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Manjoo's reaction does not make him look good, but it's just another entry in the eternal struggle between ineffective firebrands and effective incrementalists.

Everybody remembers the time that William Lloyd Garrison called Lincoln "the fuckboy of abolitionism".

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Not the point of your post which is essentially "don't let the good be the enemy of the perfect" which I agree. But it is absolutely the case that many abolitionists were quite frustrated with Lincoln in regards to how slow he was to move against slavery and used some pretty heated language to express this frustration.

The famous Lincoln letter to Horace Greeley was written because Greeley wrote an editorial absolutely blasting Lincoln for not enforcing the Confiscation Acts of 1861 and 1862 which gave the Federal government the ability to seize Confederates property (in other words slaves). Greeley wrote "We think you are strangely and disastrously remiss in the discharge of your official and imperative duty with regard to the emancipating provisions of the Emancipating Act...Why these traitors should be treated with tenderness by you, to the prejudice of the dearest rights of loyal men, we cannot conceive".

Don't let the prose fool you, this is a blast across the bow from Greeley. He's basically accusing Lincoln of siding with traitors against the government over loyal citizens of the North. There's a reason Lincoln felt moved to write his famous letter back to Greeley (given that Greeley was basically the Rupert Murdoch of his day in regards to his influence) where he noted that commitment to saving the Union had to be prioritized over and above any other commitments however worthy, including ending slavery.

Again, not the point of your post, but it really should be noted that partisans absolutely blasting allies in the White House for not being committed enough to a cause or compromising in order to get something done is a pretty old story.

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The point of Matt's post was essentially "don't let the good be the enemy of the perfect".

The point of my comment was exactly "that partisans absolutely blasting allies in the White House for not being committed enough to a cause or compromising in order to get something done is a pretty old story."

Thanks for filling in more of the historical background for readers who may not be familiar with that era.

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Yeah, pretty distasteful comment from Manjoo.

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Apr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023

He promoted it, but the line was from an essay by Emily Atkin. Distasteful regardless of author.

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I think it's silly for anyone to be even a little offended by Atkin or Manjoo for saying 'fuckboy'.

But Manjoo is complete replacement-level public intellectual. Like, what's the most interesting thing he's ever said or written?

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I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not offended by the language per se; I’m offended by how mindless - but algorithmically potent it is. That is, it’ll be passed around as if it were a brilliant insight when in reality, it’s pretty sophomoric and will allow a certain type to feel smug while doing precisely nothing to actually tackle climate change.

Makes me think of that Seinfeld episode: “And this offends you as a Jewish person?” “No, it offends me as a comedian!”

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Yeah, I think in my own experience I am far more frequently offended as a comedian than as a Jewish person.

Of course, I'm not actually Jewish. But then again, I'm not comedish, either.

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yeah but farhad manjoo was never going to do anything to help with climate change. Breakthroughts in clean tech and geoengineering will do that, and the people working on that I can ensure you are a lot smarter than me or manjoo.

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This is true, and it is, I think, my point: the best thing Manjoo or any pundit can do is recognize that they don’t really know what they’re talking about and say something more like: “doomerism and dumb memes aren’t helpful; here are some people actually working on the problem that you should pay attention to instead.” Which, I grant, is an unrealistic expectation of most pundits of any political orientation (MY being an exception, and indeed probably doesn’t deserve to be called a “pundit.”)

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I think Manjoo does interesting stuff in his home area, which is consumer electronics.

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I didn't quite notice that he's moved to the Opinion section rather than being their tech writer! It hasn't been as much of a dumpster fire as Frank Bruni moving there from the food section.

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This, only because it’s always been my biggest ax to grind in life. https://slate.com/technology/2011/01/two-spaces-after-a-period-why-you-should-never-ever-do-it.html

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Apr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023

The nice thing about the web is that if you try to do this, browsers automatically merge all extra whitespaces in HTML into just one space.

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If he were correct on substance, we might forgive the bad language. But Willow is the kind of project that (with high probability, I guess) would go forward if we had a tax on net emissions of CO2.

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Apr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023

> Willow is the kind of project that (with high probability, I guess) would go forward if we had a tax on net emissions of CO2.

I’m interested in this. Can you say more? Is Willow particularly cheap compared to alternatives? I was under the vague impression this one was moving forward mainly because it was politically feasible and lacks the drilling NIMBYism Matt mentioned. But I haven’t studied this project in particular.

I guess whether it pencils under a carbon tax would mostly depend on the price of carbon.

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What I meant was that very few production/transportation projects would not go forward with a tax on net CO2 emissions, (fewer if with US leadership more countries adopt fossil fuel demand-reducing policies) just the highest-cost ones each year. I did not mean that I know that Willow is not one of those.

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Oh I see. Thanks for your reply!

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"...pretty distasteful comment from Manjoo."

Not his word-choice, he just quoted it. (and expressed approval?)

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If you go read that HEATED post (it’s on Substack) Emily explains it. Sure it’s part attention grabbing but it’s not just calling Biden names.

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Manjoo's reaction looks even worse if she had some good points that he could have amplified, and instead he amplified the name calling.

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There were no good points. It was a tortured analogy.

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There's a Peter Principle at work here. Manjoo writes interesting, fun pieces on new software and gains prominence so now he can opine on things he doesn't understand and gives kneejerk, dumb responses.

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I like what Manjoo has to say about the need for cities to accommodate people getting around outside of cars. But, on other topics, he's bit progressive for my tastes. His tweet that Biden is not strong enough on climate, for example, is not reasonable. With the electorate we have, climate advocates should extremely grateful that they got what they did.

