2018-04-03

Who was that masked man?

masked With glowing red eyes, horns, goat's feet and a pitchfork, smelling of sulphur?It is of course Lucio Noto. And why do we care? Because of EXCLUSIVE: Newly uncovered video shows Mobil CEO admitting climate change connection by ThunkProgress (arch). By-lined As oil companies face numerous climate lawsuits, archival footage contains "significant" statement, experts say. Ah, "experts say". I've heard that one before. And I'm an expert, and I say otherwise. Well, never mind all that, if we discard the attempts to bias your judgement, what is left?

Mostly, we're left with TP rather belatedly picking their brains up off the floor where they've flopped out after exploding at the fallout from the Alsup case, since TP have finally realised that the oil companies aren't going to fight on the science.

As TP say:
Boutrous is arguing that the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions are the result of people burning fossil fuels; the companies should not be held responsible for this portion because all they have done is extract the oil, coal, and gas. But archival video footage of a Mobil Oil meeting seen by ThinkProgress indicates that 20 years ago, employees were raising concerns about the company’s responsibility for climate change...
(my bold). But notice that TP's "but" doesn't make sense. "And" would make sense. "But" would mean that the two sentences in some way contradict or contrast with each other. But they don't. They are entirely compatible; clearly, TP haven't quite scooped all their brains back in yet.

There are various other misrepresentations and misunderstandings in the TP piece, but they're all variations on the same theme. For example:
...Even if you say greenhouse gases are human-caused, we’re only responsible for 5 percent of it. We’re not responsible for everything we put out there; you’re the ones using it. That’s what I understood him to be saying.” This question of responsibility has been a focus of scientists and researchers for several years. In order to link emissions to specific companies, the Carbon Majors Database was set up in 2013 by researcher Richard "Dick" Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute. Heede’s peer-reviewed study featured in the database showed that nearly two thirds of all global emissions can be linked back to just 90 entities — oil and gas companies, coal producers, and cement manufacturers — responsible for extracting most of the fossil fuels burned since the industrial revolution...
(again, my bold). Heede also rather gives his game away. I covered the Heede stuff at the time2. But then, TP didn't say "can be linked back to", they said Ninety Companies Responsible For Two-Thirds Of Global Warming Emissions. What I think TP are rather painfully discovering is that their automatic unthinking "the FF companies dunnit" is open to question (note that I'm not trying to suggest the FF companies were white as snow; they clearly weren't; see-also what-I-said).

Never mind, we've done all this before, you either agree or you don't. Moving on.

What did that nice Mr Noto actually say?


I'm glad you asked. If you listen to the video, do make sure you listen to the full clip, not the artfully cut one. My service to the world will be to transcribe his words (done by listening to Youtube and 0.25 speed, which just about reduces him to my typing speed. I went back a few times, and there are small uncertainties, but I think this is essentially correct). Take it away, Lucio:

There's been a lot of publicity on climate. Some of our employees are very upset about what they think Mobil's negative attitude is on the Kyoto so-called climate agreement. Let's try to put things into perspective. We are not in any way saying that greenhouse gases can be dismissed as a risk or the climate change associated with the build up of greenhouse gases can be dismissed on a scientific basis as a non-event. We think it could potentially be a big issue. We're also not prepared to admit that the science is a closed fact and that we should take draconian steps tomorrow to reduce CO2 gases. We do think that a prudent company should take steps to do what it can on a win-win basis to try to reduce its own and its customers emissions of greenhouse gases as best it can. What is Mobil doing?

[WMC: gloss: not-dismiss-not-draconian is a nice way of putting yourself somewhere in the middle between 0 and 1, but not saying at all where you might be in that space. Prudent-company-win-win is better and shows willing, but of course you should do win-win thing anyway.]

Number one, we started an inventory of gases that we are responsible for in our facilities. And that's probably only 5% of the issue in Mobil's case. Our customers using our products probably account for 95% of those emissions. But with the 5% that we're responsible for we're doing an inventory - the Excom has gotten the board's approval - that if there are projects we can undertake which perhaps don't meet out own internal rate of return standards but do have a major impact on our own emissions of greenhouse gases, we're gonna do them. We think its prudent, we think its responsible to do that.

[This is the bit most interesting for the current case. If you're Mobil then - contra TP - you'll be delighted with the bit, because it shows the not-us-but-you wasn't invented just for the trial, it was what the company thought all along. Also note the bit I've bolded.]

Number two, we are spending money with oil companies and with university institutions to do research on how our customers can use our products more effectively and more economically and more efficiently. It may mean a loss of potential sales in the short term. Very frankly, it doesn't bother me. We think we should do everything possible to make our product environmentally welcome for the 21st century. We wanna make it cleaner. Mobil has taken a lead on trying to take sulphur out of US gasoline. We haven't had support of as many of the API companies as I'd like to see, but we agreed with Brian that if the API doesn't do something significant, we're gonna do it, we're gonna do it on our own. We may not get any benefit for it, we're certainly not gonna get any money for it, but we think its the responsible thing to do, our research says sulphur's a bad actor. And we're prepared to step out on that. Customers are gonna use our products more efficiently, we won't sell as much, but we will cement a value relationship for our bread and butter package of materials and products for the 21st century, that's our obligation.

[Note long-termism.]

Number three, we are prepared to put money into projects like reforestation in some of the countries that we operate in that we think make sense, both from a community contribution point of view and from a greenhouse gas abatement point of view. So we're doing that. We're not doing this just to get kudos, we're not doing this just to have some feel-goodism, we think its good business. But at the same time we will continue to oppose mandates like the ones in Kyoto which make no sense which are no based on sound science and which have potential draconian consequences which absolutely no-one understands. That may make some of our people feel uncomfortable. Too bad. That's where we are. We will not take the BP position that says the science is closed. The science is not. One of the silliest things this Earth could do is to start to adopt a policy which we have available today to try to fight a problem for 2010-2012 instead of waiting for the technology that's going to roll off the boards. So we will continue to be a company that does does what we think is prudent but continues to oppose mandates imposed by politicians who have no idea of the consequences of what they're doing. If you had read president Clinton's speech about what his terms of reference were for the US delegation to the Kyoto convention and if you compared those terms of reference to what was signed in Kyoto by the American delegation you would fire everybody that he sent to Kyoto. Period. And so we're gonna speak out against this. At the White House the other day at a breakfast with secretary Rubin and Erskine Bowles and secretary Daley from commerce and Gene Sperling and we had a rather animated conversation on climate and I said you know there is no smoking gun technology in somebody's draw that you could open and use and suddenly maintain economic growth and and maintain jobs and maintain and the benefits that people have earned and still reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly the thirty to thirty-five percent that you have to reduce them by to meet the Kyoto targets for 2010-12. And they said to me "president Clinton has a word for people like you, he calls them lemon suckers". So I said "yes I'm a lemon sucker then". And one of them said "well you got a few more round this table". This is gonna be an interesting one, you have a bunch of folks who are absolutely committed to doing the right thing, and they think the only way to do it is to set a mandatory line in the sand and force industry to approach it. And if they can't make it so what we'll change the line later on. they don't understand the disruptions that we could start to have in our economy in our company if we start to take action today based on a mandate for 2008-2012 which in investment terms is tomorrow. With the wrong technology at the wrong pace. So Mobil is gonna have a two sided attitude toward climate. If you feel uncomfortable about Mobil's position let us know. We'd like to have your input. We an outside scientific advisory council now which ?Mike Grammidge? put together we met with them coupla weeks ago to talk about climate in general. These are absolute first-quality outside third-party scientists with no axe to grind. They gave us some suggestions as to how we might make our statements clearer so that people would understand them better but I think basically they gave Mobil high points with the program that it had embraced and was subsidising paying for.

[This one is perhaps the most important, and the most likely to be misunderstood. Partly, this is back to Rejecting Climate Change: Not Science Denial, but Regulation Phobia? which I wrote to great acclaim a while back so won't repeat. But more, there is a genuine fear - the fear is genuine I think, you can argue whether it is justified or not - on the part of business folk that, as they see it, the fuckwits from the gummint will finally commit to and attempt something impossible and damaging to their industry. Notice what LN think will happen if the thing turns out to be impossible: he expects the gummint to simply give itself permission not to do the thing after all. But what he fears is the gummint committing and holding him to doing something impossible.]

