Noam Neusner, one of President Bush's former economic speechwriters with whom I worked while at the CEA, has a nice piece in the Forward this week taking passionate but casual environmentalists to task for not living up to their own policy prescriptions.
His editorial reminded me of an observation I made about conservation (this time while on the ground) during my trip to San Francisco last month. There is no carpool lane on U.S. 101 south of the city until you get to San Mateo county and, in particular, south of the airport. Ever the economist, I made sure to check that this was not because Bay Area commuters seemed to carpool extensively without need of those pesky incentives. Plenty of driver-only vehicles, maybe a bit fewer driver-only SUVs than other places I've been. I've decided that I'll defer to the Google folks on conservation and alternative energy. The rest of you Hippie-Crites in SF can call me when you get a carpool lane on the major North/South artery. Reach me on my cell phone as I'm walking to work.
I've been on the road this week for the Samwick family sorta-annual trip to the Bay area. The trip out here, originally scheduled for a Boston to San Francisco nonstop, would read like one of those Fortunately/Unfortunately stories we remember from childhood. It is amazing that the airline industry survives in any form with fuel costs as high as they are and fares as low as they are.
Let's run the numbers:
4 seats x 2700 miles/segment x 2 segments = 21600 seat-miles
360 gallons x $2.60 per gallon (here) = $936
Monica Prasad, a sociology professor at Northwestern, holds forth on the successes and "failures" of carbon taxes in Europe in an op-ed in today's New York Times. She makes two key points about implementation in Denmark, the country where emissions actually fell after the tax was imposed. I think Prasad is mistaking sufficient conditions for necessary conditions. Here is the main part of her argument: