Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Shorter Megan McArdle: You know why "we're" not interested in the carbon footprint of air travel? Because everyone who rides in a plane is a liberal.

Actually lots of people are interested in that footprint -- including the person writing the fucking article McArdle takes off from, but not limited to her. In fact, the International Air Travel Association has been working hard on it.

IATA also reports that "In 2012 air transport produced 689 million tonnes of CO2, around 2% of global CO2 emissions." Maybe McArdle's got a scarier number. Green organizations can certainly supply her with one, and then she can more effectively employ their own concerns as a stick to beat them with, using the patented we're-not-the-[blank]-YOU'RE-the-[blank] routine:
So why, pray tell, do we spend so much time talking about suburban sprawl and sport utilities, and so little time talking about FedEx and European vacations? 
The question answers itself, doesn’t it? Giving up air travel and overnight delivery is much more personally costly for the public intellectuals who write about this stuff than giving up a big SUV. If you live in one of the five or six major cities that contain virtually everyone who writes about climate change, having a small car (or no car), is a pretty easy adjustment to imagine. On the other hand, try to imagine giving up far-flung vacations, conferences, etc. -- especially since travel to interesting locales is one of the hidden perks of not-very-well remunerated positions at universities, public policy groups, nongovernmental organizations, and yes, news organizations.
This is basically the same schtick as the one about liberals not wanting to live with black people, or pay income tax, etc. You'd almost think they had a persecution complex.


  1. Let me guess: Bloomberg isn't sending her anywhere, and she's put out.

  2. Wow. Meegan dons the Archie Bunker suit.

  3. LittlePig12:08 PM

    Poor girl's as dumb as a sack of hammers. Bless her heart.

  4. TGuerrant12:15 PM

    I have written Ms. McArdle prayerfully urging her to throw her intellectual weight behind the contrails conspiracy.

  5. Yeah! Why can't liberals be like conservatives and not give a shit about carbon footprints under ANY circumstances?

  6. trizzlor12:18 PM

    The oddest part is that McCardle aptly answers her question in the very first paragraph:

    Why does air travel get left out of the mix when we’re talking about reducing our carbon footprint? One could argue, because cars matter more -- they’re the largest single contributor to climate change in the transportation sector.

    She then goes on for four more paragraphs investigating the differences between planes and cars and finally concludes the killer is LIBERAL ELITISM (in the Ballroom with the Frappuccino). Traditional debate involves detailing out your opponent's strongest argument and finding it's faults, the McCardle gambit is to detail the strongest argument and then proceed to ignore it.

  7. Halloween_Jack12:23 PM

    MegMac's doing the thing where she will bring up an inconvenient fact just to handwave it away:

    Air travel accounts for about 10 percent of all carbon emissions in the U.S., versus 36 percent for passenger cars -- and some of that is air freight.

    Oh, but that air travel is "unnecessary", mostly, supposedly. No one (with extremely few legitimate exceptions) needs a fucking SUV, but never mind. Also, as commenter DennisMN points out, "Of course as an alternative, we could consider upgrading our rail system to allow for either high-speed or higher speed rail, something that Megan has opposed."

    It's not surprising that elsewhere in Bloomberg, MegMac opposes lead paint liability lawsuits, because guess who's disproportionately affected by lead paint poisoning? Hint: not her or the class that she aspires to.

  8. Jesus Hubert Christ, what a fookin' tool she is! The problem with carbon emissions is structural and is deeply embedded in the world economic order. It is not just a matter of individual choice. For liberals to completely opt out of this order we're all stuck would entail a withdrawal from engagement with the wider world, which would amount to unilateral political disarmament. Wait a minute...

  9. Mark_Bzzzz12:25 PM

    Is there a valid comparison of the carbon footprint of traveling by car vs. plane? I would think that traveling 500 miles by SUV would burn a similar amount of fuel per person as traveling the same distance by plane, but it would take 3-4 times as long, even factoring in airport security and hassles. If both modes of travel have a similar carbon footprint, it would make sense to take the faster one. But I don't have the figures. so I'm just speculating. Not that that's anything that's ever been a problem for Meghan.

