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The ‘Green’ Revolution

I always say that I’m not interested in the environment, only in saving money. I get beat up over it, but that’s life. Fortunately I am frequently vindicated by bazillions of stories about… People being interested in saving money, and not giving a damn about the environment.

Why is this? I would have thought it was clear. People don’t take well to being forced into things that cost more. In the world of cost’s and benefits (that’s the real world) people don’t want cars that cost more and perform less, they don’t want to pay more to get less electricity, frankly people don’t like being forced to do anything. It is particularly true when talking about all of this being to combat a purported rise in temperature of 2 degrees.

Everyone cares about the environment, they just don’t see the costs as balancing out the benefits. Who would welcome a large increase in their utility bills that will result in no visible change in anything?

You can see it in electric cars, wind power, solar power and all manner of similar things. They offer less reliability, more expense and no tangible advantage. Indeed it happens all the time that the same people demanding these things, don’t want anything to do with them.

If the ‘greenies’ really want to change things they need to wait for technologies that reduce costs when they reduce ’emissions’. I’ll give you an example: If my step-father were to spend around 20,000 dollars he could run his home on wind and solar power and totally detach from the power grid. His electric bill is about 600 dollars a year, that means it would take over 30 years to recoup his costs. Problem being that solar panels only have a reliable life span of 20-25 years and small wind turbines somewhat less  than that. The batteries required will last at most 10-12 years. He has no reason to do any of this, given the circumstances.

Larger electric bills mean even more initial outlay and no more advantage.

Enter products like this. A cell phone that uses ambient heat to recharge. While it would be expensive I’m sure, (initially) there is the benefit of both convenience and energy cost savings.

The point is people are not interested in saving the planet from the relatively minor issues of ‘global warming’. The ice caps melt, and the sea rises. It won’t happen overnight and those affected will move. Tens of millions of acres are expected to open up to farming, areas now too cold or arid for it, what would that do for world hunger? More extreme weather? Perhaps, but building techniques improve all the time and without stretching any part of the truth we can expect that weather will continue to decline in importance as building methods continue to improve.

This is all assuming that the science is right. Climate being aggregate weather (we really have issues predicting weather even a few days ahead) I don’t have high confidence that predictions for the next 10 years or 50 or 100 are going to pan out. The predictions that have been made certainly do not paint a picture of the world being destroyed though, I see very few real tragedies.

I should say something about extinction I suppose. I don’t really care. Hows that? Given that 99% of the species that have ever existed are now gone, I’m not concerned. Something will fill any gaps left, new things will evolve over time, and everything now alive is likely to go extinct at some point anyway. Who are we to decide that we must retard earths progression to save a few species? Even if we are contributing to climate change we have to remember that climates are always changing the most we are doing to speeding things up or possibly slowing them down.

I don’t see expanding human suffering to solve a problem that we can’t solve because we didn’t cause it. Like I said, sped up or slowed down, that’s our role, if we even have one.

“The dangers of the (government) policies seem more obviously dangerous than climate change. Climate change has always been with us, and the evidence is that we can adapt to it.”

~ Richard S. Lindzen, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, MIT

 

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. 2011/04/04 at 19:52

    Except there are two there are two sides to this coin which you are willfully ignoring.

    The company I work for employs hundreds of people in several plants across the US building wind tower components just by itself. They make these components with steel that is special ordered from plants all across the US. Each of these plants employs hundreds and we order from a fair amount of large plants. Our company owns it’s own fleet of commercial vehicles that service our own plants and make pick ups and deliveries of finished products as well. Our transportation division further employs hundreds. Once the wind towers are completed we have a specialized division to move and deliver the finished towers which further employs many more.

    The doesn’t include the companies that manufacture the generators, blades and gear boxes nor the specialized heavy haul companies nor the escort companies, that deliver them since we only move the bases themselves. Nor the companies who go on site and assemble and set them up.

    You should see the wind farms in Utah, they’re pretty amazing and the chain that built them employs thousands of good paying jobs all across the country.

  2. 2011/04/04 at 20:51

    This coin may have three sides. Stop burning coal and oil or severely reduce use and what would happen to hundreds of thousands of jobs?

    Except people care just as much about other peoples jobs as they do about the environment when it comes time to spend.

  3. 2011/04/04 at 22:55

    Not really. What jobs that are lost in the fossil fuel industry can be replaced with different kind of jobs in the energy industry.

    Of course this is leaving out innumerable small problems like retraining and relocation.

  4. 2011/04/05 at 00:12

    While I will agree that there is no problem with the loss of jobs due to better technology, different demands or even outsourcing, we are not yet talking about better technology. We are talking about more expensive technology, Higher prices, more land usage (read more expense) and low levels of efficiency by comparison (read more expense again).

    I have no problems with so called alternative energy sources, they are just not economically feasible yet. People are not willing to pay the higher prices involved and they shouldn’t be. Government subsidy killed solar in the 90’s by moving it up to the major leagues when it should have still been playing class A ball.

    Again you have the problem that many people want these things but their sanctimonious environmental talk always goes to ground when it comes time to pay or they scream “NIMBY!” when it comes time to build.

    It’s not time yet, we still have lots of oil, coal and by most estimates more petroleum sources locked up here in the US in oils shales than in the ground in the rest of the world. The problem is it costs too much to process the shale. When the economy dictates that will not be the case. The same will happen with wind and solar.

    If I ever build a home I’d like to smack a small hydroelectric ‘dam’ on there and never pay an electric bill again. We’ll see if the right combo of land and finances comes around. I’ll let you know after I make my first million.

