June 12, 2009
Trying to make the world a better place
One of the things that free marketeers like myself are often accused of is that we're not worried about, or not worried enough about, the environment that we're going to leave behind for those who come after us. It's a rather strange accusation really, of course I want my descendants to have a better, cleaner life, a continuing Earth to draw sustenance from. I just also want them to be richer while they do so. And thus I advocate policies that will allow both, both a cleaner planet and a wealthier one.
For example, I readily acknowledge that current fisheries policy is maniacally awful and suggest it's replacement with something that actually addresses the basic problem, the tragedy of the commons.
So, having said all of that it's interesting to look at the The Tree of Tomorrow Site which you can see by clicking through the link. I'm not sure that anyone would agree with all of the ideas put forward but that doesn't mean that there aren't some very good ones there.
Take a look under "natural living" and then go to "appropriate technologies". I regard this is such a simple and obvious idea and I sometimes get frustrated when people mock it. Of course you should be using the right tools for the job, whatever that job is. You put in screws with a screwdriver and nails with a hammer, don't you? So why wouldn't you use the correct technology for anything else that you're doing?
Solar cells if you're off the grid? Efficient pumps to get your water supply? Solar water heating if you're in the right sort of area?
I do recommend having a look at this site and the very interesting listings of such technologies that they have.
As I've said, not everything there will appeal to all, but I'm pretty sure that all will find something useful and something which will interest them.
October 13, 2007
Lead in Lipstick
This lead in lipstick story has raised it's ugly head again. Please people, the levels of lead in lipstick are nothing at all to worry about. The story has been set off by a pressure group which includes about half of the cosmetics industry. They're using the story of lead in lipstick to do the dirty on the other half of the industry.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said that a third of the 33 red lipsticks examined by an independent lab contained a level of lead exceeding 0.1 parts per million — which is the FDA's limit for lead in candy. The FDA does not set a limit for lead in lipstick.
The organization commissioning the lipstick study says its goal is to pressure companies to remove toxic chemicals from their products and replace them with safer alternatives. The lead tests were conducted by an independent laboratory last month on red lipsticks bought in Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Hartford, Conn., the organization said.
See that limit? 0.1 parts per million? That's around the limit of detection with the usual sort of systems a that are used. (There are more advanced and expensive analysis methods possible but they are much more expensive). For every 10 million atoms, there's one of them that is lead, which isn't when you think about it, very much.
Further, who actually eats lipstick like it's candy? From observing my wife a lipstick lasts some weeks at least, while candy gets eaten in vastly larger quantities than that. As lead is a cumulative poison, the actual dosage (and remember, the dose is the poison) from lipstick will be miniscule.
Oh, and have a look at the EPA guidelines on lead in drinking water. 15 parts per billion. Our 0.1 parts per million is 100 parts per billion. So, err, lipstick, which we ingest a few grammes a day of, tops, has nearly 7 times the lead content of water, which we all drink by the gallon. Which do youthink is contributing more to your total dosage of lead?
No, this is simply a story by one group of manufacturers to get us to stop buying the goods of another group of manufacturers. It's not a health scare, it's a sales technique.
The lead in lipstick story from UPI:
September 13, 2007
Blueprint for a Green Economy
I'll read more of this later but:
The services provided to us by our natural environment – raw materials, (...)–came free and seemed
Raw materials came free? That'll be a bit of a surprise to the poor buggers who dug the ores out of the earth, the foresters spending their live cutting down trees etc.
Or does human labour not have a cost in the Green world? Ooops, sorry, forgot. As with recycling, no it doesn't does it?
Now, that assessment has been reversed. The world is awash with capital-rich investors but
increasingly denuded of natural resources.
Hunh? We've got more resources than we had a couple of decades ago, more than we had a century ago. Because we have better technology, enabling us to extract more of them.
What have these people been smoking?
The market lacks the dimension of time. Unrestrained, it will catch till the last fish is landed, drill till there is no more oil,....
