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NeoNotes — Best intentions - updated

The problem is that the best intentions can lead to the worst results. Once enshrined in law, this is almost inevitable. For example, a few years ago Congress passed a law that required gasoline to be mixed with a certain percentage of ethanol because ethanol is supposed to be better for the environment. Except it can't be just any cellulose, there's no way to produce ethanol on a large scale without food crops. These take more effort and more fuel to produce. There's no way that ethanol can be produced cheaply so it requires government subsidies to compete. Since ethanol is heavily subsidized, there's a whole batch of politics that act as a third order function. Oh, and ethanol is less stable than gasoline so it takes more to transport and store it. And after Bush the Younger announced the effort, there was an immediate (second order function) spike in the worldwide prices of corn, dairy products, and beef.

So ethanol requires more to make and requires subsides (higher taxes) to compete. Legally requiring more ethanol drives up food prices. Ethanol has a much greater environmental impact by at least one order of magnitude. And the whole thing is tangled in politics up to the Presidential level.

Yet because of the law, people believe that ethanol is good for the planet. And since it's law (and immensely profitable), it can't be changed easily.

This isn't the only example of good intentions leading to bad law and making things worse.

Making new law or changing old law should be an absolute last resort. Too many times legislatures rush in to "fix" a problem and end up making things worse.

In the name of "saving the Earth," we've mandated a bad idea that makes things worse by nearly any measure. And there is no easy way to change it even though we know It's A Really Bad Idea™. It is enshrined in law and government will resist any change. The first excuse will always be "Well, at least we're trying."

At best government has a hit or miss record on the environment. But once government is involved, how does the average guy tell the Official Authorities that they are screwing things up? How do you change a Bad Idea once it becomes the legal norm? What do you do when government forces bad law onto people and punishes them for dissenting?

Once there is an Official Solution® even if it's a really really bad one, government will resist any attempt to make it better.

That's why environmental activism isn't good. We don't know enough in most cases. The easy ones, air and water pollution, well we made a good start. It's another version of the Pareto principle, that last twenty percent of the solution will be eighty percent of the costs..

NeoNotes are the selected comments that I made on other boards, in email, or in response to articles where I could not respond directly.

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