty regarding AGW is that halting the growth of atmospheric carbon concentrations is completely beyond “average folks [lacking] the know-how or will to change their behavior.”, especially if those average folks are only in the US or in the developed countries.

    Arguably, halting the growth of the atmospheric carbon concentration would require reducing global carbon emissions to below the emissions rate at which the atmospheric carbon concentration began to rise, in ~1750. That would require a reduction of ~99.5% from current emissions rates globally. The required behavior change is defined as “dying”. I understand that the President’s science advisor is “on board” with that solution.

  2. Typical liberal nanny-stater. The sad part is Chu is not a “czar” but an actual approved secretary. He’s the guy who’s going to lead/guide/direct cap-and-trade, unless AlGore gets his green hands on it first and finds a way to personally profit from it.

  3. Re: Final line in comment 1 above:

    Holdren says Constitution
    backs compulsory abortion
    Argued in writings: ‘Quality
    of life demands fewer people’

  4. Chu is indeed paternalistic, but I agree even more with your statement “when dealing with climate stabilization issues creating a useful market will be complicated.”

    People can earn 50% plus IRR by switching to CFLs… but not everyone has. Would a carbon price that ups the IRR to 60% make much difference?

    Mike, do you have some sort of market design which will lead consumers and companies to start taking advantage of all positive net present value energy efficiency opportunities?

Comments are closed.