  10. Mark_Bzzzz12:33 PM

    CHEMtrails! Contrails are just water CONdensation (ice crystals, actually) and chemtrails are some kind of magic chemical which changes the climate and people's behavior. The odd thing is that they look just like contrails, although I've seen posts that they take on strange colors, mostly around sunset.

  11. bargal2012:57 PM

    I read somewhere that the queers are putting something in the water that turns it all the colors of the 'bow when you spray it from a hose in sunlight.

  12. redoubt1:05 PM

    No, this is what you sound like when you confine yourself to traveling the 225-odd miles between New York City and DC, using surface systems in place for at least 150 years; you not only take them for granted but can't understand why anyone would want to go anywhere else, especially by something as declasse as an airplane. (You can't physically separate yourself from the plebes if you're all in the same conveyance. . .)

  13. tigrismus1:07 PM

    Why does air travel get left out of the mix when we’re talking about reducing our carbon footprint?

    And of course it doesn't get left out of the mix in the first place. If she hasn't encountered talk it's because she avoids it.

  14. Giving up air travel and overnight delivery is much more personally costly for the public intellectuals who write about this stuff than giving up a big SUV.

    She ignores the fact that there are plenty of alternatives to owning a gas-guzzling SUV... ever notice how station wagons largely disappeared when SUVs became popular? Those femme-y, fogy station wagons fell under mileage standards while those macho SUVs were exempt. Who would you rather be like, Grandma or the Marlboro Man?

    There are no good alternatives to the airplane when traveling over very long distances or transporting perishable goods. Once again, McMegan demonstrates her idiocy.

  15. Windshr1:22 PM

    Yeah, this little bleat from MEgan really frustrated me this morning. Like, what is her point supposed to be? It seems like she's just trolling, which is apparently a legitimate profession these days.

  16. "LA LA LA, I can't hear you!"

  17. As is typical of her ideological ilk, Meggie-poo has never met a strawman argument she didn't like.

  18. satch1:48 PM

    "The question answers itself, doesn’t it? Giving up air travel and
    overnight delivery is much more personally costly for the public
    intellectuals who write about this stuff than giving up a big SUV."

    Has Megan considered how much pink Himalayan salt will cost if it has to travel from Rangoon to San Francisco on a sailing ship?

  19. It's almost pitiable. She's trying so hard to make one of those classic "liberals are lifestyle hypocrites" a la "liberals are the real racists" or "liberals claim to be about the working (wo)man but really they're just latte-sipping, organic-veggie-eating, out of touch elitists."

    But all she can manage is, "Yeah well, liberals... cars... are different from planes... also FedEx..." And she still presents it to us proudly, like a child with a crayon drawing.

  20. satch2:10 PM

    After reading "Going to a distant conference should attract
    the kind of scorn among the chattering classes that is currently
    reserved for buying a Hummer.", what I find just adorable is the implication that Megan doesn't consider herself one of "The Chattering Class". I guess she's miffed that she wasn't invited to speak on the NRO cruise this year.

  21. bekabot2:12 PM

    I dunno. She might get kind of a kick out of that. Storms, the sea, sailors (bare-chested and not) plausibly giving up their lives at great expense over a frivolous commodity: in other words, glamor. That cronut (or whatever) will never have tasted so good and MacArdle, arching her eyebrows over the last bite, will contemplate the wisdom of never allowing the crumbs to fall from her table. All-in-all it seems like something a talented person would be able to wring a column out of, so MacArdle might have a 35-65 chance. "Let Them Eat Salt" — that sounds about right.

    Close the Panama Canal (to inhibit trade going the other way) and amp up global warming and you could end up with something really thrilling. For one thing, the only people who'd still be able to afford the decencies of life would be people who deserved them. For another, think of the novelistic potential. Stack up the great white whale against the Cool Beans of Pink Salt and see which one occasions the deathlest-er prose. Let the games begin.