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RemovedApr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023
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RemovedApr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023
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"Get off my lawn!" *shakes fist*

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Yeah, I don't feel like I am well-informed about the day's news until I've skipped Manjoo's column that morning.

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His take on TikTok was predictably stupid

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Many "progressives" are really "progressive nihilists". Willing to be actively harmful to the causes they supposedly champion. The similarities between them and the MAGAs are stark, and just as we (forlornly) hope Republicans get the MAGAs in check, one can only hope left wing nihilists are discredited.

Radical ambition with some theory of delivering change is great, undermining the people and institutions delivering progress, really not good.

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My sister calls them “do nothing leftists.”

They just veto every potential action and then complain.

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Sounds like "NIMBY leftists".

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I've heard "high-horse progressivism", to describe people who care most about maintaining their own feeling/appearance of moral superiority than actually having results.

Save 1000 people? If you'd just had the courage to agree with me all along, they wouldn't have needed to be saved. Got a compromise that reduces emissions? Of course, that's what big business wants you to do, play their little game and hand a win to Republicans.

There is no progress unless it affirms their high-horsedness; anything else is too little, too late, still a part of the morally bankrupt late-capitalist hell-scape, and/or Actually Bad because it makes it look like progress is possible without being part of my vision, which of course it isn't.

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Technically I don't think it's "nihilism." For most of them it's that they care more about image and clout and self-perception than they do about the actual policy outcomes. (Of course there's more than one personality type in that crowd.)

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Ehh, that makes them rhetorical and epistemological nihilists because they are unconcerned about truth and just view words as weapons for winning.

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I think your definition of nihilism differs from mine.

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I think the key symmetry is politics-as-identity. What both groups are doing is, at the mass level, signaling about who they are. At the elite level, they’re catering to the need for identity online. (Whether this is conscious or selection depends, since not doing this will typically make you disappear on social media.)

The more interesting thing about this dynamic, to me, is that it shows how hard it is yo establish identity online unless you’re, like, a furry or something.

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Ross Douthat cares that people like one of the senators from Hawaii (who praised him on Twitter once in a disagreement) reads him as the "reasonable not fully anti-Trumpism social conservative." Yglesias occasionally shows an olive branch to conservatives in his writing; he could be more like Jonathan "Saint Obama can do no wrong" Chait if he wanted to, but he doesn't. Ezra Klein is a partyman; never wants to tell a Dem interest group they're at fault, and yet still would like to occasionally interview a conservative. Ben Shapiro, another partyman, also has center-left people on his show from time to time. He doesn't talk about liberals quite like he did in the early 2010s. Politics commentators with big platforms clearly want others to hear them out some of the time.

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I think high level Dems are genuinely divided on the MAGA situation. Some really want Trump to be the GOP nominee in 2024 so they can make the election a referendum on his clearly deficient character and appropriate unpopularity. Others believe he is clearly too dangerous to risk a close election with and fear he'll win the GOP primary, hence requiring any indictment thrown (without discerning between the weak NY case and strong GA one) to try and knock him out. Others basically see little difference in the institutional GOP and figure whoever they nominate to lead their party is a threat to democracy as we know it, so just do whatever bloodies them up for a 2024 general.

What is untrue is that the Biden administration views its progressive faction as nihilists. On multiple occasions, they have clearly made policies to do things (allow millions more poor Central Americans in to the US even if it poisons the well on high skill labor needed for semiconductors, keep tight regulation against mining projects even if it makes it harder to domestically source for electrification, promote schools favoring gender identity ideas over parental input even if it radicalizes parents) that get cited by some commentators as "nihilism". It's not nihilism; Democrats believe in this stuff as good ideas, including Joe Biden, and will continue to push it until another party punishes them in an election for doing so.

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I would like to kill this "whom Dems prefer to win the Republican nomination" thing in the cradle. Dems don't vote in Republican primaries. Republicans aren't interested in Democrats' opinions or putative desires about which candidate they chose. If Trump becomes the nominee, it will because the Republican party wanted to pick him, not because the Dems maneuvered them into doing so.

Barely hiding behind this meme is the veiled accusation that by not supporting DeSantis, the Dems are aiding and abetting the possible destruction of our democracy. Yes, sure, Trump as President would be horrific! From this Democrat's perspective, so would DeSantis, although conceivably not as bad.

But I don't care which one would be better or worse. If forced to choose between Hitler and Stalin, I'll chose FDR.* If forced with a gun to my head to choose between Trump and DeSantis for President, I'll pick the Democrat.

* No resemblance to any living person intended. Of course.

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With all due respect, you're naive if you think both of the parties don't have people at the top who would like to ratf*ck the other team's primary. We saw this with internal Clinton emails on Trump in the '16 primary, GOP just begging for Sanders to win, the 2022 primaries getting Dem ad money. This happens all the time, I won't whine about it as if it's a one-off by some Dems today.

Also I do think some Dems sincerely think DeSantis and Trump are similarly dangerous to democracy, I don't doubt their sincerity. I just think they're wrong.

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Let's stick to the presidential nominating process, the most high profile event in our politics, and leave aside more local races, where this kind of interference may be effective.

You can remind me about the Clinton emails but I'd be very surprised if whatever they were aiming at had an iota of impact on the Republican nominating process. The *closest* thing to an effective intervention ironically went the other way: the Putin/Republican dumping of emails during the 2016 Democratic convention, but there the purpose wasn't to influence the choice of nominee but to damage Clinton in the general by pissing off the Bernie supporters.

And again, whatever Dems sincerely think about Trump or DeSantis, it doesn't matter. The Republican voters will determine which abomination gets chosen.

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I mean, if that's true, Dems should obviously try to nudge the process to the less electorally competitive of the two. There are ways to do this nudging; center-right people care what center-left people think just as the latter care about what the former think too. The idea high level Dems won't care how competitive the nominee of a party they claim will end democracy is; sorry I don't buy it.

