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Another measure is energy price. Although the results depend upon the exact measures adopted, the Department of Energy projected a 50 percent hike in electricity rates. Another estimate foresaw a 60 cent a gallon increase in gasoline prices and a 50 percent jump in home fuel costs.
Price increases would ripple through the economy, from food to airline travel to heating to services to government operations. Higher energy prices and new regulations would cause other, indirect harms. Frances Smith points out that “numerous studies have shown the relationship between income and health.” Sucking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy through higher energy prices would reduce money for other uses, ranging from health care to safe housing.
Moreover, some energy-saving measures are positively dangerous. For instance, CAFE standards push people into smaller cars, which lose when involved in car accidents with larger autos and trucks. Raising the standard to 40 mph would, according to a Harvard University-Brookings Institution study, cause an additional 3,800 to 5,800 accident deaths every year.
CALIFORNIA, THE NATION’S MOST populous state, would bear a large share of Kyoto’s burden. The Golden State leads the country in energy consumption. Dramatically cutting back on energy consumption would leave California as the biggest loser.
But Schwarzenegger doesn’t want to just reduce energy use. He hopes to largely eliminate the consumption of traditional fuels. Joel Schwartz figures that Schwarzenegger’s energy plan would cut energy use by 11 percent in 2010, 25 percent in 2020, and 87 percent in 2050.
Extrapolating from a federal study of national energy controls, Schwartz estimates that an 11 percent reduction would cost about $40 billion. He warns: “While reducing GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions to 1990s levels would impose hardship, attempting to reduce GHGs 80 percent below 1990 levels would amount to destroying California in order to save it.”
With the facts against him, Schwarzenegger repairs to the usual political redoubt of “protecting” the children: “We have no choice but to meet this challenge. We must leave a better world for our children and their children.”
If it cost nothing to reduce use of fossil fuels, we could let sentimentalism rule and ignore serious doubts about the dangers posed by global warming. But wrecking the economy would be a high price to pay to deal with a phenomenon of uncertain magnitude that might end up being transitory and even positive.
Gov. Schwarzenegger was elected governor after promising to combat job-destroying regulation. Now he is proposing controls far more stringent than anything advanced by local Democrats. Alas, the more Republican politicians claim to represent the future, the more they look like their opponents.