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The good news

March 14th, 2013

Discussions about reducing CO2 emissions often have a dismal tone, saying that we can’t reduce emissions without a drastic reduction in living standards. Sometimes the inference is that we should do nothing, other times that we should embrace drastically lower living standards (but probably won’t). Most people share this intuition to some extent, particularly as regards activities like driving, that seem central to a modern lifestyle. So, it’s striking to see what’s been happening to per capita gasoline consumption in the US


There’s a lot going on here: prices, fuel economy regulations, ethanol and general cultural shifts which have reduced distances driven. But the big point is that this drastic decline has happened with only modest policy measures, and without any obvious impact on living standards (US living standards haven’t done well in the 2000s, but for entirely different reasons). Looking ahead, Obama’s fuel economy regulations and sustained high prices should drive US gasoline consumption much lower.

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  1. Scott
    March 16th, 2013 at 18:21 | #1

    Typo, I meant tradeoff of security of price and supply for decreased storage costs.

  2. Peter T
    March 16th, 2013 at 20:46 | #2


    There are satellites out there which measure the energy entering the earth’s atmosphere and the energy leaving it. There is more energy going in than coming out. And the gap in outgoing corresponds to the absorption frequency of CO2. Now go find a scientist (or anyone who understood their high school science teacher) who will argue that something absorbing more energy than it is emitting is not going to get hotter. When you have found one, you can sell them shares in a company manufacturing perpetual motion machines.

    And, BTW, your scientists indulging in groupthink include the heads of all the major scientific bodies – not climate scientists, just scientifically literate. Sheesh. You must have a very finely tuned search engine.

  3. tgs
    March 17th, 2013 at 09:52 | #3

    Fran Barlow :@Tim Macknay

    Mind you, it doesn’t necessarily help that sometimes the people who are advocating for the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, proper regulation of nuclear energy, and so forth actually are self-proclaimed communists, or patently don’t give a fig for the idea of individual liberty.

    I realise that you conjuction was “or” rather than “and” but let me state for the record that actual c*mmun|sts do care about individual liberty.

    Quite so. Not true Scotsman communist would behave in such a way!

  4. tgs
    March 17th, 2013 at 09:53 | #4


  5. wilful
    March 18th, 2013 at 10:32 | #5

    Terje, you haven’t really gotten away from the fact that all of the Climategate claims were scrutinised in exhaustive detail by completely independent groups (eight times as I understand it) and absolutely nothing turned up of substance. I mean, the CRU people were pissed off at vexatious FOI applicants. And this is news? You can’t blithely say “oh it’s just for noting” that Climategate is a continuing saga, when it is only of importance to the denialosphere echo chamber of Watts and Bolt etc. It’s not of any importance to anyone who hasn’t drunk the grand conspiracy kool-aid. So I ask again, have you?

  6. Fran Barlow
    March 18th, 2013 at 10:58 | #6


    I’m minded to offer a substantive analysis of the “no true Scotsman” (NTS) fallacy but until that moment I would say that assertions that an argument meets the criteria for NTS may turn out upon examination to be a different well known fallacy — strawman.

    The proposer of NTS alleges that the person guilty of advancing this formof argument is being arbitrary in his/her criteria, picking boundaries to suit his/her own claims, but this assertion needs to be proved rather than merely advanced as if this settled matters.

    If the parameters of the claims made by the person alleged to be guilty are non-arbitrary, open to falsification, and are indeed foundational — if for example, the concept of “true Scotsman” was well-established and measurable and had sufficient coherence to be a single thing differentiated from the rest of the world, then we’d have to call NTS something else.

  7. Paul Norton
    March 18th, 2013 at 11:18 | #7

    tgs @53, the phrase “actually are self-proclaimed communists, or patently don’t give a fig for the idea of individual liberty” leaves open the possibility that the “self-proclaimed communists” and the people who “patently don’t give a fig for the idea of individual liberty” are different people.

  8. aidan
    March 18th, 2013 at 11:30 | #8

    I’m not qualified to investigate the details, but recent modelling seems to suggest efficiency standards are unhelpful and result in higher costs of abatement compared to a carbon price. Even a carbon price and efficiency standards result in higher costs:


    It is worth reading the comments, as there are some links to the source material.

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