Letter: Free market economy a better bet

To the Editor:

One frequent letter writers has written movingly about a number of subjects. It is troubling he preaches climate apocalypse from his pulpit. Is this dogma?

If “pre-industrial” in his letter is the mid 1800s, when the “little ice age” of 1200-1850, ended, much of the 1.5ºC global temperature rise since then may be the recovery from the 1ºC or more drop from a climate permitting Greenland colonization in the 800s. Cold, rainy 1300s ushered in failing harvests and the black death. Global temperatures have risen 12ºC since the lows 100,000 years ago or more during the last ice age. An economist at Yale and others have estimated adaption to rising temperature effects as less costly than fossil fuel elimination. If the rest of the world does little, how much good will a few percent of CO emissions reduction by us do?

Solar “farms” in the southwest have capital costs of 3 cents a kilowatt-hour thanks to higher efficiency in solar conversion, continuous positioning and 25% operating ratio average over a year’s time. The Wall Street Journal has estimated solar farms total cost per kwhr at 6 cents. Gas-fired Texas merchant plants sell fossil energy for 3 cents a kwhr. The only reason a Chicago-area roof solar panel installation is profitable is the mispricing of marginal electricity costs – my cost of electricity is 15¢ a kwhr. The marginal cost of an additional kwhr should be the fuel cost, 3 cents or so, but my actual cost is not the 6-cent “energy” cost, but a fictitious 12 cents a kwhr cost (by treating fixed as variable costs) to encourage conservation. Wasted capital on roof solar due to subsidies and poor price signals hurts all of us.

A doubling of carbon monoxide in the air from 280 or so parts per million “pre-industrial” is predicted to cause “greenhouse” effect warming of 1.5-4.5ºC. Our air is now about 415 ppm CO. I question the Time Magazine claim cited. At 355 ppm in 1990, a 60 ppm increase?

An efficient and free market economy creating wealth with which to adapt to an uncertain future is a better bet than pinning hopes on global CO emission elimination we cannot enforce.

Alphonse I. Johnson