I'm sorry for that interval but I know a lot of people around the Mobil world have been very concerned about Mobil being too negative. Mobil's negative on Kyoto its a bad deal bad negotiation stupid. Mobil's not negative on taking reasonable steps. Frankly because we don't know enough about how dangerous or undangerous greenhouse gases are so we'll do what we can do in a sensible fashion but continue to oppose mandates.

And there it ends. The insistence on the 2010-ish timeframe is odd, but perhaps it's the Kyoto timeframe.

Other opinion


Other opinion will not be as valuable as mine, of course. But sometimes it is revealing to look at their errors. climateliabilitynews, who I thought might be sane, say A recently discovered video shows Mobil chief executive Lucio Noto admitting in 1998 that the company’s product is responsible for both emissions released during production and emissions released when it is used by consumers which is stupid of them, because he actually says the reverse, as you can see for yourself.

Notes


1. Not Sulfur; I'm English. Also, sorry, I couldn't be bothered to draw in the other bits.

2. I also used the same unfunny joke, too, I see.

Refs


Who were those masked men?
* ExxonMobil: Positioning for a Lower-Carbon Energy Future?
* The courts are deciding who's to blame for climate change - Oil companies? The government? The public? All of the above share the blame". Dana Nuccitelli in the Graun; perhaps they're starting to get a clue.

36 comments:

crandles said...

To what extent is the 5% necessary or efficient to extract and use ff and what part is Mobil doing other things than extracting ff to sell?

If it is necessary/efficient to extract ff then should responsibility be put on consumers rather than on Mobil? I thought you might express a view it is consumers responsibility for embedded carbon emissions in much the same way as buying something made of steel or glass makes you responsible for the embedded carbon emissions.

Your summary seems to indicate he is accepting responsibility for the 5% which seems odd but perhaps a wise throw in to seem like acting responsibly?


William Connolley said...

I'm sure you could quibble to what degree they are really "responsible" for even that 5% (which may not be a totally unrealistic number). But in practical-legal terms, that last 5% doesn't matter. If the court were to accept that 95% of the blame lies elsewhere, the case is dead. His phrasing suggests they mean "responsible" in the sense of "are in charge of", which they clearly are. As I think you're suggesting, it would be easy for them to claim that they make those emissions as low as they possibly can (for good commercial reasons, not altruism), and so those emissions should "really" be counted against the ultimate consumer.

dave said...

My, what nice eyes Mr. Noto has – any relation to Tony Blair?

"which are no based on sound science" looks like a Scotticism, did ye no mean not?
Similarly, "here is no smoking gun technology in somebody's draw" perhaps quick on the draw?

Generally agree with yourself, what Noto says isn't very unreasonable, though displaying a bit of that regulation phobia.
As exemplified by the FF Funded Myron Ebell...
https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-taps-outspoken-climate-denier-to-oversee-epa-transition-team/
Suspect Pruitt's from the same mould, but don't know.

Hank Roberts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hank Roberts said...

My oops above. Questioning that 5 percent figure -- is that the methane leakage from the industry?

Or leakage plus pilot lights? (I gather eliminating pilot lights for electronic igniters would save a considerable amount of methane.)

William Connolley said...

Ebell: see-also https://wmconnolley.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/myron-ebell-evil-arch-climate-uber-villain/.

5%: that will be - or so I assume - the FFs burnt to run the refineries, the trucks, and so on and so forth.

Anonymous said...

It is an interesting take on ethical culpability to claim that the 5% of a product the business uses is all they are responsible for, the 95% they sell is entirely a matter of the consumer's moral choice.

The gun manufacturers employ a similar argument, 'people kill people'. They do perhaps have better grounds, people have a choice about buying and using the product of gun makers.
It is less clear that individuals have any sort of free choice about consuming the products of exxon and Mobil. The difficulties faced by those trying to reduce their carbon footprint, and the consequent exclusion from mainstream society if they succeed to any significant extent, shows that FF consumption is a situational choice, not a matter of disposition.

Obviously an ethical analysis that exonerates the producer of a dangerous product, and places 100% of the culpability on the consumer DESPITE the lack of choice that consumer has about that consumption is an attractive schema for the producers.

Most ethical systems avoid ascribing 100% guilt to those who make a constrained choice, or do not have the freedom to choose otherwise.

It is unclear what freedom of choice Mobil, exxon etc have in choosing to extract and supply a dangerous product.

William Connolley said...

I don't think the gun analogy is good. The gun makers don't use up X% of their gunz while making them.

I also don't really understand why you find this presentation surprising. It seems simply obvious to me. Perhaps it is your thinking of FF as "a dangerous product" that's wrong; you are thinking of it as pure negative. Of course it isn't; it is (to the consumer) a net positive. The proof of this is that they pay money for it.

"the lack of choice that consumer has about that consumption" is also wrong. Using something other than FF, or using less, is clearly effort (see previous para about why they are a net good to the consumer) but it isn't impossible. I think you're making excuses for the lard buckets who sit in their cars day after day. People are responsible for their own choices. Trying to dump the blame off on FF companies isn't going to solve the problem.

Anonymous said...

@-" I think you're making excuses for the lard buckets who sit in their cars day after day."

Modern society requires a certain percentage of the population to sit in their cars, or trucks, day after day. Its a vital cog in the transport of food, goods and services. The existence of those people is a situational necessity.

Whether they are lard buckets may be more a matter of disposition. Although the limited availability of healthy foods, and the abundant, easy, and cheap sugar and fat laden products shapes that. If you are driving a truck, a Ginster pie and a packet of Haribo is MUCH easier to obtain than an organic salad, with more calories per pound.

@-"People are responsible for their own choices."

I suppose this may be a Libertarian dogma.
But as a statement of ethical principle or how society actually operates, I think it fails any empirical test.

William Connolley said...

The world has come to a sad state when being responsible for your own choices is taken to be nothing but Libertarian dogma. Socrates would have been ashamed of such attitudes.

Anonymous said...

@-"Perhaps it is your thinking of FF as "a dangerous product" that's wrong; you are thinking of it as pure negative. Of course it isn't; it is (to the consumer) a net positive."

While it always helpful to be told what I am thinking, saving me the trouble of doing it myself, in this case unfortunately you are wrong. I am well aware that FF are a net positive, at least to the individual consumer.

But the goods and harms are asymmetrically distributed. Benefits accrue to the individual. Harms are distributed amongst the ~9billion according to vulnerability to AGW impacts. Perhaps it is this dilution of the harm an individual consumer does that encourages blame to be ascribed to the producers.

There is no single individual that is culpable for a significant amount of the harm done by burning FF. It is a result of communal action, shaped by the collaboration of many individual consumers with a few much larger, and more powerful producers.

For one party to this system to claim the ethical responsibility is restricted to the other side just looks self-serving.

William Connolley said...

That no single individual is "culpable for a significant amount of the harm done by burning FF" is true, but the same is probably true s/individual/company, even if you make the (unreasonable, IMO) assumption that companies are responsible for all the emissions from their products (the absurdity of which is clear if you consider ExxonMobil buying oil from Saudi Aramco to refine: do you assign 100% of the blame to both companies?).

But your "the other side" is wrong. There aren't two "sides" to this. There is a vast complex interlinked system. The system as a whole is "responsible", though that is probably meaningless as the system can't in any useful sense be "responsible".

Solving large-scale not-solvable-by-individual-action problems is classically what governments are for. In this case, it is easy to argue (I would argue) that governments have failed; but that's not a reason to take it out on the FF companies.

> Perhaps it is this dilution of the harm an individual consumer does that encourages blame to be ascribed to the producers.

Could well be. But writing it like that helps to see that it isn't a logical argument.

Anonymous said...

Responsibility is proportional to Freedom.

You are responsible for a choice to the degree it is not coerced, constrained or limited.
Otherwise you would ascribe 100% guilt to a 'Hobsen's choice'.

As for Socrates, Xanthippe had a point.

William Connolley said...

Cautiously, yeeees, as long as you're not too easy on the "coerced" bit. It is too easy to turn "it was raining and I didn't feel like cycling" into "I have no choice but to drive". Similarly, it is easy to turn "I'd like to live into a nice house in the countryside but my job is in the town" into "I had no choice but to live 10 miles from my work and so I drive" (disclosure: I drove in today. I have an excuse). People, when seeking to blame the FF companies, are IMO too ready to say "the consumers had no choice".

Millicent said...

I recall having a conversation long ago about not driving. Ah yes, it was pointed out, I only lived two miles from work so it was an easy walk for me. But they lived seven miles away, so walking was not an option. They were, it seemed, the victims of cruel fate.

Then I moved jobs. The new job was nine miles away by road. I got a bike. Odd how that solution does not occur to "victims of cruel fate".

However, that nine miles by road turned out to be eleven miles cross country, because it turns out that some "victims of cruel fate" don't see why they should be expected to drive with consideration for the safety of other road users. To be fair to them the BBC, as a public service, broadcasts a program encouraging that viewpoint.

Phil Hays said...

You might not drive.
Cars are not all the same.
You might buy an electric car, especially if your local grid is fairly low carbon. Or you have solar cells.
Or a fuel efficient hybrid, especially in coal heavy electric grid places.
Or split the difference and use a plug in hybrid.
Not all solutions are binary.
Zero carbon is a long journey. Lower carbon is a step.

Take a step.

William Connolley said...

> Take a step.

Agreed. And the first step is to realise that you are responsible for your bits. You won't get anywhere if you wait for all the other people.

Phil Hays said...

Yet if others don't follow, your changes will not matter.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

dave said...

Bringing us back to the FF bunch disclaiming any responsibility for their own actions, because they succeeded in obscuring the public perception of science which as, as discussed before, well known to IPCC contributors by 1990.

The FF case apparently is that the public they've misled now bear total responsibility for their ill-informed choices, and FF has no responsibility for the effects of FF sponsored misinformation. True Liberty!

Anonymous said...

i-"There is no single individual that is culpable for a significant amount of the harm done by burning FF. It is a result of communal action, shaped by the collaboration of many individual consumers with a few much larger, and more powerful producers."

WMC-"But your "the other side" is wrong. There aren't two "sides" to this. There is a vast complex interlinked system. The system as a whole is "responsible", ..."

So we seem to agree on the underlying process...

WMC-" ...though that is probably meaningless as the system can't in any useful sense be "responsible"."

But because of Socrates you find it "simply obvious" that the individual is responsible ? Perhaps because of a dogma that the only intentional moral agents are individual persons.
In the US, 'Citizens united' and 'Hobby Lobby' cases have extended the ability to hold moral beliefs and act upon them, has been legally extended to companies.

WMC-"Solving large-scale not-solvable-by-individual-action problems is classically what governments are for. "

At least, despite your reluctance to accept the culpability of the system, you recognise that the responsibility for solving the problem is collective, not individual action.
Which is most often little more than virtue signalling.

dave said...

No need to worry!

The US government is taking immediate action to deal with this problem of responsibility – why, only the other day that nice Adminiatrator Pruitt was encouraging an open, transparent debate on climate science.
https://tamino.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/talking-points/

What could go wrong?

William Connolley said...

> the FF bunch disclaiming any responsibility for their own actions

Err, no. Didn't you read it? They are taking responsibility for their actions. They just don't want to be responsible for your actions. Do you accept responsibility for your actions? If the answer is yes, then you see at once that the FF folk can't be. If the answer is no, then are you sure you're an adult?

> the individual is responsible?

The individual is responsible for their own choices is what I said. You seem curiously unhappy with that.

> a dogma that the only intentional moral agents are individual persons

I don't think I've said anything that could be interpreted as that.