No, the market will keep catching fish until the cost of doing so is higher than the value of the fish caught, as with drilling for oil. As for markets lacking the dimension of time.....anyone ever heard of futures markets?
Must have been some good drugs at these meetings, eh?
There does not need to be a trade-off between the economy and the environment, simply
the retuning of growth to take account of environmental health. This will best be done by pricing
carbon into the equation as the most effective surrogate for environmental cost.
That's actually sensible. Pigou taxes. Great....now, let's see if they actually manage to stick to that idea. Doubt they will somehow.
Christ, next section they reject it already.
Simply cleaning up existing lifestyles and patterns of economic growth will not take us far enough, not
least if we are to achieve equitable global development within the natural limits of the planet. After all,
if everyone on Earth equalled the resource consumption of our citizens here in the UK, it would take
three planets to support us. If we all aspired to US patterns it would demand five planets.
Friggin' idiots. That's from the environmental footprints studies. The largest part of the land needed there is to recycle CO2. Which, as above, we've already solved by pricing carbon into the market. So you can't then go on to use the requirements for recycling CO2 to suggest that this won't be enough.
Do these people actually read the reports they're referring to?
I'm going to have to stop doing this in a moment as I really can't cope with much more of this nonsense. One last piece:
Environmental tax reform; price the use of carbon; ensure that the true costs of transport are paid by
the user; incentivise the building of green homes; introduce strict rules on the energy-efficiency of
everything from consumer technology to power stations; institute a significant moratorium on new
road and airport building.
Yes to one, yes to two....hmmm. Who are the only travellers who do not currently pay the true costs of their transport? Anyone? Cars are, under Stern's numbers, over-taxed, so it's not them. Aircraft, with the recent rise in Air Passenger Duty are correctly taxed. Well, that leaves public transport, the railways, buses and The Tube. For passengers here do not pay the true costs, they're subsidized from the general revenue stream. So, they're proposing the slashing of public transport subsidies! Excellent, a Tory policy at last. Although, to be honest, I don't think they quite mean this as I don't think they are actually capable of following their own logic. Numbers 4,5 and 6 are entirely unneccessary: by getting carbon correctly priced into the market you don't actually need any of these other restrictions. That's really rather the point of doing it.
About the only possible conclusion here is that I hope like hell that no one takes their policy recommendations seriously.
Blueprint for a Green Economy
The submission to the Shadow Cabinet from the Quality of Life Policy Group.
An unconsidered opinion.
September 12, 2007
Well, yes and no. Tom Stevenson is absolutely correct that the biofuel industry is a disastrous con, that it doesn't reduce CO2 emissions, it pushes up food prices, increases the pressures on currently unfarmed land and so on. It's an excellent example of the truth that if you think governments are going to solve climate change then you're obviously not paying attention. However:
Now, gratifyingly, the OECD has come out and said what many suspected all along. The biofuels revolution is actually a con. Filling up with recycled chip fat is damaging to the environment,
He's there actually pointed to the one time when biofuels are indeed an extremely good idea. Recycled chip fat....we can throw it away, feed it to the pigs or drive cars on it. That last is probably the highest value use. Making new chip fat to run cars on might be a silly thing to do but using what we've already got sounds great. Straining for a phrase he actually makes the opposite case he means to.
September 11, 2007
Paying for Car Parking
This looks a little odd, don't you think?
Under the plans, councils would be given the power to demand that big
supermarkets and other stores on the outskirts of towns charge their
customers for parking.
The policy review group, which was co-chaired by Zac Goldsmith, the millionaire environmental campaigner, and John Gummer, the former Tory environment secretary, added that the money raised by the new charges would be used by the local authority to fund improved public transport.
So, if people park on private land, the owner must charge them and then hand the money over to the local council? That is what is being suggested here, isn't it?
Is it possible that Mssrs. Gummer and Goldsmith are not quite au fait with the Tory Party's traditional belief in private property rights?
