Wednesday, October 21, 2020
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To Increase Costs or Not to Increase Costs On Energy Use:...


Although widely unpopular, the idea that Americans should pay MORE for energy to reduce overall usage is indeed an option that requires serious consideration by Federal, state, and local governments.

At present, the U.S. participates in one of the world's most egregious market distortions by keeping the costs of energy down in the country. By looking at both government supports and what "policymakers are refusing to do," a recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded that governments across the planet held energy costs down by $2 trillion in 2011. The U.S. was, of course, one of the worst offenders.

While increasing the costs of energy in the U.S. may be a bitter pill to swallow at first, it's nothing that U.S. citizens cannot cope with and it may also have the indirect effect of making Americans more aware of climate change itself, not just how much energy their using or not using.

And herein lies the biggest challenge that any government, private or nonprofit group faces in raising climate change awareness: how do you make what appears to many Americans as an abstract "thing" that has no apparent, immediate, or direct impact on their lives into a tangible phenomenon that has real-world effects everyday in each of our lives? The pictures and stories of wild fires in the West, droughts in the Midwest, and chaotic weather in the Northeast haven't had the desired effect on most Americans (however, there are a number of conflicting polls on this and related issues; no duh, right?!).  

The Famine Next Time

is the title of this New York Times op ed by Samuel Loewenberg.   I think it should be mandatory reading.  The Horn of Africa is facing massive famine.   Loewenberg writes, appropriately I would say,
American attention to the hunger crisis has focused on the dire conditions of Somalis, but they account for just about a third of the 13 million people affected. According to the United Nations, hunger afflicts 4.5 million people in Ethiopia and 3.75 million people in Kenya, which has about half of Ethiopia's population. An estimated half a million Kenyan children and pregnant or breast-feeding women suffer acute malnutrition.

He also writes

Unlike earthquakes or hurricanes, droughts and food price increases take time to develop, and the resulting hunger crises are forecast well in advance. From water harvesting to livestock support to cash assistance, there are a plethora of steps that could have significantly ameliorated the current crisis. Why weren't they taken?

There is more, much more, in his op ed, including why it makes more sense to send money than our excess food -  the latter loses half its value in transport, while the former allows local purchase which can help build up a sustainable food production system; to build roads -  transport of food stuff and broader markets for local agriculture.   We know that.  You can read what he has to say.

I want to use his column as a starting point for a further discussion.