> the ability to hold moral beliefs and act upon them, has been legally extended to companies

I'm not sure your interpretation is correct (legally; morally is another matter). wiki says Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. ___ (2014), is a landmark decision[1][2] in United States corporate law by the United States Supreme Court allowing closely held for-profit corporations to be exempt from a regulation its owners religiously object to, if there is a less restrictive means of furthering the law's interest, according to the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It is the first time that the court has recognized a for-profit corporation's claim of religious belief,[3] but it is limited to closely held corporations.[a] The decision does not address whether such corporations are protected by the free-exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

For such companies, the Court's majority directly struck down the contraceptive mandate, a regulation adopted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requiring employers to cover certain contraceptives for their female employees, by a 5-4 vote.[4] The court said that the mandate was not the least restrictive way to ensure access to contraceptive care, noting that a less restrictive alternative was being provided for religious non-profits, until the Court issued an injunction 3 days later, effectively ending said alternative, replacing it with a government-sponsored alternative for any female employees of closely held corporations that do not wish to provide birth control.[5] The ruling is considered to be part of the political controversy regarding the Affordable Care Act and freedoms in the United States.[6]
which I think is considerably more nuanced and not equivalent to your paraphrase.

dave said...

Actions are based on available information...

but not to worry, information suggesting human caused climate change is disappearing before our very eyes!
https://www.vogue.com/article/trump-climate-change-interior-national-park-service-report

William Connolley said...

> https://www.vogue.com/article/trump-climate-change-interior-national-park-service-report

I can't get excited by stuff like that. Yes, it would be nice if they'd stop fiddling, but no-one sane will be reading National Park Service reports to understand GW; they'll look to the IPCC, and the major US assessments, and so on. See-also WATN: Trump.

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

rconnor said...

WMC,

To understand where I think Izen is coming from, I think it’s important to look at your conversation with him from a bird’s eye view.

You start by claiming individuals are more responsible for emissions than producers.

Then you reprimand Izen for framing the situation as binary (produces/consumers) (“There aren’t two “sides” to this”).

You then state that the system as whole is responsible.

You turn back to the individual being responsible because we can’t “blame” a system…

…but at the same time acknowledge that this kind of situation is best solved by governments...

…but the government will fail to solve it, because libertarianism.

…so it’s back to individuals, because libertarianism.

You come to the conclusion that Izen is guiding you towards – blaming individuals for their FF consumption is just as stupid as blaming FF companies; modern society is dependent on FF and if we want that to change then we need to push for government-level solutions. But then refuse to accept that, because libertarianism. It’s very similar to our past conversations on “Carbon tax…and then what?”.

I think Izen is hitting the nail on the head - your shifts and contradictions are necessary in order for you to hold onto libertarian assumptions that:
(1) Individuals are more morally responsible for their actions/outcomes than the system or the environment which they are born into and,
(2) The government sux.

Kinda sounds like dogma.

William Connolley said...

You've misinterpreted quite a lot of what I said.

> You then state that the system as whole is responsible.

No, I said The system as a whole is "responsible". I didn't say The system as a whole is responsible. Or, in simpler terms, I put the quotes in for a good reason, not just because I happen to like typing quote marks. But if that wasn't enough of a clue, I continued though that is probably meaningless as the system can't in any useful sense be "responsible".

> acknowledge that this kind of situation is best solved by governments

Again, no. I said Solving large-scale not-solvable-by-individual-action problems is classically what governments are for. I was merely presenting the classical view, not endorsing it.

> because libertarianism

No, I didn't say that here. Or anything like it. The only time I've mentioned the L word is The world has come to a sad state when being responsible for your own choices is taken to be nothing but Libertarian dogma. Socrates would have been ashamed of such attitudes. Do you disagree with that?

Phil Hays said...

"The world has come to a sad state when being responsible for your own choices is taken to be nothing but Libertarian dogma."

Except, of course, when it is nothing but Libertarian dogma.

Go back to Adam Smith, who is a Liberal, not a Libertarian.

Read the comments on the persistence of slavery. Adam Smith argues that slavery isn't efficient, for both the owners and the slaves would be better off if there was no slavery. Slavery persisted at that time in much of the world. Much after that point in time, slavery required a horrible war to outlaw in the USA. So why?

