Do environmentalists see only solutions, and not problems, in government? 

Over at Grist, a liberal environmentalist website, staff writer Jonathan Hiskes lays out “10 ways to kick the offshore-oil habit.” I was interested because it seems to me that if we didn’t need to drill for oil offshore, that would be better, all else being equal.

But I noticed a few disappointing things about this list:

  1. This wasn’t a list telling readers to change personal behavior.
  2. The list didn’t call for the end of any drilling subsidies or oil subsidies.
  3. Generally, the list leans on government doing more.

This highlights a political weakness of the environmental movement. They always seem to be calling for more regulation. To be fair, this list, Grist’s David Roberts points out to me, has plenty of proposals that are about making government programs “smarter” rather than just bigger, but I would add there’s plenty that could be done to “kick the offshore oil habit” that can be done by shrinking government:

  1. Eliminate the $75 million cap on economic damages on oil spills.
  2. Stop subsidizing driving by subsidizing roads.
  3. End all other oil drilling subsidies.
  4. Liberalize zoning laws that compel people to drive more (Hiskes suggests a similar plan of “smarter” zoning).

I’m a big proponent of finding Left-Right ad hoc alliances. Free-market environmentalism could be a crux of such alliances if conservatives stop sticking up for big companies and liberals stop demanding more government.

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Timothy P. Carney

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