  22. witlesschum2:37 PM

    That kind of self-refutation is either just extreme foolishness or extreme confidence that her audience isn't made up of people who are really reading these things, just scanning quickly to see when their supposed to hate liberals.

  23. XeckyGilchrist2:40 PM

    Is that "she's" a "she is" or "she has?"

  24. XeckyGilchrist2:41 PM

    Also: we can't possibly take on more than one source of carbon emissions. So - planes or cars. CHOOSE!

  25. Windshr2:44 PM

    Final authorization for her "Permission to Suck" must have finally come down. Not that anyone can tell the difference.

  26. trizzlor3:19 PM

    This really nails it. The reason people focus on cars (aside from the fact that they account for so much of overall emissions) is because switching to either cycling or public transport for most trips and encouraging car-pooling for the rest has very little cost to the individual. The reason Hummers get so much scorn isn't just because they guzzle gas but because they offer no alternative benefit while they do it.

    This is a classic case where McCardle has no idea what her opponents actually think on the issue. She starts with the stereotypic assumption that environmentalists just want to control you and then "catches" her imaginary liberal in the hypocrisy of giving air-travel a free pass. Much easier than talking to actual environmentalists and finding out that - hey! - like most people, they want to tackle the biggest piece of the pie with the most painless alternatives.

  27. ADHDJ3:46 PM

    I looked at a couple of online carbon footprint calculators. One pegs air travel as .56 lbs of CO2 per air passenger per mile, the other as .39 lbs.

    According to the same calculators 35MPG car makes .55 lbs CO2/mile. A 15 MPG car makes 1.29 lbs CO2/mile.

    So flying is roughly equivalent to driving alone in a hippiemobile, or carpooling with two others in a Hummer.

  28. MikeJ3:49 PM

    If you point out to her that many of us now use Skype to do things that ten years ago required air travel her next article will be on energy guzzling datacentres. Which is a legit problem, but one that's already being addressed by everyone who has to pay for electricity for a building full of servers.

  29. montag23:55 PM

    Damn, this woman is in dire need of the deluxe high colonic (the one with the final finish with Perrier).

    Trust me on this--the airline schedules are geared toward maximizing profit on business travel, and I know damned good and well she's not going to tell all the business travelers that they're just as nasty as a bunch of wanker lefty intellectuals.

    Not at Bloomie's shop, anyway.

    Jaysus, this woman's got the brains of a soap dish.

  30. Windshr3:58 PM

    Surely the answer is whatever would inconvenience liberals the most?

  31. ColBatGuano3:59 PM

    I love her assumption that the chattering classes are all liberals, as if NRO stooges or Heritage Foundation dolts would never fly.

  32. Mr. Wonderful4:15 PM

    Well said, except that if McMegan has no idea what her opponents think, it's because knowing what they think is irrelevant to her agenda. She doesn't want to solve problems, or advise her readers on how to advocate for policies or people that would solve problems.

    She's a libertarian, which means her entire political philosophy exists to form and perpetuate a pose. She's not a doctor, but she plays one on tv. She's not an intellectual, a pundit, an expert, or even an explainer.

    Her job is to promote the interests of her patrons via playing the role of an expert. Hilariously, rather than behave like an honest flack, she seems to believe her own pretense, and to believe that she really does know what she's talking about. Hence the cooking videos, the Xmas shopping guide, etc.

    She's a psychotic Pinocchio--a puppet who already believes she's a real girl.

  33. Mr. Wonderful4:19 PM

    This is as good an opportunity as any to recommend The Conundrum by (my pal) David Owen. A short, wittily-written (and unjustly neglected) book from last year about how our assumptions about the problems and the solutions to environmental problems are trickier and less obvious than we might think.

  34. Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.4:29 PM

    Or rather confirmation of the Dunning-Kruger-effect.

  35. Bizarro Mike4:35 PM

    Is there a Kickstarter we can contribute to for the development of this novel, or do we just need to rely on the power of prayer?