One line of reasoning is that there was a compensation/commitment problem. Notice that there is a much larger compensation/commitment problem with CO2/climate change. If any large minority resists reduction of CO2 release, a large climate change with costs to everyone will still happen, perhaps a little slower.

(Wealth of Nations Book III, Chapter II)

I've run across Libertarians that are in favor of slavery. After all, shouldn't someone be allowed to chose for themselves and their descendants to be slaves? If individual choice is the only thing, why not?

(end of part I)

Phil Hays said...

Read Adam Smith's account of the pin-maker.

(Wealth of Nations Book I, Chapter I)

And consider how much more that applies to the production of an LED bulb, a solar power cell or an electric car. Making just one, as an individual choice, isn't realistic for the vast majority of people, even if they were willing to pay the cost. Even more than an individual making their own pins, an LED bulb is a complex thing to make.

Even for a company, such a product isn't a very tempting possibility. Once one company has designed and ordered the parts and and designed and ordered the equipment for producing it, other companies will quickly follow as they can just order the parts and equipment. There is no real first producer advantage, so why expend the engineering and development for a product that may never repay the investment?

The answer was a government funded prize for the first LED bulb that hit a list of specifications.

Solar cells have a long history. The first solar cells cost about $10 million current (2018) dollars per watt. Only possible use was for satellites, where solar cells allowed a low power radio to function for much longer than could be done any other way. Only governments have that kind of money to spend for a watt of power. Much of the cost reduction until the 1970's was due to production of transistors, which require similar technologies. This is an example of a positive externality, and often I'm talking about negative externalities. In the 1970's energy crisis, government spending for solar cell research started. Solar cells are one of the few technologies that could power a world sized advanced economy for millions of years, the other two being fusion and fission. Small advanced economies could be powered other ways, such as biofuels or hydro power.

Without such government research and later subsidies for production, installation and operation, I doubt if solar cells would have dropped in price to the (late 2017) cost of $0.37 per watt. Rational individual choice doesn't help, at least until the price difference is small. And realistically, subsidies are required for perhaps another decade to continue the positive spiral. Solar cells are now competitive without subsidies for many areas, however energy storage technologies need to advance to allow for continued growth.

Electric car are hard to manufacture.

https://qz.com/1244768/why-are-electric-cars-so-much-harder-to-build-than-rockets/


Individual choice doesn't explain how things happen, if individual choice did so an individual could make their own pins, LEDs, solar cells and electric cars economically. They can't.

"Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day; that is, certainly, not the two hundred and fortieth, perhaps not the four thousand eight hundredth part of what they are at present capable of performing, in consequence of a proper division and combination of their different operations."

dave said...

Another piece in the jigsaw...
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/shell-predicted-climate-change-fossil-fuel-industry-1980s-global-warming-oil-a8294636.html

1988 internal report – "by the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilise the situation"

1994 public statement – "any policy measure should take into account explicitly the weaknesses in the scientific case"

Now – "The Shell Group’s position on climate change has been a matter of public record for decades. We strongly support the Paris Agreement and the need for society to transition to a lower carbon future, while also extending the economic and social benefits of energy to everyone. Successfully navigating this dual challenge requires sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers. It requires cooperation between all segments of society."

Unstated – "don't hold us responsible for our public statements when we knew it was a problem but chose to emphasise uncertainty to delay action".

William Connolley said...

Yes, #shellknew, just like #exxonknew, because actually #everyonepayinganyattentionknew, as previously discussed. Of course "decades" read as "20 years" goes back to 1998, not 1994. I doubt Shell would have any problem being help responsible for the report. When you say

> 1994 public statement – "any policy measure should take into account explicitly the weaknesses in the scientific case"

that appears to me to be a very partial quote. You could instead have quoted

"The intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents the most coherent, authoritative and influential expression of scientific views on Climate Change... The conclusions of the IPCC...can be regarded as the mainstream view."

Nor is there any evidence that the 1994 was in the least influential. Can you, for example, find any references to it before it was "unearthed" a few days ago?

dave said...

