2018-05-28

Alsup: cost benefit

33509532_888313428031645_3071405407713886208_n As reported by Vox1, the latest in the Alsup case is by MAY 31 AT NOON, the parties shall submit 10-page supplemental briefs on the extent to which adjudication of plaintiffs’ federal common law nuisance claims would require the undersigned judge to consider the utility of defendants’ alleged conduct. There will be no replies. Or, to give more context, If the test is a balancing test of what is reasonable or not, I look at the broad sweep of history and see that we needed oil and fossil fuels, coal would be another one, to get from the 1850s or 1859, when they struck oil in Pennsylvania, to the present... And yes, that’s causing global warming, that’s a negative, but against that negative we need to weigh in the large benefits that have flowed from the use of fossil fuels.

That seems a reasonable request, it will be interesting to see how the cities respond. This is essentially a mirror-image of the previous version, where both sides had to present a "tutorial" on climate change and the Evil Oil Companies confused everyone by agreeing with the IPCC. Well, at least with WG1. Will the cities confuse everyone in return? I think that's doubtful: my prediction, for the very little it is worth2, is that they will stick to "we want to consider costs only and ignore benefits"3, but will not say so explicitly and will try to hide that in squid ink.

Update


I feel betrayed by Vox. I suppose I should have guessed from the spinning of the headline. Anyway, Bloomberg has a slightly different version of the quote above: But against that negative, we need to weigh-in the larger benefits that have flowed from the use of fossil fuels. It’s been a huge, huge benefit. Does anyone have a link to a definitive transcript? I think the Bloomberg version reads more like Alsup. Vox also omitted You’re asking for billions of dollars for something that hasn’t happened yet, which seems rather significant to me.

Notes


1. Under the somewhat weird whistling-into-the-wind headline "A federal judge in a climate change lawsuit is forcing oil companies to cough up internal documents". That's largely trivia: those dox are related to the "does head office control the local branch" question, which only arises because of the oil companies (somewhat implausible in my view, but probably worth a go) defence.

2. Almost nothing in fact, but it is kinda fun to try, just to have something to look back on. Are you much cleverer and better informed than me? Excellent: tell me your prediction.

3. As I "predicted", this is going to be the Cities' approach; see point 3 of their reply to the US Govt's amicus brief. Note that the Cities' assertion that At bottom, the common law of nuisance, and the federal common law of nuisance in particular, were designed to protect against emerging environmental harms caused by conduct that has not yet been regulated by statute is bollox.

Refs


Keep Praising Unarmed Good Guys Who Tackle Shooters
Climate Change Warriors’ Latest Weapon of Choice Is Litigation - Bloomberg
The passionate attitude is less a response to stimuli from without than an emanation of an inner dissatisfaction.
* Working Paper Series No. 07-2017. The Private Benefit of Carbon and its Social Cost. Richard S.J. Tol.
* Speculative climate chaos v. indisputable fossil fuel benefits is a  guest essay by Paul Driessen and Roger Bezdek at WUWT. As you'd hope, it is hopelessly confused, and wastes it's time pushing the "FF have benefits" line, which isn't what is at issue. NS corrects them.
* Turning Back the Antitrust Clock: Nonprice Predation in Theory and Practice; Donald J. Boudreaux 

38 comments:

Hank Roberts said...

Does anybody write economic fiction? (Yes, there's a snarky answer to that.)

But seriously, imagine that understanding of fossil fuel in causing climate change had been well established when England was just beginning to industrialize -- and someone (King? Queen?) decreed that the anticipated future costs would be bankrolled by a fossil fuel tax as the coal mines first began to operate -- and that approach were somehow carried over to the Lost Colonies before the Pennsylvania oil well worked out.

What would the world look like if everyone had calmly planned ahead for the changes that burning fossil carbon would be expected to cause?

I imagine some banks would have become hysterically wealthy dealing with the funds involved ....

crandles said...

I doubt I am better informed and I could easily be wrong, but with wording like that from the judge, I would imagine that the cities would have to try to distinguish before and after some date. From 18xx to 197x they have to admit 'the large benefits that have flowed from the use of fossil fuels which has been a huge, huge benefit.'

At some point the negatives became more certain and more near term and hence more foreseeable and proximate [f&p](or whatever the appropriate legal terms are). I imagine they will have to try to argue: Just because there were huge benefits before the relevant date - well that is great, but that shouldn't affect the analysis after the date when costs are sufficiently f&p.

They may well also try a lets just concentrate on the costs hidden in squid ink but if there is a chance of failing in this then they have to try the above as well.

How to hide it in the squid ink? Do they even need to hide it? Could it be a valid legal argument that once losses sufficiently f&p then sellers need to either ensure their product is safe in normal use or be liable for cost incurred (/to be incurred)? Why would/should benefits to wider society come into this? Hmm, well I suppose benefits to cities themselves could come into it but I don't see case for benefits to wider society coming into it. So make case benefits to wider society shouldn't come into it and just not mention benefits to cities themselves?

