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June 30, 2006

Intense Gas

By Brian Beutler

Why do people keep mentioning this? Perhaps if the biosphere really gave a shit how we allocate our carbon molecules on a per-dollar basis, then our low Greenhouse Gas Intensity might make a difference. But that's silly. We could also, by the way, fabricate a ratio between carbon emissions and happiness indices, or carbon emissions and middle-class savings (two other arbitrarily selected measurements of economic health) and the outcome would be embarrasing--and equally useless to the problem at hand.

Ok, to be fair, there is something slightly mitigating about the fact that much of the world benefits from our rich society--just like they benefit from living in our giant military penumbra. But this is a non-sequitur for a few reasons, not least of which is that much of the world also SUFFERS because of our rich society and giant military penumbra.

If we were a totally responsible society, and could legitimately say that every product that emerged from our carbon economy went to improving people's lives, then it might be fair to assume that a different configuration of the global economy might actually make the world a more polluted, dangerous place. But that's just it: If our economy were THAT socially conscious, it would be much, much smaller, it wouldn't export carbon emitting factories that produce plastic Mickey Mouse toys to China, and it would reinvest a tremendous share of its profits into transitioning to cleaner energy. The fact is, we have an extraordinarily selfish, service-based, consumer-driven economy in the United States right now, and--with all of the muster and hours we toss into making this country so rich--the fact that we remain so reckless and myopic about the atmosphere should be a scandal, not a point of pride.

Oh, and PS, that second link came from this Andrew Sullivan post. I'm sure it's just unclear writing, but when he said, "American emissions of carbon dioxide all but halted in 2004 - 2005," I did an outrageous double take. What halted was GROWTH of carbon emissions. We're still belching out way WAY too much.

June 30, 2006 | Permalink


Is the US really holding flat in carbon emissions -- i.e., did growth really stop in 2004-05? If so, that's better than I figured. (Not good enough, of course.) Is there a source for that claim? I'd love to read more.

Posted by: Glenn | Jun 30, 2006 2:25:20 PM

I've got some intense gas right now.

Posted by: Adrock | Jun 30, 2006 4:26:25 PM

Adrock, I came back to this post in order to post the same thing.

Great minds do think alike. . .

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