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I'm not saying the Dems don't care; I'm just saying their leverage is miniscule if not downright counterproductive.

I care a great deal about the Republican nominating process. I want Trump and DeSantis to so rip into each other over the next 15 months that all that is left of them at the end is some pools of blood (metaphorically speaking). And then for the Democratic to wipe the floor with them in November 2024.

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I've asked this before, but I wonder how much oil America would import for every barrel it didn't produce? My strong suspicion is that it would be much closer to one barrel than zero barrels. Any reduction would simply be from the increased world price of oil from America producing less. If I'm right, it would be absolutely senseless for America to limit oil production, since it would have virtually no impact on climate change while inflicting huge damage on the US economy.

Also, 'we must do what [marginalised group of people] says we should do' has necessarily always meant 'we must do what a subgroup within [marginalised group of people] that has a position that aligns with mine says we should do'. Women disagree on abortion. Black people disagree on criminal justice. Native Alaskans disagree on oil production. Activists want to pretend the world is simple.

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in the short-to-medium term your suspicion is correct. in the long term, renewables would probably replace an increasing share of those imports. that's the long term trend anyway, but more expensive oil would accelerate it.

i agree with your next point too. however, keep in mind that those oil imports come from somewhere. if we imagine that the international supply of oil is very inelastic (unresponsive to price; e.g. if every well is operating at full capacity) then consumers would get hosed but we would see relatively big environmental benefits; the us still consumes oil at higher prices, because it can afford to, and some other country gets outbid. on the other hand, if the supply of oil is very elastic (responsive to price; e.g., if saudi arabia can double its oil output overnight at relatively low cost), then the price won't go up all that much; the environmental benefits will be minimal, but so will the costs to consumers. (my guess is that on the current margin we live in the highly elastic world, but if we were talking about shutting off all domestic oil production, it would look a lot more like the highly inelastic world. not an expert though)

of course, us producers suffer either way, which is why i agree that this is a bad approach; carbon pricing has similar effects but spreads the pain across both domestic and international producers. but if you're an environmentalist, maybe punishing domestic oil producers is positive rather than negative

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Demand elasticity estimates vary, but what I’ve seen recently puts it in the “zero-ish” or 1% range to maybe 6 or 7% with short term shocks. There is then a lag, and the elasticity gets eaten up by some combination of demand reduction and outside supply. So .999 barrels to 1, or maybe .93 barrels to one? Maybe?

A lot of models find that the demand reduction, btw, is more temporary (say, running the smelter less, or whatever) than “get rid of the factory”, although big enough shocks can get there. Obviously we’re going through a time when elasticity may change as alternate energy sources and electrification start doing replacement, but those are longer term changes. Also, in a world where other places can pump more and benefit from higher prices due to this lack of elasticity, after a lag it seems that most of the production comes from elsewhere to attempt to reach some sort of equilibrium again.

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One other addition: it really starts to matter where the replacement fossil comes from. Venezuela, Iran, Russia, Nigeria (especially with foreign oil majors leaving it to “local control”), and others often have very bad emissions & not much in terms of environmental controls. Flaring, spills, leaks, venting, etc. depending on where the barrel comes from (top of the line domestic vs Saudi vs Iran) you can certainly end up in situations where .93 of a replacement barrel emits “more” than a single domestic barrel because the additional global supply vented their methane and didn’t use emissions controls. Not necessarily, but all this to make the point that it’s a complicated and global problem.

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Exactly. That's the point of doing cost benefit analysis, the additional CO2 emitted because of an increase in _US_ oil production is negligible, US production just cannot force down the price/force up the quantity demanded by very much.

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Willow was a case of the Biden administration making the most of a bad situation. That lease was granted during the Clinton administration and Biden wasn't going to be able to simply wish it away and kill the project. Had the administration tried to do that, Conoco would have gone to court to enforce the lease and they likely would have won their case. Instead of wasting a lot of taxpayer dollars and trying to defend a hopeless position, the Biden administration held out the possibility that they would litigate the matter and negotiated a substantial reduction of the project and some additional environmental protections. Great governance, imho.

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This is a huge context the story that's missing. It's not worth the headache of fighting against enforcement of the lease. I don't think people realize that Conoco would have not only had a strong case in court, but clearly has the deep pockets to make litigating this issue incredibly costly for all sides. End of the day, there really has to be a "choose your battles" decision made. And I think from that standpoint I understand why Biden made the decision he did.

I'm actually more against this move to drill in Alaska than Matt or it seems like the other commentators on this substack. I'm actually in agreement generally that the extreme left nihilism of the climate left is pretty harmful and that even if we made a "space race" level of investment in promoting green energy (depending on the specifics something I'd support. And IRA is basically a smaller version of this) there is a lag time between when you make the full commitment and when those commitments come to fruition. And in the meantime you're going to need oil, better to come more from domestic sources than Saudi Arabia if you can.

Having said all that, absent the lease/legal issue with Conoco, I think there would have been a strong case to be made this was not a great decision. At the end of the day, the amount of oil that can be produced from Willow is pretty small compared to the amount of oil on the world market. Which means the positive impact of lower gas prices is going to be pretty muted compared to say OPEC+ announcing production cuts like they did over the weekend. In addition, the benefits of that investment is going to be many years in the future at a time when in theory we should be much farther along in regards to progress with wind/solar/nuclear power which is kind of the point of the IRA legislation. I totally get short term moves that reduce price of oil from a pure political calculus (As we discovered...again...summer of 2022), but I'm more skeptical of long term moves. Second, purely on the political calculus, we're talking Alaska not West Virginia. The two senators from Alaska are a right leaning Independent and Republican. Yes Mary Pelota won and I understand trying to support congresswomen from your own party where you can, but this is a pretty big move in order to help boost one congresswoman. Unless you have possible story of how this move might put Alaska in play either for the Senate or Presidential election, I'm pretty skeptical this is a smart "real politik" political move.

