Archive for May, 2011

Reverse Greenwashing; or, It’s Not Easy Being Green

May 23, 2011 9 comments

Part of the reason it is difficult to advance environmental protection policies is that it is difficult to inform and educate oneself on environmental issues. The issues have substantial scientific components, usually requiring specialized knowledge. Because humans live in the environment and most all of our actions affect the environment in some way, environmental proposals also often have the feature of affecting these many areas of our lives. By contrast, the conventional way of thinking about most types of legislative proposals– for example, health care, narcotic policy, or foreign policy– is that they are compartmentalized, directly comparable only as to their price. Environmental policies typically require expenditures too, but they are not so easily compartmentalized, and their effects more apparently spill over to other areas of policy and life. This results in incentives for and allegations of the politicization of science, which feeds back into the initial point: it is difficult to inform and educate oneself on environmental concerns, and this is an impediment to effective policy decisions. Typically, these informational hurdles result in inaction, but they also can result in bad policy. Federal ethanol subsidies– which had many unintended, negative consequences while failing to achieve environmental benefits– are an example of the latter. See here; see also here.

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