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'Green' and Growth

May 9, 2013 1 minute Read by Dino Falaschetti

On September 12, 2013, the Bush Institute will host a major conference on the topic of energy regulation and economic growth. In preparation, I have been reading: “Powering the Future” (Basic Books, 2011) by Nobel Prize winning physicist Robert B. Laughlin.

Dr. Laughlin argues that slowing our rate of carbon emissions is unlikely to reduce climate variation. Whether we exhaust carbon-based fuels over 50 or 500 years doesn’t matter when considered in terms of geologic time  according to Dr. Laughlin (page 8), any such time period constitutes “the bat of an eyelash as far as the earth is concerned.”

Dr. Laughlin’s argument suggests that environmental benefits from alternative energy subsidies (and regulations against brown energy) are much smaller than what is frequently assumed. If his argument is valid, and to the extent that subsidies and regulations weaken market competition, political support for alternative energy may be compromising both economic performance and environmental quality.

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