Any sincere theory of property rights would bankrupt the energy sector

Originally published at:


I really don’t think we can pin this on the energy companies and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.

Anyone who uses energy is to some degree complicit in the environmental degradation caused by energy production. Even renewable energy requires industrial processes to build the equipment such as photovoltaic panels.

We need to use consumer pressure to get energy companies to diverge from the most harmful production, such as coal and fracking, and move into renewables. This is already happening in many countries.


But in a market-driven system the costs of property damage would still be borne by the energy companies and passed on to the consumer, thus creating financial incentives for consumers to choose less environmentally damaging energy sources.

That’s not what’s happening. We’re living in a world of privatized profits and socialized losses.


Of course that will always happen. We ended up in this situation because we didn’t put a price on causing climate change. But there will always be something we haven’t yet thought to cost, and people seeking to make money without any social responsibility will always be looking for that thing and exploiting it. What if casinos had to pay the cost of problem gambling? What if banks, when a mortgage was defaulted on, had to pay the cost to society of repairing that situation? What if employers had to pay the cost of harming their employees mental health by requiring unethical practices?

The commons is always there for the picking.


The fossil fuel industry itself deserves the lion’s share of the blame regarding these matters. They’re the one’s propagandizing the world against any remedy to the problems which their meal ticket creates. They’re the one’s sponsoring the climate change denying politicians. They’re the one’s who are attacking fuel standards and clean air regulations.


The linked article specifically refers to “the staggering economic costs that are expected to result from climate change” and “whether these producers of fossil fuels should pay for anticipated harm that will eventually flow from a rise in sea level”. Has some of the most valuable property already been destroyed…?

(And here I need to specify that of course climate change and the threat of rising sea levels are real things, because someone will accuse me of believing to the contrary if I don’t.)

And don’t forget to mention the underlying legalised tragedy of the commons and regulatorily denied costs of any externalities which actually lead to the effect you accurately describe

I’m on the “blame the consumer” side. This has been discussed publicly for a long time; we know what we’ve been doing. “I’ll stop consuming when a tank of gas costs $1000, and it’s somebody else’s problem to restructure the economy until that accurate economic feedback happens” is not a moral position … when you already know what you’re doing It’s like saying “I’ll stop when she protests” when you can see she’s been gagged! (But you know what you are doing.)

Quite a lot of carbon emissions are from choosing to fly on vacation rather than taking a bus, or driving rather than cycling. Who bent your arm up behind your back on those decisions?

Energy industries are so big they have to be handled by regulation. It’s better to get on with that, than with court lawsuits that divert money from engineers (like my good self) to lawyers (like my brother, who hasn’t called in months, the jerk).


Why do you think they’re fighting so desperately against the idea that humans cause climate change? Because the very next question is, “which humans?”


International CC agreements are based on emissions, i.e. where FF are burned, not where they are dug up.
This seems to be a blame-the-user philosophy which absolves the FF industry.

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Even if we could, by some miracle, go carbon neutral today we’re still locked in for rising sea levels for a long time to come.



Blame the consumer is classist horseshit.

I didn’t consent to this con game and you can’t make me culpable solely because I play along enough to shit sleep and eat.




However, those price signals would only kick in after the damage had occurred and legal action taken.
The invisible hand is asleep at the wheel.


This is why carbon pricing is necessary, preferably revenue neutral to avoid the charge of “just another tax grab”. The American consumer isn’t going to stop buying ever larger pickup trucks unless there is a cost attached.


Green New Deal launch party livestream tonight 8PM Eastern U.S. time:


If you are driving a car and I point out that you are going towards a schoolyard full of children, are you responsible for anything before you actually hit the kids? What if you spend a lot of money and shout at me that I am wrong, it isn’t certain that we will hit the kids, how do we know they won’t die before we even arrive. All the while wasting valuable ‘brakes using’ or ‘wheel turning’ time.

If using the brakes or turning the wheel are less profitable than going straight ahead, then we know what the fossil fuel companies would say and do.

You’d have a pretty hard time making a case that the kids are already injured when the car is still some distance away.

Perhaps the time will come when the energy sector is somehow held accountable for the loss of valuable property, but it seems to me it is difficult to do so when said property is not demonstrably lost. (In the meantime, I expect the people who actually own such property will have a merry game of hot potato and of pointing fingers at each other.)

Speaking of which…