How NIMBYs Can Make the Planet Worse Off
From "How Environmentalism Misses the Forest for the Trees," by Edward L. Glaeser in the NY Times Economix blog:
Homes in coastal California use much less energy than homes in most other places in the country. New building in California, as opposed to Texas, reduces America’s carbon emissions. Yet, instead of fighting to make it easier to build in California, environmentalists have played a significant role stemming the growth of America’s greenest cities.
Why is California so green?
The primary reason is climate. January temperature does a terrific job of explaining carbon emissions from home heating and July temperature does almost as well at explaining electricity usage. California has the most temperate climate in the country and as a result, homes use less heat in the winter and less electricity in the summer. In hot, humid Houston or frigid Minneapolis, people use plenty of energy to artificially recreate what California has naturally.
Environmentalists should, presumably, be out there lobbying for more homes in coastal California, but instead, for more than four decades, California environmental groups, such as Save the Bay, have fought new construction in the most temperate, lowest carbon-emission area of the country.
This anti-growth movement has achieved enormous successes, and the growth rate of California has plummeted. In the 20 years that ended in 1970, California’s population increased by 88%. Between 2000 and 2007, the population of California grew by less than 8%, which is slightly more than the growth of the United States population. California’s low growth doesn’t reflect lack of demand (prices remain quite high) or lack of land (densities are low), but instead one of the most regulated building environments in the country.
The local opponents of construction don’t have the ability to stop building in the United States as a whole, which hums along at roughly the rate of new household formation. When California’s anti-growth activists restrict building in California, then construction increases in Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. These three areas are both among the nation’s five most carbon-intensive living areas and among the four fastest-growing metropolitan areas. To be complete, California’s mandated environmental-impact reviews should ask not only about the impact on the local environment if a project proceeds, but also about the impact on global environment if the project gets moved elsewhere.
MP: Charles Krauthammer made a similar point about how the "drill-there-not-here" mentality simply exports environment damage overseas:
Does Nancy Pelosi imagine that with so much of America declared off-limits to oil production, the planet is less injured as drilling shifts to Kazakhstan and Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea? That Russia will be more environmentally scrupulous than we in drilling in its Arctic?
The net environmental effect of Pelosi's no-drilling willfulness is negative. Outsourcing U.S. oil production does nothing to lessen worldwide environmental despoliation. It simply exports it to more corrupt, less efficient, more unstable parts of the world -- thereby increasing net planetary damage.