Some Spin from Adler

On the lookout for miscommunication at the Science Skeptics conference, it was interesting to hear the gentle spin from Professor Jonathon Alder. In a presentation entitled The Fables of Environmental Regulations: A Re-examination of the Reasons for Federal Environmental Regulations, Dr. Adler built an impressive case suggesting that any federal intervention in the environmental regulatory field was problematic.

In fairness, Adler never said as much; in fact, he concluded by saying that it is complicated and that people should set aside their preconceptions that corporations are uniformly evil, that environmental groups are noble and that government is here to help. Hard to argue. But the uniformity of Adler’s examples worked to deny that there was any federal involvement in the improvements in air or water pollution in the last 30 years. Hard to believe.

I did enjoy his description of the coincident forces that can sometimes align to move government policy. He referred to “Baptists” and “Bootleggers”—a literal set of allies who once ganged up to argue against the opening of liquor stores on Sunday. The Baptists wanted people sober and in church; the bootleggers wanted the Sunday market to themselves.

Adler argues that similar allegiances have arisen in the political lobbying for climate change legislation, with environmental “moralists” joining forces with “bootleggers” like the nuclear industry and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy – renewable energy producers looking for a leg up in a market in which they cannot otherwise compete.

It’s unfortunate that this alliance appears to have been just as unsuccessful as those who campaigned against the liberalization of liquor laws.