Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Green jobs update and theory-of-value arguments

My favorite jobs board, Clean, is still posting lots of those Saudi Aramco jobs, but the new development in the last few weeks is a boom in hiring for energy analysts and auditors in California.

It isn't hard to figure out why.

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The landmark California climate change mitigation law has passed its various court tests and survived until the big Implementation Day. This has been a six-year wait, and there have been a lot of strange bets placed and weird hedges made in the meantime, including a ballot provision challenge, but it's finally down to the wire and time to hire.

Of course, the free-marketeers will cry out that these jobs being spurred by climate change legislation aren't "real jobs." In doing so, of course, they are using the theory-of-value argument that there's no real value of economic production created by environmental regulation, that all that we're creating is a complicated market of arbitrage centered around an actual fact of industrial decline due to environmental over-regulation.

I think that's utter claptrap and nonsense, of course.

The real value that is created is inherent, first and foremost, in abated future climate change (assuming other states and world regions follow suit -- see my recent post for Revkin's NYT blog about how this might be made to happen economically and diplomatically), second, in non-climate related pollution reduction improvements (such as reduction of lost work and school days due to asthma, for instance, but there are many others), and third, but not least, large future reduction in dollars needed to patrol the middle east militarily since the Carter Doctrine was first promulgated.

Besides, you can't have it both ways. If reducing emissions is zero-sum game or net-loss arbitrage in terms of a theory of value, what is stock market speculation?

I'm fond of my own personal theory of value argument, which says that we should get back to a more physical theory of value, and move away from marketing spin and claptrap.

Actually, to be more forceful here, I don't think we can abate or mitigate climate change unless we get back to a more physical theory of value. If all we do is spin, we'll keep adding to atmospheric carbon. Then all we'll be left with is adaptation, and adaptation in the force of grave geopolitical danger to boot.

Which at heart will be a forced superstorm of global revaluation, won't it? Never mind the most extreme test of societal leadership in human history.

The root theory of value question is, well, "what is it, actually, that we hold most dear?"

If you're a farmer who feeds his family and maintains and heats his own home, this is not that hard of a question to answer. First and foremost, I value the food on my plate that I grow myself, the house and barn that I maintain myself, the logs in my woodpile, and the physical capital of cost-effective, energy-efficient, labor-saving machines, that I own and maintain myself, that help me produce these valuable physical goods with less labor than would otherwise be required.

Now, extrapolate to the greater society.

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