Beisner: Nonsense, because the corporations always have to meet all their costs including taxes and license fees and everything else. They’ve got to meet all their costs, and you know how they do that? They charge for their goods and services, big surprise. So you know consumers, ordinary people, pay all the costs. So it’s not just going to be the corporations that get hit. The corporations will pass all the costs on to you and me.
Pastore: I want to make sure people understand that we’re not talking about chemicals in the water, dirty air, throwing trash out the window when you’re driving….
Beisner: Rather irresponsible things.
Pastore: …there are policies out there that are nutty that don’t do anything to address the situation.
Beisner: One of the clearest examples that we’ve seen recently is the food riots that have started up around the world. The prices of basic staple foods, the various grains have more than doubled in a single year. Now for you and me, in a rich country, where we spend an average of about 15 percent of our annual budget on food, you bring up the price of food by say 10 percent or something like that—after ironing it out to all the other kinds of foods. That means we go from 15 percent of our budget to 16.5 percent.
But in very poor countries a lot of people spend 75 percent of their budgets on basic food stuffs. You double the price of those and you starve people. That’s exactly what happened. That’s the kind of short-sightedness that is behind so many of the policies being pushed to fight global warming. It came on basically because of the desire to try to turn corn into ethanol to reduce our CO2 emissions. Now, even that was short sighted because as it turns out, when you count all our CO2 that gets emitted in the process of planting and raising and harvesting and transporting and refining the corn, the burning it through your car—that puts just as much CO2 into the atmosphere as drilling for oil and refining that and burning that through your car.
Pastore: I read something about the percentage of man-created CO2 is minimal to the…
Beisner: Yes, my word it’s very, very small…
Pastore: But you get the idea that CO2 is this toxic chemical that you have to put a HazMat suit on to get around.
Beisner: CO2 is most definitely not a toxic chemical. CO2 is a chemical absolutely vital for life. If you didn’t have CO2 in your bloodstream you wouldn’t breathe because your autonomic nervous system responds to the level of CO2 in the bloodstream to cause you to breathe. So when that happens that’s when you take a breath. If you didn’t have enough CO2 you wouldn’t breathe. But plants have to have CO2 in order to grow. They take in CO2. CO2 is for plants as oxygen is to us. They starve without it and the more CO2 you give them the better they grow. Which means CO2 is really a good thing.
Our planet has been basically starved for CO2 for the last several thousand years by comparison with the times when it was as its optimum when the earth was covered with lush vegetation. CO2 is minimal now. We are just beginning to recover a little bit of that and the result of it is a great increase of plant growth around the world, a shrinking in deserts and an increase—most importantly—in agricultural crop yields which means more food and lower prices for food. So if we are pushing down CO2 we are pushing up the price of food. If we are pushing down CO2 by fighting the use of the cheapest energy sources—oil, coal, and natural gas—then we are also pushing up the prices of food that way as well. And that means we’re starving people.
Pastore: If you had say a hundred million dollars to invest in order to help the environment, help the world’s poor, how would you do it?
Beisner: Well, I don’t have to be the one to make that analysis myself because a group called the Copenhagen Consensus has done that repeatedly. Their most recent report came out just a couple of months ago. They said that if they had, actually they were asking if I had $70 billion, where would I put it? The number one place would be micro nutrient supplements for children—vitamin A and Zinc to fight malnutrition.
Beisner: Number two would be the Doha round of the World Free Trade Development Agenda. That is the expansion of free trade. Because free trade leads to economic development and that’s what the poor need more then anything else. And you know where global warming mitigation efforts fell?
Pastore: Probably number three.
Beisner: [Laughing] No, 29 and 30 out of 30.
Beisner: They’re terrible. They cost more than the benefits that can be projected coming from them. They are a total waste. Not only by themselves but more importantly also because they rob money from these other actions that would be more helpful. If you spent $250 billion trying to fight CO2 emission you can’t spend that same money on micronutrients supplements for children. As a result more children die….
This was not just a group of smart guys. This was eight world class economists. Five of whom are Noble Prize economists. Reading papers by scores of experts on the various different policy options looked at. Many, many, policy options—far more than 30—and they narrowed it down to 30 and global warming mitigation falls at the bottom.