Friday, February 17, 2012

David Owen on the Environment, Unintended Consequences, and The Conundrum


I'm most of the way through this episode of EconTalk, and I find it rather interesting. One of the first examples Owen gives of unintended consequences will give you a feel for the show. Owen argues some would like to reduce our consumption of fossil fuel by increasing taxes on gasoline. Higher prices, less consumption. But then he points out that increased fuel efficiency standards is, in effect, a reduction in cost per mile traveled, or a price cut, and will not necessarily lead to less consumption, since consumers could travel more. His point, some of our policies are counter-productive and/or ineffective.

Give it a listen while exercising. 


David Owen on the Environment, Unintended Consequences, and The Conundrum

David Owen of the New Yorker and author of The Conundrum talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his book. Owen argues that innovation and energy innovation have increased energy use rather than reduced it and similarly, other seemingly green changes do little to help the reduce humanity's carbon footprint or are actually counter-productive. Only large reductions in consumption are likely to matter and that prescription is unappealing to most people. Owen points out that New York City, ironically perhaps, is one of the greenest places to live because of the efficiencies of density. The conversation concludes with a discussion of how to best approach global warming given these seeming realities.

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