The The Boy Dave (C) says:
Mr Cameron argued that a new approach was needed after a decade during which "the poorest in our society have got poorer … social mobility is falling.
Social mobility may well be falling, but the poorest are not getting poorer. They're not getting richer as fast as the rich are, to be sure, but their absolute level of living is not falling.
The report will also argue that local communities should be given more powers to resist plans for big superstores in order to defend local shops.
So we'll protect expensive and inefficient producers at the expense of the consumer.
There are times when The Stupid Party seems all too appropriate.
September 10, 2007
The Mahdi on Population
Poor Maddie, she really doesn't get it.
Population management is just as emotive. People quickly bristle at the idea of any government telling them how many children they can have. The whole policy area of population was given a bad name by India's enthusiasm in the 70s and 80s when government programmes ensnared uncomprehending young men into having vasectomies. But should the UK government pursue a policy of persuasion, a Stop at Two campaign, to bring people's attention to the carbon footprint of having lots of children? If it did, would it work? Internationally, population policy has been crippled by US and Vatican opposition on abortion and contraception. Have they managed to bully environmental organisations into this awkward silence?
We know how to reduce population. In fact, not only do we kow how to do it, we've done it. If you look around th world then, absent immigration, all of the rich countries have birth rates below replacement (as well as a few poor ones too). And birth rates are falling in all countries (again, absent immigration: first generation immigrants tend to bring with them the birth rates of their origin).
We actually have an empirical answer: being rich reduces birth rates. Which is why there is indeed a rise to 9 billion predicted: and if economic growth continues as it has for the past century or so, then a decline, to 7 billion in 2100.
Whatever it is that we needed to do about population growth, we've already done it.
Is this really a Tory proposal?
a doubling of landfill tax for business...
Aren't they supposed to be the party of economic rationality?
The Conservatives will also propose a locally levied waste tax linked to a household's success in recycling and composting. Landfill will be banned from 2015 for any item that could be recycled.
Anything and everything can in theory be recycled. The question is, at what cost? You can make arguments on purely cash terms, in which case we already do too much recycling (way, way too much when you consider the cost of the labour that goes into sorting it). Or you might want to be much more restrictive and look at, say, the greenhouse gas emissions of recycling versus landfill.
A couple of notes on that: the use of green glass as roadfill creates more CO2 e than landfilling it does. So the recycling of green glass (which, as we tend not to bottle much wine in this country, has no other use) actively damages the environment.
Further, as that recent report showed, composting by use of a wormery creates greenhouse gases: notably, nitrous oxide from the worms. Total CO2 e emissions from a wormery are equal to said from a landfill. One puts out the nitrous, the other methane. But that is CO2 e, equivalent. The nitrous floats off into the atmosphere, while the methane is captured and used to generate energy, turning it into CO2. Thus landill, in hte end, releases 23 times less CO2 e than wormeries.
And, in order to save the planet, we're going to insist that people compost?
September 09, 2007
Tories on Energy and the Environment
Oh dear. You'd like to think that people coming up with ideas to change the law would understand which laws they are able to change, wouldn't you?
Under the proposals, caps would be set on how much energy all electrical appliances can use. Goods exceeding those limits would be banned from sale after a set date.
Household electrical goods would also have to be fitted with labels that would allow consumers to see at point of sale how much energy the device will typically use in a year and how it compares with its peers.
The Tories also plan to pull the plug on the "stand-by" function on many electrical goods, which accounts for more than 2 per cent of Britain's electricity use. Electrical goods that could be kept on stand-by indefinitely would also be banned from sale after a set date.
We have something called the European Single Market. That means that you're not allowed to make such rules which are differnt from those in other EU countries: certainly, it is illegal for you to stop the sale of something which is legal in another of said countries.
I have a very strong feeling therefore that this suggestion is not actually within the powers of the UK government: it's an EU competence.
September 07, 2007
Colony Collapse Disorder
Looks like we have an explanation now for colony collapse disorder.
Would you believe it? Yup, it's the Jooos!