Probably rubbish predictions, but as you say something to look back and compare with.

crandles said...

>"What would the world look like if everyone had calmly planned ahead for the changes that burning fossil carbon would be expected to cause?

I imagine some banks would have become hysterically wealthy dealing with the funds involved ...."

Hmm, sensible minimisation of accountancy any other experts costs results in zero carbon taxes until 30 years before it is expected that effects will begin to be seen results in no carbon taxes until about 1980(?). More renewables development from then and everything works out beautifully?

crandles said...

Other benefits to cities themselves could be contentious. If ff industry supplied less energy and renewables supplied more, would the rateable value of ff infrastructure be less? Have cites missed out on rateable values of renewables infrastructure and can they add the missed out upon income to their losses?

I imagine two sides would arrive at wildly different conclusions and calculations.

Everett F Sargent said...

It is quite likely that the oil companies knew about sea level rise 30-35 years before this suit by SF/OK.

From the USAnian National Academy(ies) of Sciernce (Engineering and Medicine) ...
Changing Climate: Report of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee (1983)
https://www.nap.edu/download/18714
(you will have to login/register to get a free PDF copy)

70 cm by 2083.

Glaciers, Ice Sheets, and Sea Level: Effect of a CO2-Induced Climatic Change (1985)
https://www.nap.edu/download/19278

30-200 cm by 2100.

Responding to Changes in Sea Level: Engineering Implications (1987)
https://www.nap.edu/download/1006

50, 100 and 150 cm by 2100 (three quadratic design curves).

I say the oil companies because I see at least one Shell and one Exxon person listed in these very early assessments and design guidance).

However given that this knowledge was in the public domain, one wonders what SF/OK was doing these past 30-35 years?

Very likely sitting on their asses smelling their own farts, collecting waterfront megabucks in taxes, building expanded near water level infrastructures (meaning not a lick of improved coastal protection infrastructures as those don't generate any immediate taxable megabucks) and letting existing coastal infrastructures decay over an additional 30-35 years.

#SanFranciscoBayKnewIn1983comma1985and1987period

William Connolley said...

> the anticipated future costs would be bankrolled by a fossil fuel tax

Recall that a carbon tax can simply be levied by the govt and used as revenue as part of general taxation, so there is no reason the banks would have been involved. Given the absurd things that they did tax, like windoze, I'm sure they would have taxed coal production of carbon had they a good excuse.

CR: OK, prediction noted :-)

crandles said...

>" where the remedy seeks to afford relief without enjoining the
defendant’s conduct, the utility of that conduct is irrelevant."

Does this mean there isn't going to be any arguing that: once losses are f&p, reasonable business would act to minimise the harm done with very least being warning labels saying may cause climate change unless carbon is captured or other offset performed. If they, instead of making this clear, they engage in promoting doubt then liability should follow.

Or might they still argue that but they just want abatement fund not prohibition of selling ff and this should lead to no cost benefit analysis being required.

.

I see you are claiming you are right about the approach but is that rather explicit rather than hidden in squid ink?

William Connolley said...

> may cause climate change unless

By why would that be restricted to oil companies? Why wouldn't that be on all aeroplanes, and cars, and light switches? After all, if you're worrying about a public nuisance, then *anyone* who commits that nuisance is liable (with my usual caveat that IMO those who burn the fuels are liable, not those who provide them).

crandles said...

>"prediction noted :-)"
Rather non committal, but maybe appropriate when can wait a couple of days and see rather than risk saying sounds plausible/rubbish/whatever.

>"those who burn"

Yes I think you are on stronger grounds here than elsewhere in your posts. I remain open to possibility that selling creates separate liability from users being responsible for demand.

Since it is public nuisance, lets consider a different situation: Quarry company want to open new quarry with blast mining that will cause severe noise and shaking to some nearby homes. The licencing authority is considering allowing the quarry with condition quarry company must buy and retain ownership of homes til quarrying complete. Quarry co will accept this if it must, i.e. clear benefit to wider society is clearly greater than costs to unfortunate residents.

Suppose your house was one of houses affected, how would you feel about quarry co arguing they shouldn't have to buy your home because benefits to wider society is clearly greater than costs to unfortunate residents? Why do/should benefits to wider society come into it?

Or how about quarry company cannot prove some residents have bought or used materials to be quarried but it so happens they can prove you have. Should this allow quarry company to not have to buy your house? (You previously wrote "I think that holding someone liable for selling fossil fuels, when you yourself not only permit them to do so but tax them for doing so, and you personally use their products, is implausible.") You like general principle laws, what is the appropriate principle here?

