The Bush administration has once again walked away from the most cost-effective strategy for reducing future pollution.
“An Energy Ruling That’s Simply Hot Air,” is how the Washington Post put it:
A proposed “energy conservation standard” that the [Energy] department unveiled Oct. 6 moved the energy-efficiency needle almost imperceptibly for home gas furnaces — to 80 percent from 78 percent, the standard set in 1989. The agency rejected an option to raise the standard to 90 percent, which would have saved more energy and trimmed heating bills for consumers in colder climates.
The only thing missing from this excellent story is an explanation of why the best way to reduce future pollution is to use energy more efficiently (since that avoids generating the pollution in the first place). The Bush administration keeps repeating that technology is the solution to our energy and pollution problems – but the only technology the Bush administration seems interested in is long-term, breakthrough technology.
The two problems with the wait-for-breakthroughs strategy is 1) we no longer have time to wait for new technologies (at least if we want to avoid catastrophic warming) and 2) It is a delusion to think that newer technologies can automatically outcompete existing technologies with their vested political interests and well-established delivery channels.
Once new technology becomes existing technology, the Bush administration seems to lose complete interest in it. After all, this energy standard for new efficient furnace technology was strongly supported “by both energy conservation groups and some manufacturers.
If the only technologies this administration supports are hypothetical future technologies or existing technologies that have no political opposition whatsoever, then it is difficult to understand what their solution to pollution is.