  36. Derelict5:07 PM

    Okay, Megan, let me explain some of what goes on in Airline World that keeps all the folks who are involved with fighting global warming from wagging their tongues about the airlines.
    1.) Jet fuel has become extremely expensive. Airline executives are very conscious of its cost, and they would happily strap their family dog to the airplane roof if they thought it would save fuel. Instead, they push for operational measures that cut fuel use. For example, pushing FAA to allow direct point-to-point routing via GPS. And at least part of the push to charge people for baggage is an effort to cut takeoff weights of loaded airliners. Lighter airplanes use less fuel.
    2.) The airliner manufacturers (Airbus and Boeing) have been designing airplanes that are lighter, and they devote huge amounts of R&D to aerodynamic optimization that reduces fuel use. All those Southwest Airlines 737s with the big winglets? That's the best possible aerodynamic design for flights of 2 hours or more (lots of time at cruise). All those AirBerlin Airbus A-310s without winglets? That's the best possible aerodynamic design for short flights.
    3. Both the airlines and the airliner manufacturers are constantly badgering the engine manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency. The result is that we've gone from the JT-8D turbojet that sucked down tens of thousands of gallons of Jet-A fuel and produced not a lot of power, to today's Rolls Royce Trent turbofan that produces more than 110,000 pounds of thrust while burning less fuel than the JT-8. (The classic illustration is the old Douglas DC-8: Originally built with four turbojets, it only carried enough fuel to go about 3,000 miles or so, and left a lot of dark smoke behind as it actually had to cool the engines by pouring excess fuel into them. By the 1980s, the DC-8 was on its way to the scrapyard--until two guys figured out you could hang four CF-6 turbofans on it. Range doubled to 6,000 miles with the same fuel capacity.)
    And so, dear Megs, that's why nobody is whining about air travel's greenhouse gas emissions: The entire industry is devoted heart and soul to reducing fuel use, and thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They're operating at the outer limits of material science on every flight. You can't ask for more than that!

  37. BigHank535:26 PM

    Didn't you hear? Next year, everyone is going to to walk to the NRO cruise.

  38. bekabot5:31 PM

    When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin she relied on the power of prayer and when the Warner sisters wrote The Wide World they did the same thing. I believe my feeling is that what was good enough for women of that caliber should also be good enough for graduates in English from Midwestern schools -- not that I'm thinking of anybody in particular.

    Harriet Beecher Stowe won a worldwide audience while working herself into exhaustion bringing up seven kids and assisting fugitive slaves; the Warner sisters won a nationwide audience while freezing to death in upstate New York (their father was a businessman who had been through a reverse; he was forced to flee to the outback and couldn't afford to heat the house he engaged). Whatever worked for them should also work for a person agile enough to prestidigitate an English degree into an MBA and a not terribly good blog into an Atlantic berth. I don't know if God had anything to do with it or not but I don't think she needs her kick started by me.

  39. It's another case of "You're a hypocrite for not living up to the ugly stereotype in my head." There's a very robust belief on the right that environmentalism is just a means to control people - that the whole movement is nothing but a bunch of ecofascists trying to herd people into cities so they can be watched. So when the real-life ecologists recommend a series of small changes to comfortably ease people into a more sustainable lifestyle, the people with that stereotype in their heads have no recourse but to scream "hypocrite." Because, really, improved insulation? Smart cars? Walking-friendly neighborhood design? What kind of crazy, anti-human Gaia-worshippers are these people?

  40. For liberals to completely opt out of this order we're all stuck in would necessarily entail a withdrawal from engagement with the wider world

    It's what happens when you refuse to acknowledge that there are many different levels of environmentalism. There probably are some deep greens who hold that sort of "sustainability at any and all costs" worldview, but they're a small percentage of the larger movement, and are probably not a part of liberalism at all ('cause we're all sellouts). There's an interesting discussion to be had on the continuum of beliefs running between laissez-faire conservatism and extreme environmentalism, but why bother when making cracks about hippies being hypocrites is so much fun?