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I agree that if the discussion was, 'should the US grant the lease upon which Willow is built today?', then the answer is a pretty resounding 'No'. But the decision on the lease was made a quarter century ago. Biden could have delayed the project, but only at great cost, and we still would have ended up with Willow ultimately going ahead but with a much larger footprint.

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I doubt the reduction in production would pass a CBA and the additional environmental protections (assuming the are cost effective) could have been imposed anyway. So, what they did was better than just rejecting the project, but hardly "making the most."

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I suppose it was inevitable that the progressive take on masculinity would crash headlong into the progressive take on climate, with all of the adolescent sophistication that particular pairing implies.

And Farhad, come on, man - bad words do not constitute an “arresting analogy,” unless you mean you pause to consider how stupid it is.

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Over time, I have begun to crystallize a view based on my experience - that the insane idea that there is no cost to anything - is quite mainstream among progressives. Is this a straw man? I keep getting the sense that the very discussion of costs are taboo in these circles.

It seems odd that the ideological faction that holds the importance of government in the role of righting the wrongs of the market - never discusses the importance of effective government (when “effective” is not reduced to a measure of the level of spending).

It seems to me, that policy is under-theorized by the progressive wing. What is causing this under-theorization of good policy?

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I don't know about mainstream, but it's fairly common, yes. One of the downsides of progressivism is that two of the personality types it tends to attract are:

(1) utopians who are ideologically opposed to the concept of tradeoffs - they see it as a big lie designed to frustrate achievable progress

(2) very sensitive types who think telling people they have to face tradeoffs is mean - you see this personality type a lot among the artsy branch of teenage socialists, though many of them grow out of it later

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I think this is probably a specific path-dependent consequence of US history rather than a structural feature of left-leaning politics in general; New Deal socialists, the Fabians in the UK, and the Bolsheviks were all quite Machiavellian and willing to accept tradeoffs.

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I can definitely see the meanness being a factor. But it’s odd - the sensitive types are not afraid to speak up for themselves or on behalf of oppressed minorities, no? It seems off that one could stick up for the Little Guy while also not having the gumption to stick up for anything else.

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For what it’s worth, I think this is a feature of *all* points in the political spectrum, not just the progressive wing. *Humans* are bad at recognizing that something can have both benefits and costs so that they need to be traded off.

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That's true. I guess the main difference is in the *reasons* people give you for denying tradeoffs. And also, the fact that progressives are the people who are most likely to have policy goals in the first place that their denial of tradeoffs might frustrate. If you don't have any strongly-held goals, then you aren't really shooting yourself in the foot.

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I think the most generous way to view this is that when one's political views are shaped largely by witnessing the moral atrocities that have happened in the name of capitalism and wealth (climate change, homelessness, the great recession, "corporations are people", income inequality, costs of healthcare, etc.), you naturally stop listening to the rhetoric that is used to defend those things, even when it is justified - "environmental regulation would be too costly" "we have to let the market find a solution" "well if we raise taxes that might stunt economic growth"

Take "regulation is too costly". That is true in some areas (housing) and not true in others (no, Koch brothers, you cannot dump your oil and chemicals wherever you want, and yes, you will still make billions of dollars if you have to responsibly deal with it). But when your big motivating issues are the ones where it's not true, you start to think it's just blanket not true and that any argument using that point is prima facie wrong.

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The US left (or at least, the part of it that would self-identify as socialist or social-democratic) was more or less non-viable in electoral politics throughout 60+ years between the McCarthy Red Scare and the 2016 presidential election. Its only available lever for achieving policy change was organizing protest and pressure campaigns, and for a lot of the people involved, participation was more about self-expression than it was about achieving material change (a movement with no chance of winning elections is a great vehicle for that). Managing tradeoffs just wasn’t really a relevant consideration for most left orgs and movements.

In 2016, the relative success of the Sanders campaign, disgruntled 2008 recession-burned millennials’ political coming of age, and Trump’s victory validating a lot of the harshest left critiques of US politics and culture came together to suddenly make a leftier politics electorally viable in some parts of the country. Getting an actual seat at the table is a huge shift that we haven’t fully adjusted to. Fortunately, we’re starting to build more of a policy apparatus (ie: the People’s Policy Project, Employ America) and a lot of actual left-leaning electeds are serious about participating in government and negotiating with mainstream libs (Bernie and AOC are both Democratic Party team players in pursuit of their longer-term goals). But the shift is still starting, and I think a lot of my comrades at least subconsciously would prefer being heroic morally pure outsiders to actually wielding power and dealing with the tradeoffs that come with that.

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The "60+ years between the McCarthy Red Scare and the 2016 presidential election" saw the creation of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare; the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act and Obergefell... was it really such a bad time for socials / social democrats? I get a lot of terrible stuff happened too but would socialists contest that it was very largely done by Republicans?

Like you say, Bernie and AOC are team players, which signals confidence in the Democratic party as an institution.

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I agree that the developments you listed are good things, that the Democratic Party has been better than the alternative from the New Deal era forward, and that it makes sense for the present-day left to work with mainstream Democrats. (I’m a rare 2020 Biden disapprover to 2023 Biden strong approver—held my nose to vote for him in 2020 but will be enthusiastic to help re-elect him).

All that said, present-day American leftists hold policy positions and adopt rhetorical stances that were outside the Overton Window in most of the US during the period I described.