You also said "Vox also omitted You’re asking for billions of dollars for something that hasn’t happened yet, which seems rather significant to me.". Why? Note quarry company has to buy before being allowed to start. What is the principle here regarding before or after the nuisance? Does it matter and if not why are you saying this seems rather significant?

Maybe my example is a bit extreme, with potential losses to residents being devastating while quarry company is happy if they get licence regardless of conditions. Feel free to use other examples to demonstrate the principles involved.

On above, your logic does not seem clear to me.

.

I do accept my example is poor in relation to global warming. Quarry co is clearly responsible for noise and shaking that will occur. With civil law 'more likely than not' is typically seen as the threshold and it is not at all clear to me how cities can even get close to meeting that threshold:

Some GW from land use change and cement not burning ff, some from coal not oil, some oil not from 5 defendants, some oil from before some date (197x?) when losses not sufficiently certain/forseeable/proximate, what is sufficient proximate to ff sales, some ff burning would be OK just not too much and defendants not responsible for all, users create demand not vendors, ff burning OK if carbon captured or other offset performed, and perhaps this should be responsibility of those burning ff not the vendor. The list seems to go on and on and I have probably missed some. If the percentage responsibility falls at each stage how can cities argue for more likely than not being met?

This seems like a (the?) major problem for the cities to me. I see 'users create demand not vendors' as just a small part of the problems for the cities.

Hank Roberts said...

> those who burn the fuels are liable, not those who provide them

That didn't work so well for the lead and tobacco providers, thus far.

https://s14-eu5.startpage.com/cgi-bin/serveimage?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.hormonesmatter.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2017%2F01%2FDutch-boy-lead-paint-ad.jpg&sp=17d6fed0c976267304bc74fffbd6f973

Makes ya wonder -- if overall the US citizenry had been, say, three percent higher IQ for the past century, would that have made any difference? I recall that somewhere as the estimate of the IQ loss caused by lead paint, averaged out, the point being that for one individual that much loss is likely trivial, but epidemiologically it's a big total damage.

Well, it ain't over yet -- piston engine aircraft fuel is still leaded.

"...We find that aircraft-attributable lead contributes to $1.06 billion 2006 USD ($0.01 – $11.6) in annual damages from lifetime earnings reductions, and that dynamic economy-wide methods result in damage estimates that are 54% larger. Because the marginal costs of lead are dependent on background concentration, the costs of piston-driven aircraft lead emissions are expected to increase over time as regulations on other emissions sources are tightened ...."
Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Sep 6; 50(17): 9026–9033.
Published online 2016 Aug 23. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.6b02910
PMCID: PMC5338738
NIHMSID: NIHMS850255
PMID: 27494542
Costs of IQ Loss from Leaded Aviation Gasoline Emissions

No one has gone after the chlorofluorocarbon producers for climate change, have they?

William Connolley said...

> Suppose your house was one of houses affected

I don't think that's a reasonable analogy. A more reasonable analogy would be: quarry company causes nuisance to you with explosives: who do you sue: the quarry company, or the people that made the explosives?

Or (since this goes back to the original nuisance-type law): person causes nuisance by digging ditch too close to your barn. Who do you sue: the person that dug the ditch, or the company that made the shovel? Should all shovels come with a sticker saying "warning: may be used to create ditches which could be a public nuisance"?

> because benefits to wider society is clearly greater than costs to unfortunate residents?

That resembles something I posted not long ago, which I can't immeadiately find, but will later. It was the libertarian" or "law-based" approach to GW: the idea it was promoting is that balance-of-damage isn't appropriate; each individual has the right to object to nuisance.

But only if they aren't causing said nuisance, so again the cities lose.

> why are you saying this seems rather significant?

You're asking me why I think it is significant that the judge in the case has said "[X], which seems rather significant to me"? That seems like an odd question.

> lead and tobacco providers

This is an analogy that people make, but generally carelessly. I imagine that if the trial goes further, the cities will make it, but I don't think they have so far.

The difference I see is that (a) both tobacco and lead manuf folks had, effectively, secret knowledge about the harms of their product. And this is not (despite the lying claims of the #exxonknew liars) true of the oil companies, who only had public knowledge; and (b) oil has both costs and benefits. Having said that, I think the legal case against the tobacco folk, post the surgeon-general's warning, was distinctly iffy and looks more like mob justice than anything else.

William Connolley said...

> something I posted not long ago, which I can't immeadiately find, but will late

Aha. The one I wanted is Taking Property Rights Seriously: The Case of Climate Change.

Everett F Sargent said...

