May 21, 2009

Masochistic Governance

FROM-LA Examiner

Obama's greenhouse rule: Little gain, lots of pain

President Obama's announcement Tuesday that the federal government would adopt California's strict standard on greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles will mean big costs for a struggling auto industry and higher prices for consumers, and likely have virtually no effect on global warming.

The president, hewing to the Democratic Party plank that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are destroying the Earth, announced that cars would have to get an average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, four years sooner than previously required.

The move was lauded by Obama supporters and global-warming believers. According to the White House, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 900 million metric tons through 2016.

The reduction would likely have little or no effect on the global climate, but come with a huge price tag for a struggling economy.

Bloomberg reported that in the year 2016, meeting the new standards will cost automakers an additional $600 a vehicle -- on top of other costs already required by Washington.

According to sales figures, an average 8,025,993 cars are sold in the U.S. per year, which works out to an estimated cost of $4.8 billion every year for the auto makers by 2016. Assuming the cost will be passed along to consumers with a $400 to $600 markup, that could mean $8 billion to $9 billion in additional car costs to consumers per year.

The auto industry is already struggling to stay alive, even with $15.4 billion in federal assistance.

Obama's announcement was called the “biggest single step to curb global warming” by Dan Becker, director of the environmental group Safe Climate Campaign.

But using 2006 figures, a 900 million metric ton reduction through 2016 works out to only about a 2.17 percent reduction in the United States' greenhouse gas emissions and a mere 0.44 percent of the world's industrial emissions.

The global warming theory posits a possible temperature increase of between 2 degrees and 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years. Assuming a direct correlation between emissions reduction and reduction in the temperature increase, that works out to a possible savings of only between 0.008 degree and 0.0506 degree.

Extended over the same period of 100 years, and not counting for inflation, the new rules could potentially cost automakers $480 billion and consumers close to $1 trillion in current dollars. Put another way, car buyers will potentially reduce global warming at the rate of 0.0000000000000562 degree per extra dollar of cost, or 0.0000000000562 degree every time they buy a new car under the Obama regulations.

While the above calculations are really just kitchen-table figuring, it should be noted that none of the above takes into account the scientific fact that water vapor, not carbon dioxide, is the leading greenhouse gas.

In fact, water vapor's effect has been estimated to be as high as 97 percent of the total greenhouse effect. Also, human activity accounts for only about 2 to 3 percent of the total carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere every year. When those factors are considered, many global warming skeptics contend, the human influence on the global climate, at least through atmospheric emissions, is virtually nonexistent.


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