Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An American Perspective on Joe Oliver's Open Letter

Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress commented on Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver's open letter.  It's interesting to see foreign opinions on the issue since foreign interests are a key component of this problem.

You might remember Alex from some exceptional interviews he did with clueless Occupiers last year.  He also had a debate with a Greenpeace preacher and I was very impressed.  I've been following him ever since.

Here is what he had to say about the labyrinthine green regulations in the United States: 
The most important story about the American economy is the one that gets the least attention. America has enormous, incalculable, untapped potential to revolutionize its economy through industrial progress–through far greater productivity in energy production, in manufacturing, in construction, in mining, in transportation. But our industrial progress is halted by a labyrinth of so-called “green” policies–policies that have nothing to do with protecting Americans from pollution, and everything to do with protecting wilderness from Americans. At Center for Industrial Progress, we call this The Green Gauntlet. 

Sounds familiar.

Naturally he applauds Minister Oliver saying:
It is exciting to see a prominent official blast Green obstruction of industrial progress.
 It is exciting.  Its so clear and direct that I thought it was a letter to the Minister at first read.  I can't praise it enough.  Joe Oliver's letter is a battle cry to anyone who loves this country and cares about its future.  It's time we pushed back.

Alex Epstein's solution however is increased property rights.  While I support property rights and would welcome strengthening them, I'm not sure its the best solution to our regulatory problem.  If your property rights are infringed then you sue for damages. This isn't the way to prevent accidents.  The fear of litigation has its place but this alone isn't enough.

An ounce of regulation prevents a pound of litigation.  The trouble is we haven't got an ounce, we've got tons.  Its way out of proportion to the actual risks and its run by people who have an interest in prolonging their bureaucrat jobs.  The filibuster effect is a partnership between the folks running it and the folks abusing it.  Its a partnership against many thousands of Canadian citizens who would directly benefit from the project and the many millions who would benefit indirectly.

I have a simple solution to this problem.  We start holding these hearings in parallel.  Every 100 people who wish to speak should generate another venue to speak simultaneously.  The 4000 people registered would pass through 40 separate and simultaneous hearings.  This would drastically reduce the length of the process.  While it could be expensive at first, the fact that these special interests can't filibuster the process will stop them from trying.  Eventually only the essential parties will wish to participate. 

It's not at all true that every voice that expresses a desire to be heard should get to speak in these hearings.  There should be some process to winnow out 3rd graders, cartoon characters and foreign activists.   We could add application fees that could even be reimbursed if an application to speak is granted.

There are all kinds of options.  There are reasonable options.  I do not want the Northern Gateway Pipeline to end up being the Avro Arrow of our generation.

Here is Alex Epstein's debate with Greenpeace.  They mention Keystone and the Oil Sands (though they say Tar Sands, don't take offense, eco-nuts perpetuate the old name).  All of the arguments are the same so its worth watching for your own discussions.  Its also pretty entertaining if you like debates.

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