On June 22, 1969, America received a wake-up call on the state of its environment. On that otherwise lazy Sunday afternoon, Cleveland, Ohio’s Cuyahoga River caught fire. A year later, President Richard M. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and charged it “with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.”
On the 40th anniversary of the Cuyahoga River fire, state and local dignitaries gathered to celebrate the cleanup, which resulted in a “fish-friendly” riverine environment. EPA officials acknowledged the progress, telling the dignitaries, “You’ve done a great job, you’ve met the requirements as defined under the information given to us and we’re celebrating that.” Immediately afterwards, the EPA refused to remove the Cuyahoga from its polluted waters list. “Further, we’re saying let’s work together and achieve more down the road.”
In economics, the law of diminishing returns, according to Wikipedia, “states that in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower per-unit returns.” I know, your eyes are starting to glaze over, and you’re itching to read the latest Alan Bergstein or Jack Furnari commentary, but stay with me here. Both men will still be there when we’re done.
Were we to apply the law of diminishing returns to, say, cleaning the environment, it would work out something like this: Using the Cuyahoga River example above, let’s assume that the river at the time of the fire contained 220 parts of contaminants per one million parts of water. Let’s further assume that the goal was to decrease the contaminants to 20 parts per million. Finally, we’ll assume that it cost $500 million to bring the contaminants down to 200 ppm. Having achieved one-10th of our goal, we could work out that the entire project will cost 10 times $500 million, or $5 billion. But it won’t. That first 20 ppm we removed was relatively easy; it’s going to get a lot tougher, and significantly more expensive, the farther we go. That’s the law of diminishing returns.
Cap-and-trade, officially known as the Clean Air Act, would purportedly lower greenhouse gases and, in turn, lower the Earth’s temperature. But it failed in Congress. Furthermore, “Climategate,” which proved that climatologists were cooking the books to indicate that the Earth is warming when, in fact, it is not, should have put the whole matter to rest. But the president won’t let go. The EPA is now implementing it under its own rule-making powers, with the blessing of the Obama administration. What’s more, it’s being done despite the fact that the administration’s own people admit that cap-and-trade won’t have any effect on our climate.
Back to the law of diminishing returns: We can all recall President Obama admitting that if cap-and-trade were implemented, electricity costs would “necessarily skyrocket.” In real dollar terms, a family of four would pay at least $1,700 per year, which works out to about $130 billion per year in the United States. And what’s the best result we could expect in return? One-10th of one degree change over a 100-year period. Those aren’t my figures; they’re the estimates of those who argue in favor of cap-and-trade.
Taking cap-and-trade and greenhouse gas emissions further, the EPA now proposes to tax farmers for livestock flatulence. If it’s going to tax gas, perhaps it should start with Congress. A humorous YouTube video now making the rounds shows U.S Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., apparently passing gas during a Rachel Maddow interview on MSNBC.
The EPA has evolved from a viable, worthwhile agency to a collection of bureaucrats whose concern has become justifying their own existence. Breathing laboratory-clean air or having the ability to drink directly from our rivers, lakes and streams is a grand goal, but not when the cost is the loss of our own economic freedom. Moreover, the very notion that government can somehow control the Earth’s climate is arrogant, laughable and wholly delusional.
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