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New West Daily Roundup for Feb. 27, 2017

MSU, Montana State University

Today in New West news: 406 Labs at Montana State University fosters startups; audio of Herbert, OIA call released; and UC Boulder researchers debut metamaterial providing “paper-thin air-conditioning.”

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A Free-Marketeer Asks: What Is The Solution To Our Energy Future?

"I find it interesting that green activists and their political allies uniformly favor dramatic and draconian action to avert climate change," writes Pete Geddes. "Serious policy analysts are different; they generally favor less dramatic action applied over the long term." Mr. Geddes, executive vice president of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE), a Libertarian think tank headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, returns once again to the theme of climate change and possible alternatives to carbon-based energy. Implying that the body of scientific evidence affirming human-caused global warming appears to be partisan and unconvincing, he writes: "Despite assurances to the contrary from Al Gore, there are large uncertainties regarding the physical processes driving climate change." In the essay which follows that is sure to elicit a response from readers—including a reply, hopefully, from scientists out there—Geddes makes a number of pointed assertions. We, at New West, are adding our discussion questions in parenthesis and we hope you will join in. "Over the next fifty years," Geddes writes, "the world’s developing nations will seek to emulate the West’s material success. Their leaders know that improving the quality of life for their citizens requires more, not less, energy consumption." (Our response is: What about China? There, 550 brand new old-technology coal-fired power plants are scheduled to come on line at the rate of almost one per week over the next decade, exacerbating what is already the worst air quality affecting hundreds of millions of people. Those plants also serve as a major source of greenhouse gases affecting climate worldwide. Indeed, Chinese leaders are right now employing Geddes' argument about quality of life being improved by racing industrialization, based upon the burning of oil and coal, but the net effect of this case study is also huge public health problems, water shortages, and an unprecedented environmental disaster growing in magnitude. How is the free-market going to remedy this and who will pay for it)? While once again advocating for a market-based carbon trading program, Geddes points to another possibility: "A different approach involves the interesting question of geoengineering, i.e., our ability to manipulate the global climate through, say, space-based mirrors or carbon from jet exhaust. This is a serious area of research and raises important questions and possibilities. Among them, what temperature do we want and who decides? Do we let the Maldive Islanders decide, since future sea level rise could submerge their homes? The Russians might prefer some moderate warming, to increase agriculture in Siberia and provide ice-free ports. I’ll explore this topic further in a future column." New West looks forward to Geddes' next column on that subject. Meantime, we pose another question for discussion: (Mr. Geddes appears to put a lot of faith and promise in the very same scientific community that many of his skeptical peers have either dismissed or claimed as not being credible. Many skeptics have also asserted that humankind is not capable of being a significant force in altering climate. If that is the case, then perhaps he could explain the apparent paradox in his argument in which he points to the "uncertainty" of humans influencing climate, on the one hand, and yet being poised, through scientific technology, to provide a manipulated fix)?

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A Free-Marketeer Asks: Are We Ready For $6 A Gallon Gas?

What is the cost of addressing climate change? In this guest column, John Baden, chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, acknowledges that climate change is happening but what to do about it is another matter. Baden suggests that any solution could mean undesireable social welfare tradeoffs.

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