Senate weighs cost of acting, and not acting, on emissions
It doesn't come down to polar bears, it comes down to cost – and while the cost of acting is steep, the cost of inaction appears to be steeper, experts say.
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"We think it's clear that the cost of doing nothing is far higher than the cost of taking action," says Dan Lashoff, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center, an environmental group that sponsored the Tufts study. "There's an inherent bias in most of the dire projections of economic damage because these models do a poor job of anticipating the innovation that will occur in the marketplace - in alternative energy development, for instance - so they end up overestimating the cost."Skip to next paragraph
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But another, third point of view, is that all of these projections should be taken with a grain of salt - or maybe a pound of it.
"It is difficult, and some would consider it unwise, to project costs up to the year 2030, much less beyond," Larry Parker, an energy specialist at the Congressional Research Service told the Senate May 20 in his testimony.
Already, Mr. Parker said, "tenuous assumptions" that current regulatory standards would remain stable are "becoming unrealistic" and the prospect of unforeseen events, such as technological breakthroughs, are looming.
Clearly the cost of the Lieberman-Warner climate bill will ultimately be determined by how the US economy responds to the technological challenges posed by the demand to reduce carbon emissions. A few of the large, but highly uncertain cost factors, include:
• The cost to build a considerable amount of low-carbon electric-generating capacity.
• The viability of incentives to produce adequate schemes for carbon capture and storage.
• The role that carbon offsets and credits will play in buying time for companies to develop cost-effective ways to reduce emissions.
"Long-term cost projections are at best speculative and should be viewed with attentive skepticism," energy expert Parker said. Then, quoting Lincoln Moses, the first administrator of the Energy Information Administration under President Carter, he offered the reminder: "There are no facts about the future."