WMC,

Here's something for you ...
SF Bay Area Carbon Footprint Map
https://baaqmd.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=94b9eff6547f459fba27a6853327e1a2
(go ahead click on it)

I see it as two types of nuisance: (1) Past, ongoing and future FF usage by humanity (but in this specific case SFB residents) and (2) the currently ongoing lack of coastal infrastructure maintenance by the SF/OK government entities and further building and landfill in proximity of the MHHW circa 1980-to-present (and perhaps future, for new construction that does not include appropriate SLR height allowances going forward)). (1) Is being addressed here while (2) is not currently being addressed here. (2) Would be citizens of SF/OK suing their respective government entities.

Chicago residents lost on lead pipes ...
Judge says Chicago's lead pipes cause contamination but throws out class-action lawsuit
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-chicago-lead-pipes-lawsuit-20180413-story.html

Flint citizens won on lead pipes (sort of) ...
Flint and Michigan Agree to Settle Water Suit for Almost $100 Million, Dig Up Miles of Pipe
https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/flint-water-crisis/flint-michigan-agree-settle-water-suit-almost-100-million-dig-n739196

Miami, FL will spend ~$500 million to hide their nuisance flooding ,,,
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/miami-beach/article129284119.html
USA – in Miami, Battling Sea Level Rise May Mean Surrendering Land
http://floodlist.com/protection/miami-sea-level-rise-surrendering-land

SF/OK has spent ~$0,000,000,000,000.00 to hide their nuisance flooding.

Everett F Sargent said...

Here's another one for you ...
Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint by Zip Code
http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/maps

So the CO2 footprint problem isn't urban areas proper (smaller living areas and lower transportation) but suburbia/exurbia.

SF/OK cities proper should sue the Midwest of the USA. Yeah, that's the ticket!

crandles said...

>"I don't think that's a reasonable analogy."

I already admitted that, and your logic re it is the users that create demand is clear.

But what the heck,
>"Who do you sue: the person that dug the ditch, or the company that made the shovel?"

Are you saying you can only sue the person that dug the ditch? Why not their employer organisation or why not the landowner who hired that organisation to do the work the landowner specified? Would you want the freedom to choose which of these has deepest pockets? Or maybe sue all three and let them sort it out between them depending on their terms and conditions and instructions given which you possibly don't have access to?

So is it one particular entity or several that can be sued?


>"But only if they aren't causing said nuisance, so again the cities lose."

So going back to quarry example, are you saying if you had used quarry product in past, this isn't causing new mine so you get your house purchased. However if you have ongoing demand for a product that requires such new quarries to be opened to keep up with demand then you are causing the nuisance and quarry doesn't have to buy your house? Yes it is not good analogy for GW but am just trying to clarify principles involved. Maybe one persons ongoing demand is not proximate enough to causing this particular quarry to be opened or just insignificant and not likely to cause new quarry to be opened? So should there be some proximate or significance test and maybe cities get below the level of significance?

Also cities are not trying to stop sale of ff just get an abatement fund set up so with this solution cities would continue to be able to buy and use ff and if that is permitted with the proposed solution why should doing that before create a prohibition from being able to sue?


There is a difference between you saying you find it significant and explaining your reasoning as to why you find it significant. I also provided explanation of why I was asking what your reasoning was. So don't quite follow why you think the question is odd.

William Connolley said...

> several that can be sued?

Oh, several, of course. But if they dig the ditch with a tractor you can't sue the tractor manufacturer, or the company that sold the fuel that powers the tractor. Any more than you can sue the shop that sold the food that the man ate that dug the ditch if he did it with a shovel.

> just trying to clarify principles involved

You should probably follow my link. The legal principle, in so far as I understand it, is "clean hands". You can sue someone for causing a nuisance, and you can force them to stop, even if the cost to them (and wider society) of them stopping is far in excess of the damage you're suffering. The correct legal test is *not* cost-benefit. However, the sue-to-stop option is only available if you have clean hands: if the guy upstream of you is throwing shit into the river you drink from you can sue for him to stop, unless you're also throwing shit into the river for those downstream of you.

> Also cities are not trying to stop sale of ff just get an abatement fund set up

Are they? That wasn't entirely clear to me. Perhaps they should tax local car drivers; I think in the states that's possible. Of course, they might find that unpopular with their local car drivers aka voters.

> significant

I find the statement significant in itself, for the obvious reasons. I also find it significant, or perhaps better said revealing-about-Vox, that Vox omitted it.

crandles said...

