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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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Green greed

Green politicking can do real harm

Tim Worstall has a superb rebuke to the idiotic argument that greedy speculation, rather than greenie politicking, was the real cause of the high food prices, hunger and food riots of 2008:

In short, futures allow speculation upon the future: which is why we have them, for speculation upon the future allows us to sidestep the very things which we do not desire to happen in that future.

Now, of course, you could design an alternative method of doing this. The wise, omniscient and altruistic  politicians and bureaucrats could send a fax to all farmers telling them to plant more. Signs could appear in every breadshop telling us all to eat our crusts.

Except, of course, those wise, omniscient and altruistic politicians and bureaucrats are precisely the fuckers that got us into the mess in the first place by insisting that we should put wheat into cars rather than people.

Rob Bradley has a superb series of posts on how it was not just greedy speculation, but also greenie politicking that got BP and Enron into trouble. I particularly treasure this quotation from the celebrity environmentalist Lester Brown in 1998:

"Within the fossil fuel industry itself … some companies such as Enron, British Petroleum, and Royal Dutch Shell are already looking to the future, and beginning to invest in alternative energy sources. Enron's chairman, Ken Lay, who publicly discusses the need to reduce carbon emissions and to stabilize climate, sees Enron at the heart of the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. The infrastructure it has built to store and distribute natural gas can one day be used for hydrogen as the solar/hydrogen economy unfolds…In an important speech at Stanford University in May 1997, British Petroleum's CEO, John Browne, said: 'The time to consider the policy dimensions of climate change is not when the link between greenhouse gases and climate change is conclusively proven, but when the possibility cannot be discounted and is taken seriously by the society of which we are a part. We in BP have reached that point.' This was a big jump for big oil."

Says Bradley:

Just imagine if John Brownehad used the time and resources BP spent on climate alarmism and 'beyond petroleum' on real safety and environmental issues.

BP might still have a capitalization of $150 billion and not face a potential worst-case scenario of bankruptcy and ruin. And more importantly, the U.S. Gulf would not be in an environmental crisis.

Just imagine if Enron's Ken Lay had used the time and resources spent on climate alarmism and forced energy transformationon accounting, risk control, and the real things that promote business sustainability. (Lay was a big Christopher Flavin/Worldwatch fantoo.)

Enron might still be with us today.

Diverted management attention has an opportunity cost. Left environmentalists lobbied and praised BP and Enron for putting form over substance. A few shouted 'greenwashing', but most applauded their coveted split within the fossil-fuel industry on climate and energy.

Enron is no longer around. Instead it has become the poster child of political capitalism run amuck. And the Deepwater Horizon accident-for which, in an effort to save about $5 million, BP will pay tens of billions of dollars-may sink BP as an independent company.