  5. 2011/04/05 at 00:34

    Well, then we agree for the most part. We should try to move to “green” energy sources or “green technology” at a time when both the environmental and the economical need for it are in sync for the most part or as close to in sync as possible. I don’t think we need to slam everything together in haste. But I also don’t feel there is any need to wait until the last possible moment to address environmental issues either.

  6. 2011/04/05 at 00:39

    Instead of spending money installing these great monuments to inefficiency they should dump some of that money into making it more efficient. The environment is never going to play as big a role as some people would like in spending habits. People are worried how to get to work, get to the store, heat their homes, pay for their kids schooling, those things will always and should always be taking precedence over ill formed doomsday scenarios.

    I’m not giving up my light bulbs either. I have a stock pile. The swirly ones give me a headache and rumor has it they are full of dangerous chemicals. A nice touch to add to the broken glass that we used to deal with.

  7. 2011/04/05 at 08:23

    Nate…

    People being interested in saving money, and not giving a damn about the environment.

    You must be hanging out with the wrong people.

    According to the latest Gallup poll, people seem plenty concerned about the environment. 79% are concerned about pollution of our soil and water, 72% concerned about our air quality, etc. That sounds like people DO give a damn, to me.

    Doesn’t mean they’re not concerned about money issues, of course. Just that they recognize we can be concerned about both, seems to me.

    I’d be fine with letting the market dictate choices in energy direction IF we were paying anything like REAL costs for oil/gas/coal. But since costs are artificially cheap, that skews the market in their favor. Start implementing practices that make fossil fuel costs reflect actual costs (gas, for instance, actually costs closer to $5-$15/gallon, if it wasn’t subsidized by the gov’t and by current policies that push the costs off on other people), THEN let’s let the market decide.

  8. 2011/04/05 at 12:25

    I would argue that you are making the cost artificially high. It does go both ways. Sure people are concerned about the environment, just not as much as they are about heating, eating and schooling and so on. The damage, if any, is not as costly as to outweigh the benefits of cheap energy to the overwhelming majority of people.

  9. 2011/04/05 at 16:36

    You could argue that, but on what basis?

    While it is complicated figuring out just how much the oil industry is subsidized by taxpayer dollars, it appears to be in the BILLIONS of dollars…

    …the American oil and gas industry might receive anywhere between $15 billion and $35 billion a year in subsidies from taxpayers.

    So, why don’t we begin there? I believe you have already agreed that corporations should not be receiving subsidies (ie, corporate welfare) from the taxpayers. So, if you remove at least that X Billion dollars, what does that do the cost of a gallon of gasoline?

    Beyond that, there are certainly many other ways that oil companies and personal autos are subsidized by gov’t. The many roads that are built have to be paid for by tax dollars and while SOME of that roadway money comes from gas taxes, not all of it does. So, let’s add all that on to the average cost of a gallon of gas. Do you think it would be up to ~$5/gallon by then?

    Have you researched much the topic of how much we subsidize car and fossil fuel companies and personal motorists? Here’s a place to begin.

    I maintain that for a free market to work correctly, these TRUE costs need to be accounted for. THEN, when we’re paying something closer to the actual cost of gasoline (which would be well over $5/gallon). It’s one thing to say that solar power, wind power, etc are too expensive to compete in the free market, but when they’re having to pay actual costs while fossil fuels are being subsidized, well, that’s not an even playing field and the market becomes skewed and broken.

    Nate, setting aside the specifics for a minute, do you agree with the principle that for a free market to work, all parties need to be paying something approximating true costs?

  10. 2011/04/05 at 16:56

    Yes and no.

    True costs have nothing to do with actual costs. People are perfectly happy to deal with some pollution, some crappy products and some other ‘costs’ as well. There is no reason to think that a cost has to be paid in money, so long as they are acceptable to the consumer at large. That’s a common problem with peoples understanding, costs are always paid, just not always with money.

  11. 2011/04/05 at 18:11

    Yes, costs ARE always paid and not always with money. Sometimes, it is in people’s health or the health of the community. Sometimes it is in environmental degradation. But the costs are always there.

    The question I have would be, WHO gets to decide to give these wealthy corporations a pass on paying what seems to many to be their fair share? Why do I have to clean up after myself, but not these corporations?

    This comes too close to being welfare for the wealthy, an idea which I think most people would strenuously oppose. And, again, I think this corrupts the free market, making it more totalitarian and less democratic.

    Nate, if we could figure out reliably that X amount of dollars is going to corporate welfare to fossil fuel industries and that by eliminating that welfare, our gas would cost $6/gallon, would you support ending those subsidies?

  12. 2011/04/05 at 18:12

    Also, I’d be interested in knowing how you’re differentiating “true costs” and “actual costs.”

  13. 2011/04/05 at 18:26

    Yes, I would support ending those subsidies. I would imagine that it wouldn’t much change the price of anything.

    Welfare for anyone makes our country more totalitarian and less democratic.

    You can’t tax a corporation. That may be news to you, but it can’t be done. Corporations don’t have a fair share of anything. The consumer, the shareholder yes, the corporation… Nothing. They don’t really have any money either, not in the proper sense.

    It’s just a word game really. You were defining ‘true costs’, actual costs really means the same thing obviously, I wanted to give use a different definition or at least make a point that conflicted with what you were saying. True costs being what should be paid forward in cash and actual costs being paid in whatever. There’s no exciting difference, sorry, useless now because we appear to be on the same page about how costs are paid.

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