Thank you for your very partial quote, you might have gone on to "A significant remainder of the report was dedicated to outlining skepticism surrounding the IPCC’s methodology, models, and “scientific views.” In so doing, the report emphasized the arguments of “a significant minority outside the IPCC” who believed “concerns over global warming to be exaggerated and misguided.”

The '94 report itself has its amusing bits, I was much taken by "The rather imperfect surface temperature record described above does not agree well with the more sophisticated temperature measurements made of the middle troposphere by satellite measurements."
Rather familiar, think it translates as "Woy must be wight".

So, they were spreading unwarranted doubt, clearly much unwarranted doubt was spread to the extent that Pruitt and Ebell are the new normal, and we've had our own wannabe Nige getting away with it unchallenged on R4.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/09/bbc-radio-4-broke-impartiality-rules-in-nigel-lawson-climate-change-interview

Everett F Sargent said...

This smacks of collusion, conspiracy, paranoia and delusional thinking.

What did homo sapiens know and when did homo sapiens know it?

I've just unearthed this veri sekrit meeting ... something called ...
United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Conference_on_the_Human_Environment
(it is a fake meeting made up by someone on Wikipedia known only by their initials WMC)

And this veri sekrit conference ... titled ...
The First World Climate Conference (1979)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Climate_Conference
(another fake meeting, ditto planted by someone with WMC initials)

But wait ... this WMO document spells it all out ...
Guide to Climatological Practices (2011)
http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/wcp/ccl/guide/documents/WMO_100_en.pdf
http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/wcp/ccl/guide/documents/english/WMO_100_en-chap1.pdf
Chapter 1 ... 1.6.2 Additional reading ... wait for it ...

"Aristotle, circa 350 B.C.: Meteorologica." (veri sekrit ... he worked for BP)

1.6.1 WMO publications ...
WMO, 1986: Report of the International Conference on the Assessment of the Role of Carbon Dioxide and of Other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts (Villach, Austria, 9–15 October 1985) (WMO-No. 661), Geneva
https://library.wmo.int/pmb_ged/wmo_661_en.pdf
(veri tope sekrit, hidden for millenia by you know who ... Aristotle aka Doctor Who)

Same document Annex 2 ...
INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE ACTIVITIES
http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/wcp/ccl/guide/documents/english/WMO_100_en-annex2.pdf

Activities? Sounds suspicious, veri suspicious and veri sekrit!

A2.3 THE CLIMATE AGENDA ... the climate AGENDA ... leads to ... Club of Rome and AGENDA 21 and One World Government!
(we have now passed Prison Planet)

Pruitt did it! Ebell did it! You were there, watching them filling up your own gas tank.

#NobodyKnewUntil350BC

William Connolley said...

> might have gone on to "A significant remainder of the report

Err you seem to have got confused. That's not the report, that's the reporting on the report, which is irrelevant.

> The rather imperfect surface temperature record... So, they were spreading unwarranted doubt

Again, you're confused. In 1994 that wasn't an unreasonable thing to say. See for example https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Satellite_temperature_measurements&oldid=602134041. The reconcilliation of sfc and satellite wasn't until much later.

Everett F Sargent said...

"The reconciliation of sfc and satellite wasn't until much later."

Examination of space-based bulk atmospheric temperatures used in climate research
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01431161.2018.1444293

According to one group (you know who) 'reconciliation' won't happen until after they die, if ever.

I seriously doubt Defendants will even try to use this argument (the science is not settled) though. That territory belongs to Monkers is Bonkers, et. al..

On another note, see Oakland's RSL arguments ...
http://blogs2.law.columbia.edu/climate-change-litigation/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/case-documents/2018/20180403_docket-317-cv-06011_complaint.pdf

If I were Defendants, I'd ignore this local special pleading entirely, as a global problem requires a global solution.

Everett F Sargent said...

"as a global problem requires a global solution."

... should read ...

"as a global problem TBD (e. g. ongoing) requires a global solution TBD (e. g. ongoing)".

William Connolley said...

> 'reconciliation' won't happen until

Well, around 2005 will do.