Happy Earth Day to the Entrepreneurs!
The business of conservation.
5:40 PM, Apr 22, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
On this day, often dedicated to genuflecting to Gaia and her regulatory, busy-body apostles, it's worth remembering that capitalism bought us the luxury of having environmentalists in the first place, and the free market has greened large parts of the world without their help.
Don Boudreaux keeps a running log of his observations of this phenomenon under the heading "Cleaned by Capitalism."
It's also a function of our societal wealth allowing us the economic trade-offs of environmental regulation without depriving us of basic needs and wants.
It's been said by critics that conservatives need a message of their own on the environment, that making fun of Earth Day (while fun) won't cut it. I certainly think being critical of scientists who "hide the decline" and bureaucrats who would institutionalize political favoritism and cripple economies with a bogus carbon trading scheme are worthy causes. But I also think critics are right about small-government conservatives thinking outside the box on this issue. As with health care, a conservative opposition without a coherent plan and push on an issue leaves a vacuum for statists.
So, what might be an alternative? How about conservation's small businessmen? Meet John Logan, a Mississippi farmer who turned chicken poop into a power source, and his power source into an international business.
I don't usually believe the hype from liberals about conservatives speaking to each other in code words, but the word "conservationist" is important. I'm pretty sure Logan just told us he's no nutty, lefty environmentalist. He's not comfortable with the word "environmentalist," but he cares about his land and his business. There are thousands like him, who may share the basic value of environmental stewardship with the greens, but who will not be reached by their emotional and often self-righteous rhetoric.
So, what did this conservationist do? Something that could make him a hero to NPR listeners and Weekly Standard readers alike. Imagine that:
Logan now sells the digesters in several countries around the world for $500,000 a pop from his company Eagle Green Energy. A cleaner chicken farm, a richer farmer, and a healthier local economy all with minimal (if any) taxpayer money. (The article doesn't specify whether Logan got federal environmental grants, but we'll count the professors' research time as some state money involved.)
And, how do we spur more of this kind of conservation? Most liberals would say we should start subsidizing chicken poop digesters for everyone and their momma. But the EPA's assessment suggests there might be an easier and cheaper route:
Republicans should be the ones arguing for regulatory structures to be streamlined and demystified so more conservationist small businessmen can help conserve the Earth and the economy.
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