  41. bargal205:43 PM

    Yes, I have the original cassette in my desk.

  42. I like you, bargal20, you're not like the other people, here, in the trailer park.

  43. Indeed. My point, of course, is that Lady MacArglebargle would no doubt be pleased as punch if we all took the "deep green" approach and retreated to the margins where we would no longer have the capacity to trouble the great and powerful with our piddling little concerns.

  44. I seen it, I seen it!

  45. I'm going to give it a look. Of course, if you read some of the Amazon reviews you'll see that he gets the "liberal hypocrite" treatment himself. Sigh.

  46. Can I just give her a kick?

  47. Sound like she could use it, on either end of her alimentary canal.

  48. There haven't been any new Hummers manufactured for a few years now, hasn't Megan gotten the word yet?

  49. ADHDJ6:51 PM

    Giving up air travel and overnight delivery is much more personally costly for the public intellectuals who write about this stuff than giving up a big SUV.

    So is the whole "Limousine Liberals" thing dead now?

  50. Mr. Wonderful7:21 PM

    McMegan's English degree is--alas--from Penn. To the everlasting shame of us fellow Quakers.

  51. Windshr7:40 PM

    They just caught their local pterodactyl like their fathers and their father's fathers until you liberals came and messed it all up!

  52. I'd have gone with child presenting potty accomplishments,

  53. XeckyGilchrist7:43 PM

    Wingnuts are still complaining about ACORN. They don't pick up on stuff too fast.

  54. Windshr7:45 PM

    An insult to children everywhere!

  55. XeckyGilchrist7:45 PM

    Not to mention an insult to those childrens' turds!

  56. Yeah, that really was uncalled for on my behalf. Megan is much worse than a loaded diaper.

  57. bekabot8:03 PM

    Sure, but you'll have to learn to quit once she starts to charge.

  58. geraldfnord9:27 PM

    > not-very-well remunerated positions at universities,
    > public policy groups, nongovernmental organizations,
    > and yes, news organizations.
    'CINO alert! CINO alert!,' screamed the Gumball Guardians, 'No TRUE conservative would ever admit that people working at these places are anything but fat hogs feeding off the trough filled with the seat and blood of good Christians!!!'

  59. Waffle_Man9:33 PM

    You know, I've found that when somebody asks "Why isn't there a lot of X?" that usually the answer is, "There is a ton of X out there, and you've just been too busy to actually look for it."

    Well, to be fair, as I've said here before, this is just a hobby thing she does, not an actual job that she gets paid for, right? RIGHT???

  60. geraldfnord9:34 PM

    No, she's the output, as Dr Beddoes said---the terminal bus, the end of the 'think'-tank pipeline of pabulum, blairily disgorging it to the pea-brained soupsters in between giving a great, wet, buss to the terminally rich.

  61. geraldfnord9:36 PM

    They're sky-writing when seen above, messages to the Space Masons who hook-probsoscidly dropped the welfare state on our good, Christian, heads when nobody needed it....

  62. geraldfnord9:38 PM

    Well, you know what they say about the Newton feller, always finding a new 'protegé', inventing that flag with that louche 'Mr Biv' he was always on about....

  63. geraldfnord9:44 PM

    To be fair, every time I hear the 'Republicans spent N million dollars trying to repeal or de-fund the A.C.A.' meme I shudder a little---this is the method of the Enemy, very close to the 'Why does Gore fly talking about global warming?' nonsense, and a cousin to 'Why don't Soros and Buffett just voluntarily pay more taxes?' piffle. They all act as if small things were large, probably part of a black-and-white mentality that declares anything either forbidden or allowed, and seeing life in terms of tabu/!tabu instead of measuring things.

  64. Well, they're certainly going to perambulate about the subject,

  65. whetstone10:16 PM

    Not just classic McBargle, but an argument that underlies much of libertarianism: liberalism can't fully solve the problems is concerns itself with; libertarianism does what it promises to, which is fuck-all ("maximizing freedom"); therefore libertarianism is philosophically superior; therefore people should not give a shit about anything other than maximizing personal freedom.