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I think what's interesting is how the center-left and left-wing have conflicting accounts on the most polarized recent topic in US politics, accelerating immigration from Central America. They disagree on how it will further their political goals. The most left wing of the party is the most dovish on the border and most indifferent to high skill immigration, which the center-left wants for CHIPS.

The center-left believes it'd be bad to team up with Senator Tom Cotton with a more restrictive and high skill points system in exchange for Remain in Mexico asylum strategy and a soft amnesty (which we're arguably doing with internal enforcement never approaching first term Obama levels.) So they pretend the RAISE Act doesn't exist when whining about all of this. I think Yglesias once floated something like this on the Weeds without endorsing it. This was arguably the Trump approach via executive policy (so it inevitably fell apart with a different president compared to legislation.)

But basically, Dems think and agree across ranks that this immensely polarized issue they also believe they have a slight losing hand on in popular opinion (see their 2018 and 2022 midterm messages dodging the topic) will work to their benefit in the long run. And this requires a lot of taboos discussing any wage impact while pretending Card's minimum wage and immigration analysis aren't in conflict, while the GOP doesn't want to alienate it's agriculture interests or respectable suburbanites by too loudly doing so (hence the shift in 2020.)

All of this helpfully explains why Dems have radicalized; they believe sincerely immigration gives them a future electoral hand, and accordingly were radicalized by immigration during the Obama years. It also explains the near panicked reaction you get from a progressive white collar person in SV or academia if you ask about trading low skill for high skill; it speaks to an internal party conflict they dare not inflame.

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RAISE would cut total legal immigration in half and make it harder for a lot of existing US citizens and permanent residents to unite their families, get legal status for their spouses, etc. Supporting it would require the Dems to screw over a lot of constituents and— because of the overall cap cut— not even produce that much benefit on the skilled immigration side. It’s definitely not a slam dunk.

I also think that you’re being overly conspiratorial about high-education Dems’ motives around the issue— most of them just have moral intuitions that make them skeptical of any institution that discriminates based on unchosen and arbitrarily-distributed characteristics, and have negatively polarized further along that axis because the most vocally anti-immigration people also tend to be unusually racist, xenophobic, Christian chauvinist, etc.

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You know, I used to believe this but it's just boringly clear that center-left people have literally no idea what they're doing. The evidence is damning as hell. If you look at how Trump wisely elevated immigration during his midterm (with thermostatic opinion shifting more liberal) and Biden wisely didn't say a single word about the issue because he's so toxic with voters on it, it's clear what's going on. The left-wing, to their credit, genuinely believes borders are white nationalist. They have a coherent theory, I just disagree profoundly and think their policy will make this country worse off.

Where as the center-left, my God. They really have pissed off every other type of voter. They have done the remarkable; Biden is more toxic on this issue with voters than THE guy who racistly demeaned a Hispanic man born here as disloyal! Who ranted about "Shithole countries." How on Earth do you pull that off, becoming anti-popularist like this? Answer: You make an asylum policy for low skill migrants that is hawkish enough to make your activists mad while also letting millions in over time that the median voter refused to vote for as policy. So now we have:

-too many recent arrivals mixed with people who've been here over a decade, married, have citizen kids, etc to promise ramped up internal enforcement

-agreement with libertarians that spending even more on the border has diminishing returns

-little-to-no political capital for high skill workers for CHIPS, voters hate you on this overall issue and distrust you

-no credibility on amnesty, too many recent arrivals once again who have far weaker claim if any than older arrivals.

All that's left to address this festering wound is some version of RAISE. I'd like a higher cap, but at this point, the Biden people dug this grave. They pissed off every group of voters right-to-left on this issue, on the issue that has defined our recent polarized distrust of democracy and interplays with constant history wars over what citizenship means for us as a nation. It's impressive how dysfunctional and sloppy the adults in the room of the Democratic party are; they are ashamed to show their face to House committees with Republicans, with the median voter, or with the progressives of their own party showing up. RAISE is basically the only sober promise to make, and this point Yglesias once had a strange surge of wisdom on The Weeds podcast and suggested Cotton make such an offer of lower legal immigration rates for soft internal enforcement (amnesty w/o name). Probably the only way to get CHIP workers too. Good job everyone!

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I agree with a lot of what you say, but I cannot accept that lowering legal immigration caps is part of the solution.

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Yeah I mean I wanted RAISE with a higher cap. I didn't agree with the cut in two during 2018, I would tell Noah Smith this. But at this point, you can see where I'm coming from on how much more unworkable the alternatives are getting given the political constraints. It's an impressively complex shitshow.

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We have a labor shortage and it's not just skilled labor. All sorts of jobs, from waiters to bus drivers, there's not enough people to do them. This is a problem the country could solve in a matter of months if it wanted to by increasing the quotas for legal immigration. Addressing the labor shortage would also help with inflation.

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Also useful for keeping the population pyramid in a shape where overall labor force participation rates are good.

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My first inclination is to blame it on an ignorance, willful or not, of economics. People who are emotionally devoted to believing that something is inherently right or wrong, and that that belief transcends economics, politics, or whatever else, get really angry when they are challenged with pesky things like the law of supply and demand, cost/benefit analyses, and the like. And this is not only a problem on the left, there are right wing versions of this too.

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This is part of it, but a lot of the causation runs in the other direction. There are people who would never take an economics class because the whole idea of the subject offends them.

