January 13, 2014
Good Carbon Dioxide, Bad Carbon Dioxide

In the last two weeks, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has come out strongly in favor of producing more Boeing jets here — and in favor of a cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Most of those Boeing jets will be needed only if the price of jet fuel does not rise significantly — an increase that is needed if a world-wide cap-and-trade plan is to succeed.

This combination seems paradoxical.  If you really want to cut carbon dioxide emissions, then you should want to discourage air travel.  (A humane governor who was worried about carbon dioxide emissions might want to work with Boeing so they could find other vehicles to manufacture, vehicles that did not, directly or indirectly, emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide.)

But the combination must not seem paradoxical to Governor Inslee.

I don't know why it doesn't — for some reason our local journalists haven't asked him about this apparent conflict — so I can only speculate.

The best explanation that I have been able to come up with is that Governor Inslee believes that there are two kinds of carbon dioxide, good and bad.  Good carbon dioxide comes from Boeing jets (and rail transit); bad carbon dioxide comes from private cars (and electricity generated to power incandescent light bulbs).  The good carbon dioxide fertilizes plants and, if anything, improves the world's climate; the bad carbon dioxide threatens to cook us all.

This explanation is a bit fanciful, I'll admit, but it explains many things besides Governor Inslee's policy choices.  For example, the New York Times, which shares Inslee's views on the dangers of bad carbon dioxide, promotes international travel, extensively.  (I am sure that the many travel ads they run have no connection to those promotions.)  This weekend, for example, they listed "52 Places to Go in 2014".  If you look through their list, you see that almost all of those destinations could be reached from New York only by burning large amounts of fossil fuels.  (Partial exception:  In principle, New Yorkers could visit Niagara Falls, one of the destinations, by bicycle.  Assuming, of course, they were fit, and wanted to take the time required.)

You can, I am sure, think of similar examples, without much effort.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

(Some will wonder whether Airbus jets, which are not manufactured in Washington state, produce good carbon dioxide or bad carbon dioxide.  I am sorry to say that I do not know the answer to that question, though I suspect Governor Inslee would say they produce the bad kind.)

Posted by Jim Miller at January 13, 2014 03:18 PM | Email This