Quote of the Day: Tom Seager on the Cost of Sustainability

Sustainability requires cooperation. You have to discard the idea of Adam Smith economics, which says that it's better for society if everyone is working in their own self-interest, and move towards the economics of John Nash, which says we can find a better outcome if we work collectively. The question about whether it "costs the consumer" implies that sustainability is like some kind of add-on feature -- like power windows or side-impact air bags. That's not the right way to think about sustainability at all.

For example, it is true that abandoning coal-fired power plants would require an increase in electricity costs. But if everyone did it, we'd all be better off. The only way it "costs" is if some people do it, but others "cheat." Our economic system can't handle a cost discrepancy between green and black power. But it can handle a uniform cost increase for all power. Think of it this way: If you could run your manufacturing firm today on $25/bbl oil -- which is what we had just a few years ago—you would have an incredible competitive advantage. But you can't. All firms have to pay $80/bbl. That's more than triple the oil cost in three years. We still have rapidly expanding economies all over the world. So "cost" is not the big issue, at the moment -- it's "comparative costs."

Read the rest of Tom Seager's provocative Q&A; over at ::Core77

Tags: Economics | Oil | Quotes


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