A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Statism Lowers the Quality of Living

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The more power the state obtains the lower the quality of life for the general populace is. Power production is one of the most heavily regulated markets. Although the state claims it must regulate power production in order to reduce pollution its interests in the market involves protecting its cronies from competition. Consider the Clean Air Act, which we’re told was passed to ensure better air quality. In actuality it was designed in such a way as to drum up business for expensive sulfur dioxide scrubbers and protect eastern coal producers. From Political Environmentalism by Terry L. Anderson:

Under the 1970 Clean Air Act, the EPA had established a policy whereby all coal plants were required to meet a set emission standard for sulfur dioxide. The original standard of 1.2 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO,) per million British thermal units (BTUs) of coal could be met in a variety of ways.

Despite its apparent flexibility, this regulation had disparate regional effects. Most of the coal in the eastern United States is relatively “dirty” due to its high sulfur content. Western coal, on the other hand, is far cleaner. Using western coal enabled utilities and other coal-burning facilities to meet the federal standard without installing costly scrubbers to reduce the sulfur content of their emissions. At the time, scrubbers were so expensive that many midwestern firms found it less expensive to haul tons of low-sulfur coal from the West than to utilize closer, dirtier deposits.

When the Clean Air Act was revised in 1977, it was time for the eastern coal producers to get even. As Ackerman and Hassler (1981) noted, eastern producers of high-sulfur coal elected “to abandon their campaign to weaken pollution standards and take up the cudgels for the costliest possible clean air solution-universal scrubbing” (31). The result was a “bizarre coalition of environmentalists and dirty coal producers” that successfully advanced a new set of environmental standards that probably did more harm than good in much of the country (Ackerman and Hassler 1981, 27).

Under the 1977 law, coal plants had to meet both an emission standard and a technology standard. In particular, the law contained new-source-performance standards (NSPS) that forced facilities to attain a “percentage reduction in emissions.” In other words, no matter how clean coal was, a new facility would still be required to install scrubbers. This law destroyed low-sulfur coal’s comparative advantage, particularly in the Midwest and the East. If all new facilities had scrubbers, then there was no need to transport low-sulfur coal across the country. Less expensive, high-sulfur coal from the East would work just as well, even if it produced substantially greater emissions.

The result of such regulations is predictable, power production facilities pay more money to install sulfur dioxide scrubbers and we, the consumers, pay more money for electricity so the power production facility can pay off the scrubbers. We end up getting less electricity for more money and suffer a hit in our overall qualify of life because of it.

Now consider the United Kingdom (UK). That state’s rule over power production has led to a shortage of power. Being a state the only solution seen by the UK is rationing:

Fridges and freezers in millions of British homes will automatically be switched off without the owner’s consent under a ‘Big Brother’ regime to reduce the strain on power stations.

The National Grid is demanding that all new appliances be fitted with sensors that could shut them down when the UK’s generators struggle to meet demand for electricity.

Electric ovens, air-conditioning units and washing machines will also be affected by the proposals, which are already backed by one of the European Union’s most influential energy bodies. They are pushing for the move as green energy sources such as wind farms are less predictable than traditional power stations, increasing the risk of blackouts.

The result of the UK’s unwillingness to expand their power production with reliable sources may lead to massive amounts of food spoilage as refrigerators across wide swaths of the country shut themselves down and people dying of heatstroke because their air conditioners automatically shut off when it was 115 degrees outside. Once again the state’s desire to control everything is leading to a drop in the overall qualify of life and, in a rather ironic twist, a potential waste of food, which isn’t a green policy at all. Oh, and to add insult to injury, people living in the UK will be footing the bill for the development and installation of the technology that will allow the power facilities to automatically disable your appliances.

Why wouldn’t the power production companies demand to be allowed to build more reliable production facilities? Because that would cost them money and so long as they enjoy the state-provided protection from competition they have no motivation to actually spend money to improve their product. Who would want to spend millions to build a new power plant when they can charge more money for the same amount of electricity thanks to state-mandated rationing? Nobody, that’s who.