I was reminded of this recently listening to this 2021 Freakonomics podcast episode where Dubner interviewed economists and their kids. One of the kids, who was then in college at Brown, was a Marxist, and asked to talk about her feelings about both her dad and economics, she said:

"I adore my dad. And I think a great deal of what he’s taught me about how to think about the world and how to approach problems and really just how to treat people — when I take that to the logical extreme, that’s how I come to form my politics. I have trouble seeing how market economics and how capitalism are actually meeting our goals of **taking care of people. It’s treating people not as people, but as workers and interchangeable bodies. It’s not seeing people for the complexity that we are.** And it’s leaving some things up to chance and to a market that’s been rigged from the very beginning."

(Emphases mine.) What we see here is that it isn't the economic ignorance that's driving her worldview. It's her worldview and, especially, her sensitive personality, that drive her aversion to economics.

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Agreed, and that's what I'd classify as willful ignorance.

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The fact that a labor group supports an infrastructure project does not mean that the infrastructure project is a good idea.

Also I get the fact that saying a native Alaskan group supports the project is an effective argumentative tactic against progressives, but identitarian deference is dumb in general.

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"identitarian deference is dumb in general."

Why cast this as identitarian instead of local control? Aren't they just the people who live in the affected area?

I'll grant you that identitarian deference has led to disasters when it comes to allowing Floridians to have a say in the running of Florida. But it's kinda baked into democracy.

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founding

Interestingly, I think Florida is the only gulf coast state to ban offshore drilling. They’ve decided that their local recreational use of nature trumps local production of fossil fuels, unlike Alaskans and residents of the other gulf states.

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"Interestingly, I think Florida is the only gulf coast state to ban offshore drilling."

Damn it, Kenny, would you quit bringing in relevant facts and context when I'm laser-focused on fact-free snark?

Are you *trying* to make this comment thread more informative for the readers? Because that's what you're doing. You're diluting my noise with your signal, and it's not the first time you've done this kind of thing.

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The largest pure identitarian political movement in the US today is MAGA and its white christian nationalist offshoots and wannabes.

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What's funny is this area of Alaska is, what, 800 plus miles away from the bulk of the population of Alaska in the south (I picked Anchorage).

To draw an analogy, it's like allowing Floridians who receive an annual check from oil royalties to decide if they want to ban offshore drilling in Texas or not.

Of course the issue is this is an isolated, low population place, that due to a variety of reasons is lumped in with the rest of Alaska as one single state.

So it's all kinda weird.

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A little bit of identitarian deference is actually good. It's just that (1) it can't override everything else, (2) it must be applied consistently, (3) in deciding what positions you're deferring to you have to find the people who actually represent the identity group, not just some self-appointed schmoes.

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In fact, the AFN which Matt references has an elected structure for the purpose of representing everyone.

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I will never understand how Democrats thought they could win majorities while kneecapping one of our most dynamic industries and biggest sources of good, blue collar jobs. Any party that prefers preserving uninhabited and rather ugly tundra to energy abundance simply is not speaking to working peoples materiel needs.

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tundra is not ugly! it's just beautiful in a different way

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Tundra has inner beauty. ConocoPhillips appreciates inner beauty.

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deletedApr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023
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Apr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023

There are currently 118k employees in oil & gas extraction, close to a 50-year low. So it's both small and not a "source" of jobs in any active sense. According to the BLS, anyway.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CES1021100001

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I agree, but that's more than double the number of steel workers, 50% more than lumber workers, etc. All of which have the Biden administration has maintained or increase tariffs to support.

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is exploration a different category than extraction? what about transportation and refinement?

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You have to look at where these jobs are though. And there is a whole chain of industries attached to the mining part of the industry.

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There are a lot of people working in petrochemical processing and mining.

This is often in areas with few alternatives for employment.

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also I think a lot of those blue collar jobs are out in deep red states like North dakota. Not exactly voters dems were relying on

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To put it differently, the energy yielded per job is vastly higher than that from renewable sources.

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Reading this article, I can't help but think of a similar set of issues: immigration and population growth. Many US opponents of immigration cite excess population growth as a justification for restrictionism. But this has always seemed wrong to me: what really matters is the carrying capacity—the total human population—of Planet Earth. Increasing immigration inflows into the US by any imaginable, politically plausible quantity doesn't increase the long term trajectory of global population. In all likelihood it does exactly the opposite, because women (and, especially, their daughters and granddaughters) who move the US from countries with higher fertility will mostly have fewer babies than they would had they not immigrated.

America is home to only about 4% of the world's humans. We just don't move the needle all that much anymore, whether its population or energy.

(Apologies for the somewhat thread-jackish nature of this comment; that's not my intent.)

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This occurs in other countries too. The German Greens have been opposing building up Berlin because of the environmental aspect and are ignoring the alternative being living in the surrounding suburbs and commuting in (often by car).

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I have no idea--I'm not very familiar with German politics. It was just the first non-US example that popped into my mind of the phenomena you were describing.

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Arguably the carrying capacity of the us itself matters to an extent. The trust in the reliability of global markets ought to have been a little shaken after 2020 no?

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founding

Right but no one reasonable thinks we are close to carrying capacity for the United States. We export lots of staple foods and import tropical fruits and maintain a net trade balance on agriculture generally.

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I don’t disagree. I’m just pointing out that a trick global outlook is a bit naive.

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Do you think the myriad countries on this earth who are not self-sufficient in food stuffs should remedy that? The world would become immeasurably poorer.

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I get what you are saying. But Americans do move the needle when it comes to energy. Their per-capita consumption is greater than anyone else in the world, by multiples when comparing with anyone outside a developed nation. Though immigration and the consequent drop in fertility from a lower or middle income nation may reduce the net population compared to if they didn't immigrate, I don't know if the net energy consumption would be greater in that scenario or where the trade-off shifts. It's more convoluted to think in these terms. There are always second and third order effects that may seem more or less favorable, but it may be fine to consider these issues separately and try to do what is right and feasible.

