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Wagner and Weitzman’s Asymmetric Treatment of Non-Carbon Energies

Summary:
In his well-deserved victory lap about his bet with Daniel Reeves, co-blogger Bryan Caplan points out that one major flaw in Gernot Wagner’s and Martin L. Weitzman’s book Climate Shock is its treatment or, rather, non-treatment of nuclear power. Bryan writes: Wagner and Weitzman barely mention nuclear power or the absurd regulatory burden under which it labors.  This fits with the Social Desirability Bias story, and makes me further distrust them. In a comment on Bryan’s post, bettor Daniel Reeves responds: I may be more trusting than you but I’d only have distrusted them on those grounds if they’d argued against nuclear energy. Wagner and Weitzman think policy intervention should be limited to carbon taxes. Nuclear energy doesn’t emit carbon so they are

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Wagner and Weitzman’s Asymmetric Treatment of Non-Carbon Energies

In his well-deserved victory lap about his bet with Daniel Reeves, co-blogger Bryan Caplan points out that one major flaw in Gernot Wagner’s and Martin L. Weitzman’s book Climate Shock is its treatment or, rather, non-treatment of nuclear power.

Bryan writes:

Wagner and Weitzman barely mention nuclear power or the absurd regulatory burden under which it labors.  This fits with the Social Desirability Bias story, and makes me further distrust them.

In a comment on Bryan’s post, bettor Daniel Reeves responds:

I may be more trusting than you but I’d only have distrusted them on those grounds if they’d argued against nuclear energy. Wagner and Weitzman think policy intervention should be limited to carbon taxes. Nuclear energy doesn’t emit carbon so they are implicitly pro-nuclear. I’m sure they’d agree about the absurd regulatory burden as well. They do spend a lot of time in the book on the absurdity of the current fossil fuel subsidies, which I’m sure you also despise.

I think Dan is way more trusting than Bryan and way more trusting that is justified. I reviewed the book for Regulation in 2015-16 and read every page and every footnote. Reeves is right that the authors don’t argue against nuclear energy. But they have an asymmetric treatment of alternative non-carbon energies. On pages 17 and 18, they praise solar energy. On page 34 they advocate subsidizing innovation in solar panels. On page 144, they write: “Wind, solar, and all sorts of low-carbon technologies win.”

What goes unmentioned? The N-word: Nuclear.

If authors consider alternatives to carbon-based fuels and mention some explicitly, it’s reasonable to conclude that they don’t favor the ones they don’t mention at all.

You will find “nuclear” in the index, though. Here’s what you’ll find:

nuclear weapons, 94, 156, 194. See also terrorism.

David Henderson
David R. Henderson (born November 21, 1950) is a Canadian-born American economist and author who moved to the United States in 1972 and became a U.S. citizen in 1986, serving on President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984.[1] A research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution[2] since 1990, he took a teaching position with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in 1984, and is now a full professor of economics.[3]

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