Energy policy isn’t about helping the environment

It’s worth remembering that lots of our environmental policy is wasteful or distortionary. Virginia Postrel writes about California’s new law banning incandescent light bulbs:

What matters, from a public policy perspective, isn’t any given choice but the total amount of electricity I use. If they’re really interested in environmental quality, policy makers shouldn’t care how households get to that total. They should just raise the price of electricity, through taxes or higher rates, to discourage using it.

Instead, the law raises the price of light bulbs, but not the price of using them. In fact, its supporters loudly proclaim that the new bulbs will cost less to use. If true, the savings could encourage people to keep the lights on longer. (via)

In 2009 I wrote about a similar California proposal to ban high-energy-use TV’s.

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One thought on “Energy policy isn’t about helping the environment

  1. Paul Hobbs

    I totally agree. As always, politics is about doing something that sounds good as opposed to actual change. Anyone serious about the environment would support a carbon tax, SO2 and NOx taxes etc. Cap and trade systems are a weaker substitute but also do the job.


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