>"> Also cities are not trying to stop sale of ff just get an abatement fund set up

Are they? That wasn't entirely clear to me. "

Your own ref
http://blogs2.law.columbia.edu/climate-change-litigation/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/case-documents/2018/20180518_docket-317-cv-06011_motion-1.pdf
pointed to the third point which was

"Third, the Court should reject the United States’ separation of powers arguments. Once
again, these arguments misunderstand the Cities’ claims – i.e., the United States assumes that these claims require a complex balancing of the costs and benefits of fossil fuels. Not so. Where a plaintiff’s injury is severe, and where the remedy seeks to afford relief without enjoining the defendant’s conduct, the utility of that conduct is irrelevant. Put differently, the fact that the defendants may provide an economically valuable product in no way justifies their attempt to walk away from the harm these products are causing in Oakland and San Francisco. Forcing the defendants to pay to deal with this harm, rather than simply letting it fall on the parties who happen to suffer most, merely internalizes the hidden costs of Defendants’ products; it does not enmesh the Court in cost-benefit analysis.

At bottom, the common law of nuisance, and the federal common law of nuisance in
particular, were designed to protect against emerging environmental harms caused by conduct that has not yet been regulated by statute. The abatement fund the Cities seek here against producers, sellers and promoters of fossil fuels is entirely consistent with these traditional principles; the United States’ arguments to the contrary should be rejected."

(my bold)

Yes had read your taking property right seriously link but what does 'clean hands' mean? If the redress you are seeking would allow what you have done, surely you do still have clean hands.

crandles said...

>"But if they dig the ditch with a tractor you can't sue the tractor manufacturer, or the company that sold the fuel that powers the tractor. Any more than you can sue the shop that sold the food that the man ate that dug the ditch if he did it with a shovel."

Yes, rather obviously they have to have done something wrong that contributed to the problem. It is hard to see tractor or shovel manufacturer or food shop did anything wrong that contributed to barn being flooded here so they cannot be sued.

Does this mean 'tool' manufacturer can never be sued? Suppose explosives manufacturer sold to unlicensed to use explosives, idiot company that blew up large hole adjacent to your property which leads to flooding of your barn. Idiot co realises they got it badly wrong and goes into liquidation before they can get sued. Now can you sue explosives manufacturer?

Is this 'done something wrong' an extra test for someone more remote or does it apply to all the people you want to sue? Seems like it is not an extra test to me.

Turning to GW and current case, what is the 'something wrong'? I suggest that if you are selling something and it become sufficient clear it has adverse effects then you better do one of the following: 1) fix the problem with product you are selling, or 2) accept liability (and probably also try to make problem clear to try to minimise effect of problem), or 3) maybe just warning about problem might be enough, or 4) stop selling problem product. FF companies are trying to avoid all of these sensible alternative actions and so are doing something wrong that is contributing to the GW problem.

William Connolley said...

Clean hands means what I said it means: "if you have clean hands: if the guy upstream of you is throwing shit into the river you drink from you can sue for him to stop, unless you're also throwing shit into the river for those downstream of you". It means you're not doing the same thing yourself. It is very doubtful if the cities have clean hands in this regard: they're burning fossil fuels. Although if they're only suing for money not to stop fuel burning, that becomes less relevant.

The more I think about this the more of a crock of shit this case looks. The cities want money from the FF companies, because burning FF fuels releases CO2 which is bad. But they don't want to stop burning FF themselves. Nor do they want to stop anyone else doing it. They want this money even though they themselves are fully aware of the problem, and have been ever since anyone else knew about it. It makes no sense at all.

> 3) maybe just warning about problem might be enough

This should be sufficient. And it has been done. Add infinitum.

> Does this mean 'tool' manufacturer can never be sued?

Sure they can. If they make tools that are in some way defective and fail to live up to the use to which they were advertised and certified. But that doesn't fit FFs. Or if sold to unlicensed folk; but again that doesn't fit. The govt (and cities? Dunno) set standards for FF that they have to meet. They meet those standards.

> Third, the Court should reject

I skimmed that, but largely ignored it, because it's begging the point I was interested in the time, which is cost-benefit. Since Alsup has just asked them to address this very point, claiming that it can be ignored is I think unlikely to work.

> the common law of nuisance, and the federal common law of nuisance in particular, were designed

As I've already pointed out, that bit is bollox. Where do they get their lawyers from, the circus?

Everett F Sargent said...

Really wierd.

"I suggest that if you are selling something and it become sufficient clear it has adverse effects then you better do one of the following: 1) fix the problem with product you are selling, or 2) accept liability (and probably also try to make problem clear to try to minimise effect of problem), or 3) maybe just warning about problem might be enough, or 4) stop selling problem product."

Why just four options? It could be one or it could be one hundred or some random number in between.

Why those particular four options? They all look like someone's preferred options.

Here, let me fix that for you ...

Or (5) waist everyone's time and money, or (6) win damages in line and in proportion to all damages claimed on Planet Earth (billions of similar lawsuits) SF/OK get $0.01 per year.

I like option (6) the best, as The People win some limited chump change and the FF companies must stay in business to pay the not so small sum of billions of chump change payouts.

Make Anthracite Great Again!

crandles said...

> Here, let me fix that for you ...