    I dunno what urbanists she reads, but a lot of them are against suburban sprawl because America is starting to realize the suburbs kind of suck. I think McArdle, who recently bought a house in DC, can probably tell us what the free market has to say about central cities these days.

  66. JennOfArk10:37 PM

    So why, pray tell, do we spend so much time talking about suburban sprawl and sport utilities, and so little time talking about FedEx and European vacations?

    Eh, maybe because it's only 2% of the problem? Just a wild guess there.

    The question answers itself, doesn’t it?
    Why, yes, it does.
    This may be the most prescient McArdle bargle ever.

  67. BigHank5311:06 PM

    Ever visit the Wikipedia List of Fallacies?

    I'm pretty sure McArdle's used all of 'em, at one point or another. She's certainly a master of the false dilemma.

  68. AGoodQuestion11:26 PM

    If there's one thing that never fails to be hilarious, it's McMegan accusing liberals of being sheltered, spoiled and elitist between lines of coke snorted off a polished elephant tusk.

  69. AGoodQuestion11:28 PM

    If she's counting on her audience having a microscopic attention span, that's actually a pretty good bet.

  70. DocAmazing12:20 AM

    Well, high-speed rail has less of a carbon footprint than flying. I don't suppose Megan and her cohort would get in the way of high-speed rail projects...

  71. the McCardle gambit is to describe the strongest argument and then proceed to ignore it.

    This is one of her go-to moves. In some columns, she attacks nothing but straw men (and often odd, delusional ones at that), but fairly often she will acknowledge an opposing argument without actually addressing it. She likes to follow this with "I'm not convinced" or some variant. Presumably this means she's given the matter deep thought, but oddly she can't be bothered to share that with us. Instead, she'll spin away for several more paragraphs, hoping to bluff her way through. Such is blogging!

  72. ACORN? Hell, as of last post, they were still bitching about Murphy Brown.

  73. That's not coke, that white Andean salt.

  74. RogerAiles12:05 PM

    Literally? Well, she's dim enough to do it.

  75. FlipYrWhig3:35 PM

    Along with all the rest, I don't know where she thinks academic conferences happen. My "perks" have included trips to such "interesting locales" as Cleveland, San Antonio, and Hamilton, Ontario, all partially, not wholly, funded by my institution. Is this like Atrios's idea of how white people think black people get a special kind of super-generous welfare?

  76. JennOfArk9:30 PM

    We should have such luck.

  77. LookWhosInTheFreezer10:20 PM

    Come to think of it, I'm sorta surprised we've never seen an article about how it's hypocrisy for Liberals to take aim at SUV's while granting a pass to Cadillac-driving Blacks.

  78. StringOnAStick1:00 PM

    Research: Megan doesn't do that.
    For all the general libertarian cant that technology will save us, so keep on awastin' resources, MeMeMegan is surprisingly uninterested in actual science

  79. ChrisVosburg3:27 PM

    Megan links to an article by Christie Aschwanden, who writes:

    it’s easy to act like an environmentalist when it means buying cool new stuff like reusable grocery bags, a high-efficiency washer, or a hybrid car. When doing the green thing requires actual sacrifice or a substantial change in lifestyle, well, that’s where most of us draw the line.

    Talkin' to you, Megan, premier consumer of useless products.

    I wonder if Megan has suddenly had her air travel budget curtailed due to reduced income or some such and is running a "I Meant To Do That" on us here.

    I also suspect that somewhere Megan has complained about the radiation hazard of airport scanners while ignoring the fact that the flight itself exposes the passenger, on average, to 200-400 times the radiation of that scan.

    So keep flying often, you lucky and wealthy one-percent!

  80. So why, pray tell, do we spend so much time talking about suburban
    sprawl and sport utilities, and so little time talking about FedEx and
    European vacations?

    La Solution Aux RĂ©gimes avis

  81. Lol, couldn't agree more!


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