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You Can’t Have the “Free Market” and Fight Climate Change Effectively

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Biden has taken important steps toward fighting climate change, absolutely. It is great that there is so much emphasis on opening big solar plants in the United States. And if said plants are in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s district, well, who cares. Industrial policy is not about rewarding your friends and punishing your opponents. That Trumpist shit.

But there are some problems here, as the above linked article states. They come down to one big issue–Biden can’t pull himself away from “free market” ideas. I of course put that in scare quotes because there is no such things as free markets. It’s all state driven and always has been, by choices government does or does not make. What this does is undermine the burgeoning solar energy production on both the consumption and production sides of the equation.

The latter is easier to explain–if you want to encourage solar production while still allowing the producers to make a needed profit, you can’t also have Chinese imports flooding the market. But that’s exactly what’s happening. Now, maybe you could square this circle if you didn’t let consumption languish. After all, in an ideal world, we’d engage in a massive New Deal/World War II-type reshaping of American infrastructure and we’d just replace the whole damn thing in a decade. Bring in all the solar panels in that case! Unfortunately, despite some incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, there isn’t nearly enough solar being installed, just like there aren’t nearly enough electric vehicles being bought. Too many people are nervous about buying EVs (including myself to some extent based on some skepticism about the infrastructure lagging seriously behind for charging) and too many people don’t know about solar panels either. In short, if you want to make this happen you have to mandate the changes. What has to happen is that all new construction must be solar or wind generated. All new cars must be EVs. Yes, it takes the power of the government engaging in banning of climate negative infrastructure to make this happen. It might be that people catch up to the production and all this climate change causing carbon gets moved along for better technologies. But on both the production and consumption side, the government has to play a much more active and sometimes punitive role. Incentives around the market while also pushing free trade are not going to work to develop either the consistent job-creating production or the necessary installation of solar panels and other sustainable infrastructures.

In short, the right-wing stories about Biden wanting to come in and checking your stove to make sure it isn’t gas? Yeah, that’s what we actually need to happen.

That it won’t is why I have effectively no hope of humans fighting climate change at all effectively.

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