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But as others have noted, because of the global market for energy, supply sided efforts in the United States from the environmental movement may just shift production abroad, where it's dirtier and less regulated. So it doesn't seem like there's a consistency on when to apply second or third order effects.

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This is a good point in bringing in the history of the American environmental movement, where concern about immigration and population growth have historically been bigger pillars in the movement and have only recently been greenwashed. The Sierra Club a few decades ago got very very close to a nativist takeover, but it also makes sense when you consider the NIMBY anti-growth mentalism of a lot of environmentalists.

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"the Biden administration itself seems somewhat disinterested in defending its own position"

OK, I have a question for all the linguistic experts out in SB Land.

Given that language is a natural product that changes constantly as speakers change the way they use words, at what point should those of us who understand the "correct" meaning or usage throw up our hands and say, fine, I'll go along with the crowd.

I get it: "disinterested" now predominately means "uninterested." "I could care less" means "I couldn't care less." "Irregardless" means "regardless." Etc. That's language for you! But it does seem a shame to lose a perfectly good meaning in "disinterested," i.e., unbiased by personal interest or advantage; not influenced by selfish motive. Since apparently we can't use it anymore to mean that without confusing people, what's a good substitute word?

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I now simply understand the definition of disinterested to be consisting of the opinions of the Slow Borer with that username.

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I'd like to think I really do get this argument but the reason climate change isn't like a polluted river is you can't just undo it, or that there's a chance economic growth will be a little substandard. It's a truly existential threat because the damages are more or less permanent on a human time scale, there's a lot of poorly understood tipping points, and is interlinked with basically every other environmental problem. An estimate of 7% economic underperformance will seem adorable when we manage to make bees go extinct and we all starve or some shit.

By approaching it with the same calm, even -handed approach as you would to a more mundane, of the moment problem, you're really underestimating the long tail risk. It also strikes me that there's simply something very sad and troubling about massively changing the climate, over the course of a couple of hundred years, that we and all other animals have been evolving with for millennia, that's hard to think about entirely in quantitative economic terms.

By all means don't crush the domestic oil industry just yet. But appreciate the fire we're playing with here.

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Apr 4, 2023·edited Apr 4, 2023

“ truly existential threat”

It’s absolutely positively not an existential threat. And by repeating such nonsense you undermine your case.

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founding

And the way you cut global oil production is not by blocking specific domestic projects, but rather by decreasing global demand.

Just like we don’t react to the HIV crisis by demonizing casual sex, but instead by pursuing harm reduction that effectively reduces total spread, rather than just displacing it from people who listen to the messages to people who tune them out.

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I agree. George Carlin said something about 50 years ago ( before how many species died out?) to the effect that the earth has been around for millions of years and will do just fine. It's the humans who will be screwed...

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1. thrilled to see alberta get mentioned!!!

2. i love a good carbon tax as much as the next guy but isnt it misleading to compare dollars raised to dollars rebated and call that the entire net effect on consumers of carbon tax? the average consumer is compensated for the taxes they pay on fossil fuels they consume, but not for the welfare loss on oil they don't consume. like if you had an effectively enforced $100,000/tn carbon tax, emissions probably drop to near zero, which interferes with peoples' lives in lots of ways and also means the rebate is also near-zero

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founding

You also have to factor in the social cost of carbon consumption. As long as the tax is below the social cost, the benefits of foregone carbon emissions outweigh the costs of foregone carbon emissions. But if the tax rate is above the social cost of carbon, then you’re right, that this is an important coat we’ve forgotten to include in the ledger.

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agree in aggregate but im specifically commenting on a graph modelling the welfare effects on certain specific groups, so its not enough to know that the policy improves total welfare. bottom quintile of americans mostly isnt harmed by the burden of SCC on the top quintile or on people in Taiwan or (arguably) on future generations

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=="other producers of oil who simply reap the windfall of higher prices."

Like Russia and Saudi Arabia.

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A few more drivers behind the progressive climate hawks’s ‘keep it in the ground’ ethos:

In-group signalling. You lose your in-group cred if you don’t come out against these projects.

The relative effectiveness of single point causes in rally folks and raising money in contrast to the enormity and complexity of the climate change problem overall.

Translating the IEA statement “no new FF development for net zero” as a prescription in isolation rather than what it actually is — one aspect of the overall IEA NZ scenario that also includes an unprecedented increase in clean energy investment (that hasn’t materialized).

Genuine concern about the impacts of climate change that have been skewed by the climate impact literature that over-represents the implausible RCP8.5 scenario.

Others?

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Responding to incentives, aka funders, many of whom have publicly stated opposition to all new fossil...

Lack of economics, physics, and “math” based analysis of energy use globally, followed by lack of following through to comprehend what it would mean to stop all new extraction or ban all fracking.

Misunderstanding that IEA was NOT saying no new fossil drilling or development, but instead talking about developing new fields in new locations. (Related: while willow is bigger, NPR-A has projects and is not a “new field”)

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A general sense that you gotta do what you can to fight climate change. In the US context, fighting against building stuff is often the path of least resistance. Taking a global view and recognizing that incrementalism sometimes takes you in the wrong direction, is hard to put into practice.

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I usually go for the Econ 101 arguments, but with oil extraction, it seems plausible that all of the drillable oil in the ground will be taken out and burned over the next, I dunno, hundred years? And that the only exception will be fields protected by governments.

So over a long timeline, it seems reasonable to prioritize keeping place-based, long-term oil extraction prohibitions in place as a way to reduce long term carbon output.

I’d probably still vote yes on willow but from a pure climate perspective, this is a rare area where a dumb-seeing, “leave it in the ground” approach seems reasonable over a more sophisticated economic model one.

