New Report: Economic Benefits Of Fossil Energy At Least 50 Times Greater Than Costs of Carbon

  • Date: 25/01/14
  • Marlo Lewis,

The economic benefits of fossil fuel energy to society far outweigh the social costs of carbon by a magnitude of 50 to 500 times, according to a new study.

Although invented by academics curious about the economic implications of climate models, social cost of carbon analysis quickly became a form of computer-aided sophistry. Its political function is to hoodwink the gullible into believing that fossil fuels are unaffordable no matter how cheap and that so-called renewable energy technologies (chiefly wind and solar power) are a bargain at any price.

The social cost of carbon (SCC) is an estimate of the damage supposedly inflicted on society by the emission of a ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a given year. SCC estimates derive from a host of assumptions about highly speculative issues including: climate sensitivity (how much warming results from a given increase in CO2 concentrations); the impacts of warming on weather patterns, ice-sheet dynamics, and eco-system services; the economic impacts of the latter on agriculture and other climate-sensitive industries; and how human adaptive capabilities will evolve (how technology will develop) as the world warms. In addition, because the SCC is a guesstimate of cumulative damage over time, modelers can get big, scary-sounding numbers just by selecting low discount rates to calculate the present value of future projected damages.

But, as noted repeatedly on this blog, even if SCC analysis were an exact science, it would still tell only one side of the story. It would still tell us nothing about the social benefits of carbon energy, hence nothing about the social costs of carbon mitigation. Divorced from analysis of carbon’s social benefits, SCC estimation even at its theoretical best is partisan advocacy posing as objective research.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires federal agencies to estimate both the costs and benefits of proposed regulations and, to the extent permitted by law, ensure that the benefits of regulation justify the costs. In 2009, the Obama administration convened an interagency working group (IWG) on the social cost of carbon, which has so far produced two reports (2010 and 2013). Unsurprisingly the 2013 SCC estimates were about 50% higher than the 2010 estimates. The next report’s estimates will no doubt be higher still because warmism demands that its votaries always conclude that climate change is ”worse than we thought.” That the administration would ever convene an IWG on the social benefits of carbon is unthinkable.

So where can citizens turn to for balance? I have good news. In The Historic, Present and Future Societal Benefits of Fossil Fuels, a report prepared for the American Council for Clean Coal Energy (ACCE), Dr. Roger Bedzek of Management Information Systems, Inc. (MISI) not only documents the manifold economic and health benefits of carbon energy, he also makes a powerful case that the evident societal benefits of carbon outweigh the conjectural costs by orders of magnitude — a range of 40-1 to 400-1.

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