Public Comment

The Trickle-Down Theory of Global Warming

Russ Tilleman
Friday January 22, 2016 - 12:49:00 PM

Some of us might remember Reaganomics, and the idea that lower taxes for the rich would somehow put more money in the pockets of the non-rich. Now a similarly absurd approach is being used to "fight" global warming.

Greenwashed toys only the rich can afford, which will do nothing to reduce global warming, are predicted to cause non-rich people to do other things that will reduce global warming.

Two examples come to mind: Tesla and the California High Speed Rail project. 


A $70,000 Tesla Model S produces carbon similar to a 31 mile-per-gallon gasonline-powered car. 

A $24,000 Toyota Prius get 50 miles per gallon. 

So mile-for-mile, a Tesla does almost twice the environmental damage as a Prius. And that is without considering the huge difference in price between the two cars. 

The $46,000 price difference, if spent on carbon offset credits, could get rid of the carbon the Prius would emit in ONE THOUSAND YEARS of typical daily driving. 

The numbers are a lot worse if a Tesla and a Prius are each driven for 20 years before being scrapped. The waste of the $46,000 that could have paid for carbon offset credits makes the Tesla's carbon footprint about the same as a 1 mile-per-gallon gasoline-powered car. 

Yet people who call themselves environmentalists claim that Teslas are good for the planet. That rich people driving around in expensive and evironment-destroying luxury cars will somehow convince average Americans to conserve energy. 

California High-Speed Rail  

The California High Speed Rail project is the most expensive public-works project in the history of the United States. It is estimated to cost up to $100 billion by the time it is finished. And yet, careful analysis by the Department of Civil and Evironmental Engineering at UC Berkeley has shown that this project might produce NO EVNIRONMENTAL BENEFITS AT ALL. 

In 2010, Mikhail Chester and Arpad Horvath summed up this research in a paper: "Life-cycle assessment of high-speed rail: the case in California". And in 2012, they were interviewed for an article in Berkeley News: "Future of California high-speed rail looks green". 

From the Berkeley News article: 

"The greenhouse gas emission-equivalent for a typical airplane carrying 116 passengers would be a train carrying 130-280 passengers." 


“this is not the answer to the state’s greenhouse gas goals. This is a tiny piece of the puzzle.” 

In other words, a CHSR train might emit between 12 percent and 141 perent MORE carbon than an airliner carrying the same people. 

So California is throwing away $100,000,000,000.00 that could have been used to really help the environment. That much money would put solar panels on 5 million homes. Or do equally good things like build wind turbines or save parts of the Earth's rainforests. 

Again, this is somehow supposed to convince Americans to stop driving their cars and ride a bus or train that won't take them from where they live to where they work or back again. 

The Tragedy of All This 

Global warming is real and we should be doing everything we can afford to do to combat it. And there are things we can do. But our corrupt political system keeps our society from doing the things that should be done. 

- Wealthy people with a profit motive, and misguided would-be environmentalists with big public relations budgets, make false claims about how green their projects are. 

- The media parrots these falsehoods without even bothering to do any fact-checking. 

- Honest Americans who want to save the planet are bombarded with this misinformation until it becomes accepted as fact. 

- Government pays for foolish projects that won't help anything. 

- Developers kick some of that money back to the elected officials. 

- The cycle repeats over and over again. 

We saw this locally with AC Transit's Bus Rapid Transit project. Even after Berkeley killed it, the New York Times attacked us for being anti-environmentalists. And they used the same ridiculous claim AC Transit had concocted: that BRT was just like a subway but with buses. 

What Can We Do? 

- We can elect people who won't lie to us, who won't sell us out to special interest groups in return for campaign contributions. 

- We can spend a few dollars a month on carbon offset credits to get rid of the carbon we produce driving our cars or just living our lives. 

- We can stop and think whenever a well-financed public relations department tells us a whopper like diesel-powered buses driving on the street are just like electic-powered subway trains in dedicated tunnels. 

And when someone stands up and says "hey these people are lying to you", we can consider whether they might be right before we attack them as anti-environmentalists.