If you are selling a product with a problem, you get an option to win damages ?????????

If you can offer sensible different choices, please do so.



crandles said...

>"Although if they're only suing for money not to stop fuel burning, that becomes less relevant.

They want this money even though they themselves are fully aware of the problem, and have been ever since anyone else knew about it. It makes no sense at all."

'less relevant' is vague. Is there some test or not?

This is why I constructed the quarry case which is not about stopping the quarry but about getting compensation money for loss of value of your house. In this quarry case, is there a test of are you using quarried materials? I suggest not, your hands are clean even if you use quarried materials because under the redress proposed the quarry goes ahead and you can buy and use quarried materials.

It is about internalising externalities. This is very much like your carbon tax, using ff becomes more expensive and therefore used less. Admittedly this is just a couple of cities than benefit under this case but if they succeed then the situation is clarified and everyone else that suffers can also sue unless ff companies set up funds for everyone adversely affected rather than just these cities.

I thought internalising externalities was what you wanted.

Perhaps you don't like the idea of compensating the losers and prefer the tax money to be effectively repaid to taxpayers. Does that sound selfish in comparison to compensating the losers?



Everett F Sargent said...

"Admittedly this is just a couple of cities than benefit under this case but if they succeed then the situation is clarified and everyone else that suffers can also sue unless ff companies set up funds for everyone adversely affected rather than just these cities."

I already said so ...

"or (6) [plaintiffs] win damages in line and in proportion to all damages claimed on Planet Earth (billions of similar lawsuits) SF/OK get $0.01 per year."

If someone (SF/OK) sits on their ass for 30-40 years, don't expect others to pay for their (SF/OK) own procrastination. At the very minimum I fully expect SF/OK to already have time varying height allowances for any new builds. Anywhere within ~three meters of MHHW, and I fully expect SF/OK to buy out existing landowners within those same height allowances.

In other words, the oil companies did not make SF/OK build in the coastal zone, SF/OK did that to themselves.

I can say that I have never recommended that anyone build in the coastal zone for any reason ever.

Ken Hedlin said...

Can I try yet another analogy? The accusation is that a crime has been committed by fossil fuel companies. The tools for the crime (internal combustion engines) were supplied knowing that they would be used to commit a crime. The witnesses to the crime (consumers)did nothing to stop the criminal act and in fact encouraged the commission of the crime because they realized personal benefit from the it. All parties had equal knowledge that it was a criminal act.

Hank Roberts said...

The overarching question seems to be whether the profits from a technology can be drawn against to pay for its collateral damage, to cover the externalized costs that don't become understood until it's been in use for a long time.

An old corporate lawyer once told me, "every great fortune began with a great crime that wasn't made illegal until later."

When I 'oogled that I found the line comes from Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac.
And was used later in "The Godfather."

I'd guess Alsup is not unaware of this precedent. It's how the world has long worked.
But, ya know, it could be timely to change the practice, as we have developed science and epidemiology to tell us sooner what costs will be.
Imagine if everything currently going down were suddenly going to be examined for externalized costs -- I'd expect the synthetic chemicals industry to have its stock market value crash immediately, as interaction effects of persistent chemicals in the environment began to be documented and assessed.

Remember that pet food problem where plastic filler in pet food interacted with chloramine in water supplies to create insoluble crystals that killed the animals? That's the kind of interaction effect we can expect to see more of.

And just because "we dodged a bullet" with chlorofluorocarbons and ozone -- as Paul Crutzen pointed out in his Nobel Prize speech, the manufacturers could have easily chosen to use bromine instead of chlorine, and we'd have lost the ozone layer before we knew it -- gives no reason to hope that there are no more such problems waiting to emerge from the background noise.

http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=296588

Should we begin to assess future costs against present day profits?

Victor Venema said...

William Connolley: "Oh, several, of course. But if they dig the ditch with a tractor you can't sue the tractor manufacturer, or the company that sold the fuel that powers the tractor. Any more than you can sue the shop that sold the food that the man ate that dug the ditch if he did it with a shovel."

All of your analogies fail because these goods can also be used without causing harm. Thus the blame goes more to the user than to the seller. In case of Fossil Fuels (FF) they always cause harm.

I am unable to find good analogies myself because normally this kind of stuff is illegal to sell. Like crack cocaine. Classical liberal Adam Smith already warned his system only works when companies are small and have no political power. The opposite of the US system.

I would be in favour of regulating CO2 emissions democratically, but I thought that you libertarians were in favour of regulations via courts. This is the mess you then get. Suing billions of people rather than a few dozen companies would be an even bigger mess. I guess it is up to your movement to find a solution. I would propose: parliaments.

One should not confuse the benefits from FF with the benefits from energy. A century ago they may have been about the same, currently we have affordable alternatives.

