Monday, November 07, 2005

Let the Free Market Help the Environment

There is still a lot of disagreement in the scientific world about whether global warming is really occurring in any meaningful manner. (Although, strong proponents will try to kill the debate up front by using lines such as, “No serious scientist questions whether global warming is occurring.”) Among those that agree that global warming is occurring, there is a wide variety of opinions regarding the degree to which human activity has any impact. (Again, strong proponents will attempt to kill debate using standard tactics.)

Conservatives are all over the board on this issue, but they are relatively united in the belief that government policy should not be based on the idea that we can successfully regulate human activity so as to reduce global warming. Many conservatives disbelieve the effectiveness of such proposed policies. Most are simply opposed to further restriction of liberties that would transfer more power to the government and to the environmentalist left.

Edwin Stafford, an associate professor at Utah State University, notes here that Wal-Mart is spending half a billion dollars to “reduce fossil-fuel greenhouse gas emissions over the next seven years.” He says that some conservatives think this will be money wasted and that some liberals think that it doesn’t go far enough. But he makes several interesting points arguing that Wal-Mart’s initiative will be both good for business and for the environment.

Stafford argues the initiative will:
  • Improve energy efficiency, thereby reducing the cost of goods and creating less pollution.
  • Cause innovation that will reduce the costs of environmentally friendly technologies, making them more generally available.
  • Set new industry standards that competitors will end up following, thus reducing costs and improving the environment across the board.
This is the kind of thing that we should be happy about. It is happening in the free market system rather than through repressive regulation and it has the potential of making life better for everyone. It should actually cost us less rather than costing us more and it should actually improve the environment. Who knows? Maybe a decade from now we will all be ubiquitously using energy efficient technologies for which we can thank Wal-Mart.

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