Thursday, February 08, 2007

Global Warming Fears Cause Local Freezing

From the WSJ:

Some school districts are blaming a recent federal mandate to switch to a less-polluting diesel fuel for a spate of school-bus breakdowns that left thousands of kids stranded and shivering in the extreme cold this week.

On Monday, when temperatures dipped below zero in East Allen County, Ind., 36 of the county's 155 school buses started up fine but soon conked out because the new fuel, thickening in the cold, clogged fuel filters. That same day, 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh, Hempfield area schools had the same problem with 26 of their 80 buses.

The malfunction is evidently caused by ultra-low-sulphur fuel, which has 15 parts per million sulphur compared to the normal 500 ppm. Below the fold (which requires subscription) the article admits that there are additives to the fuel which can prevent these sorts of problems, but those additives add $0.37/gallon to an already subsidized cost of $1.93/gallon (nearly a 20% increase). In other words, as usual, the attempt to solve existing problems entails other problems with unforseen costs.

But the real story here is that we have traded real suffering in the present to achieve a slight future impact on an ephemeral and unproven global "crisis". Any one of those kids could have gotten seriously ill or, God forbid, died due to standing out in sub-zero weather. The astute reader will note that this is the same sort of tradeoff we saw with the DDT ban. I still say it is not worth it.

(This post would not be complete without a totally gratuitous mention of the fact that school buses would not be nearly as vulnerable to bad government policy if the schools were privatized.)

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