The damages from climate change also grow super exponentially, the warming from early emissions would have been in the range of natural variability for most systems (except sea level) and then we did not have solid science yet. So I would advice these cities to take history into account.

William Connolley said...

> the profits from a technology can be drawn against

Yes; but remember where those profits have gone. Just because there's a valuable oil company sitting there doesn't mean most of the profits have accumulated there. They haven't. Most of the profits the FF companies have made, have been paid out to shareholders as dividends. And most of the value from buring FFs has been captured by the consumers that burned said fuels. So even accepting your argument, the target is still wrong.

> can also be used without causing harm

If your test is absolute - can cause as much good as you like, but must cause zero harm - then you're not allowed to eat, and all farmers are liable, because farming harms the pristine environment. Etc. Your test is not reasonable.

> Classical liberal Adam Smith already warned his system only works when companies are small and have no political power

I don't believe that. Do you have a quote? If you're thinking of "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices" then that's not the quote you were looking for.

rconnor said...

> “I don't believe [Smith “warned his system only works when companies are small and have no political power”]”

Do you even Smith, bro?

From Wealth of Nations (page 368):
“This monopoly has so much increased the number of some particular tribes of [manufacturers], that, like an overgrown standing army, they have become formidable to the government, and upon many occasions intimidate the legislature. The member of parliament who supports every proposal for strengthening this monopoly, is sure to acquire not only the reputation of understanding trade, but great popularity and influence with an order of men whose numbers and wealth render them of great importance. If he opposes them, on the contrary, and still more if he has authority enough to be able to thwart them, neither the most acknowledged probity, nor the highest rank, nor the greatest public services, can protect him from the most infamous abuse and destruction, from personal insults, nor sometimes from real danger, arising from the insolent outrage of furious and disappointed monopolists.”

Also, I think this is a really good comment by VV:

> “I would be in favour of regulating CO2 emissions democratically, but I thought that you libertarians were in favour of regulations via courts. This is the mess you then get.”

I’d be curious to hear your response, WMC.

William Connolley said...

> From Wealth of Nations (page 368)

It's a good quote, but it isn't quite there. Smith is definitely warning about the dangers of corporates on govt, and I agree he is correct to do so. But he doesn't say that "his" system fails to function in such a case. Indeed, it would be odd if he did: he is describing a situation that he says has actually occurred, and yet Smith clearly doesn't believe "his" system has failed.

> you libertarians were in favour of regulations via courts

AFAIK I'm not a self-identified L, though I might be. L's are indeed in favour of strict legal rights rather than vague regulations that require interpretation on the whim of govt and are therefore arbitrary. I don't really know what "regulating CO2 emissions democratically" even means; AFAIK, there are no proposals for regulation that don't require legislation passed, and in democratic countries, that counts as democratic. Perhaps VV means explicit legislation. The US has that, at least it does according to it's govt: the clean air plan and whatnot. But the US also has a (perhaps over-) vibrant court system. I think the current case is essentially frivolous, but interesting.

rconnor said...

> "he is describing a situation that he says has actually occurred, and yet Smith clearly doesn't believe "his" system has failed”

…because it wasn’t “his” system in place in the example…that’s the point…

Rather he is stating that in his (yet-to-be-realized) economic theory, the political and economic systems need to be arranged to prevent such situations from happening. So if such situations come to be, it isn’t “his” system that fails but the failure of the society to enact “his” system.

Cue VV’s point. The current political and economic systems in the US allow for (1) large, monopolist companies to exist, (2) expensive campaigns that require excessive donations and contributions to compete in elections and (3) the ability for the large, monopolist companies to use lobbyist to influence or coerce politicians. It’s the exact situation Smith tried to warn against and the results are as problematic as Smith highlighted they would be.

VV was accurate that Smith warned against such a situation (the quote describes it almost verbatim).

> “AFAIK I'm not a self-identified L”

Note that neither I nor VV used the big L. I know you’ve said you’re not a Libertarian by political party affiliation and I can appreciate that (many liberals don’t support the Liberal party). However, are you suggesting you don’t consider yourself a libertarian by ideology?

You’re a disciple of Hayek, constantly refer us to libertarian blogs to support your points, appear to support the non-aggression principal, rail against regulations and government intervention at any opportunity and think the free market is the greatest thing since sliced bread. If not a libertarian, than what do you identify as? And why would you not identify as a libertarian (i.e. what concept of libertarianism do you not agree with)?

(My other guess would be “classical liberalism”, in which case what’s your distinction between that and libertarianism?)

William Connolley said...

> large, monopolist companies to exist

This doesn't make much sense. There are multiple large oil companies, hence none of them are monopolies. You're not allowed to wave M around as a vague insult meaning "company I don't like". See-also this comment at CIP.

rconnor said...

> “hence none of them are monopolies.”