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founding

Or turned into plastic.

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The thing that gets me is bombing Mexico and forcing people to freeze to death are just not equivalent to printing money with the unlimited money printer: Your definition of 'good' seems pretty narrowly focused on 'cost-effective'.

There potentially can be bad consequences of spending too much money - on cleaning rivers or initiating new green energy projects or whatever. But there are also potentially bad consequences of sending a signal, from the largest economy in the world, that new fossil fuel extraction is still a-ok, as long as there's a business case for it and local jobs.

Back when the US fubbed the global consensus to reduce emissions in the 1980s, the justification back then was also 'but the economy!'... We have a much larger task ahead of us now, and you're essentially making the same excuse. Saying Biden has done more on climate is not the same as saying he's done enough.

Of course, most people, given the binary choice of lower or higher prices today are going to support more oil drilling! However, I expect their future selves - running from bush fires, dealing with climate refugees and more pandemics, and paying vastly higher insurance premiums - might retrospectively have wanted us to consider a more nuanced values calculation.

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“new fossil fuel extraction is still a-ok”

But it is. Conventional wells deplete around 5-10%ish a year from peak, necessitating new drilling (more complicated but close enough). Shale is even faster with 2-4 year cycles for major production.

Let’s pretend we stopped, tomorrow, and nobody drilled a new well. So figure about 60% of US oil production is gone in 4 years. The rest in 10 years.

Now what? I’m being serious. Does US energy use per capita get cut in half? Ignoring the political backlash of such a world, massive global effects, etc... are you advocating for massive cuts in energy use? If so, what sectors and what economic impact are you willing to bear?

If not, what is the realistic pace to replace that energy? Can it really be done to meet your “no new fossil extraction” mantra?

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Thank you for your considered response.

No, I'm not saying shut down all oil extraction. However, the Willow project - when it eventually starts production (actually, probably more than 4 years from now) - is no ordinary extraction project. It alone could represent 1.5-2% of all US production, and contribute (in total) roughly 5% of all US annual emissions (at a time when US annual emissions are already 30-40% higher than they need to be).

It is also happening in what is widely considered to be a 'fragile ecosystem' (although, frankly, that's more a concern for the kids on TikTok than me, as I do appreciate we have some ability to regulate and manage our interactions with the land... unlike the global climate)

In fairness, I also didn't insist on 'no new fossil extraction'. My argument was, a project this size sends the message to the rest of the world (of which I am a part) that emissions are ok if they benefit an economy. When that message comes from the largest economy - and, frankly, the economy most-responsible for emissions in the past century - it gives everyone else a pass. In my country (and industry), we also have a problem with emissions; but the standard excuse for not doing much about it is "we're nothing compared to the US (or China/India, fossil fuels, concrete manufacture etc)". This is learned behaviour.

I don't know enough about every industry to know what sectors will need to adapt. But, eventually - certainly in the 30-year lifespan of Willow - it will be 'all of them'. The sooner we start turning the screws, the less tight we'll need to make them.

Money is cheap (see: QE), but value is something different and only really reveals itself on a long time scale. My issue is Matthew (and many macro-economists) only seem to want to measure value in a money frame. That's how he can justify a position that states 'bombing Mexico' is too extreme to protect jobs; but 'consenting a project that will inevitably factor into the deaths of many more people' to protect jobs is good-actually.

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I think the mistake here is equating the CO@ content of the Willow production with the net increase in CO@ emissions. It would indeed be bad if the message of Willow is that zero priced _emissions_ are OK to benefit the economy.

And I agree that it is unfair to demand to know exactly which industries/sectors would have to adjust most at greatest cost if we had a tax on net CO2 emissions that made using fossil fuels (coal> petroleum> gas) more expensive. That's the beauty of the tax; no central planner is required to know that. Ditto which zero CO2 energy sources will produce the energy needed to get to negative emissions. "Get the prices right" and let the market figure it out. [Of course, "getting the prices right includes regulatory reform, massive subsidies to research and public investments/subsidies that pass cost benefit analysis using the correct price of the CO2 emissions avoided.]

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You might be misreading my argument? I'm sympathetic to the inevitability of some emissions over the next decades, but concerned about the signals being sent by a new project of this scale, from a country with this level of influence.

You also make the tired 'market knows best' points which, IMO, have been demonstratably proven to be, in a generous read, simplistic; but, realistically, utter nonsense... And, in doing so, you defend money as a flawless tool to facilitate do-gooding which, well, (with all due respect) if you need to be paid to 'care' I feel like you might be doing life wrong.

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But you yourself said you did not know which sectors would have to adapt to get to net negative CO2 at least cost. I don't think it can be done w/o taxing CO2 emissions so as to align social and private (market) costs and benefits.

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Yeah, we might be at cross purposes here. I'm saying: stop signalling that giant fossil fuel extraction projects are ok. This tells companies that need to adapt, they need to start immediately.

You appear to be saying, it's ok to keep telling the world fossil fuel extraction is ok, provided emissions are paid for. This tells companies they need to address costs or increase prices, but they can keep emitting.

Generously-assuming an honest accounting for emissions in your ETS or carbon tax, both of our proposals would likely increase the cost to end-users. But only one of them actually reduces emissions.

Frankly, I think we're at the point where we need to do it all. Tax and regulate and invest and inspire (especially big influential countries) and educate. We are already behind on ambitious targets. I just feel the evidence points to a 'market solution' being a pretty optimistic approach, given what is at stake.

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I'm talking to "environmentalists asking them to work for policies to reduce demand for CO2 emissions (tax on net emissions being the least costly way), not trying to prevent the supply of CO2 emissions case by arbitrary case. And the signal would be that other countries should do the same.

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