Firstly, the comment was about the US system as a whole, not specifically with regards to oil companies. Secondly, if only a handful of companies can dominate and control an industry, then they can cause the same problems as a single company monopoly. Thirdly, if you feel that the size and power of oil companies coupled with the political influence they can have would not have concerned Smith then, again, I’d ask – do you even Smith, bro?

Clearly (parts of) the political-economic system in the US is what Smith warned against (large, powerful companies exerting political pressure for their own gain), which was VV’s point. Lawrence Lessig’s “Republic Lost” does a good job at discussing these issues. I’ve attached a lecture about the topic below, if you’re interested.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xzVBe3hmOk

(Also, genuinely curious, what would you self-identify as? If "classical liberal", what’s your definition of the distinction between them and libertarians?)

William Connolley said...

> if only a handful of companies can dominate and control an industry, then they can cause the same problems as a single company monopoly.

Even granted your "if", that's not really true. What is needed is collaboration - for them to be effectively operating as one entity. That's not true for oil and not, I think, for anything else of interest. Certainly, you provide no examples.

> the size and power of oil companies coupled with the political influence they can have would not have concerned Smith

I think it would have concerned him, but that's not at all the same as suggesting he would have considered it a major problem, or a case for intervention.

I think you're doing the usual thing people do: focussing too much on theoretical, iffy type questions; and ignoring all the problems of intervention.

> Clearly (parts of)

I disagree. It is by no means clear. The US system clearly has huge problems; but that they are the ones Smith was talking about is I think wrong.

> If "classical liberal", what’s your definition of

You see why I'm not interested in providing a label with no clear meaning. Read my words.

rconnor said...

> “but that's not at all the same as suggesting he would have considered it a major problem”

Smith would not consider Super PACs a major problem?

Perhaps the issue is you don’t know much about American politics. Republic Lost might be a good start.

> “ignoring all the problems of intervention.”

The problem IS intervention though – re things like Super PACs.

> “Read my words.”

I have. You are anti-regulation, pro-free market, commonly reference (favourably) libertarian blogs and authors, seemingly support the anti-aggression principal, are a devote Hayek follower, and yet you’re quick to say you do not identify as a libertarian. It’s just very odd to me (bordering on disingenuous).

> “Certainly, you provide no examples.”

Telecommunications in the US. (which also plays nicely into the lobbyist/“money-in-politics” issue)

https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/we-need-real-competition-not-a-cable-internet-monopoly

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/28/opinion/break-up-the-telecom-cartels.html

William Connolley said...

> intervention though – re things like Super PACs.

You can't even see the problems of govt intervention. Even though most of the company lobbying problems are actually govt problems.

> seemingly support the anti-aggression principal

I'm not sure that's true, and I'd be puzzled to know where you find that in my words, though I am coming more to see its virtues. E.g. https://wmconnolley.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/good-fortune-to-libya/ or https://wmconnolley.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/syria-the-west-makes-the-usual-mistake/

> say you do not identify as a libertarian

This is where reading my words comes in. I didn't say that.

> Telecommunications

Pfft, who cares? Is there actually a major problem there?

rconnor said...

> “You can't even see the problems of govt intervention.”

I certainly can see there are massive problems with regulatory capture.

However, that doesn’t mean I need to support eliminating or minimizing govt intervention. To me, that’s throwing the baby out with the bath water. Instead, the solution can be to remove or restrict the avenues corporations use to capture the regulators.

Put another way, you seem to focus on keeping the government’s hands off corporations, while my focus is on keeping corporations’ hands off the government. Despite us disagreeing on the means, I feel our goals are similar.

> “Pfft, who cares? Is there actually a major problem there?”

Well, let me put it this way – Greece (your favourite example of a stable nation) has faster mobile internet speed than the US.

https://www.recode.net/2017/6/7/15747486/united-states-developed-world-mobile-internet-speeds-akamai

Net Neutrality is also related to this issue.

> “I didn't say [“[I] do not identify as a libertarian”]”

Oh FFS, you said “I’m not a self-identified L” a few comments above!

Furthermore, if you don’t want me to misinterpret your position then stop being as evasive as humanly possible (for reasons unknown) when I’m simply trying to ask for clarification on your position.

William Connolley said...

> Greece (your favourite example of a stable nation) has faster mobile internet speed than the US

Indeed. And if we compare the tech-level of the two, we can see that it isn't holding the US back, so I don't see that as a major problem.

> I’m not a

It's kinda amusing watching you fail to be able to read my words, so I'm not going to put you out of your misery yet. Just think: if you're able to misread such a simple thing, what else are you getting wrong?

rconnor said...

Again, I'm simply trying to ask for clarification on your position in an attempt to not misinterpret it in the future. But if you're having too much fun avoiding clarification, then so be it.