Yes, a little American centric, but good anyway! Reposting because it has come back full circle again!
Yes, a little American centric, but good anyway! Reposting because it has come back full circle again!
Suppose I paid you for every pound of pollution you generated and punished you for every pound you reduced. You would probably spend most of your time trying to figure out how to generate more pollution. And suppose that if you generated enough pollution, I had to pay you to build a new plant, no matter what the cost, and no matter how much cheaper it might be to not pollute in the first place.
Well, that’s pretty much how we have run the U.S. electric grid for nearly a century. The more electricity a utility sells, the more money it makes. If it’s able to boost electricity demand enough, the utility is allowed to build a new power plant with a guaranteed profit. The only way a typical utility can lose money is if demand drops. So the last thing most utilities want to do is seriously push strategies that save energy, strategies that do not pollute in the first place.
There are some things you wish you could have written, and the first paragraph is one of those. Romm nails it. Clearly, the most efficient MW of electricity is the one that was never used. But unless utilities are paid to conserve, not paid to produce, they will always build, build build.
Excellent summary of arguments he makes all the time over at the gristmill. Now to find out what BC does. Canada is one of the worst in terms of energy use per capita. Some of it can be linked to the cold climate, but Germany is plenty cold too, and uses a third less per person.
This article compares BC and California and finds BCHydro lacking in its incentives to save. The key is “decoupling”
Significantly, California adopted regulations so that utility company profits are not tied to how much electricity they sell. This is called “decoupling.”
BC’s per capita energy consumption is 0.26, well below the Canadian average and on the decline as Canada as a whole is getting worse. But more can be done.
The key value judgment to be made here is that reducing energy use benefits all of us. The system should be set up in such a way that it benefits the utility as well. This way, they’re on the same side.
Also, while a carbon tax is all well and good, it is not sufficient. Energy efficiency requires investment up front and people would rather pay 50 bucks a year in carbon tax than pay 300 bucks up front to insulate their homes better and save a 100 bucks a year in energy costs. Rebates only work if you have money up front. Giving people a $100 check is nice, but only if they spend it on improving energy efficiency. But, it’sjust money and we all know that money gets spent (beer, beer beer!) Subsidies work better as they reduce the cost of things. I would rather buy 10 compact fluorescent lamps for a buck each with the government chipping in the extra 10 bucks than get it back at the end of the year as a rebate, or pay 20c extra per incandescent lamp as a carbon tax.
All rambling aside, a really good article on the value of energy efficiency.
A friend pointed me in the direction of this letter by EPA union leaders about the upcoming re-registration of some very commonly used organophosphate and carbamate pesticides. This ens-newswire article provides an excellent summary.
In the absence of “a robust body of data” the union leaders remind Johnson that the Food Quality Protection Act requires the EPA to use “an additional 10-fold safety factor in its risk assessments when setting pesticide tolerances.
This is the key point, and the reason that Pesticide industry and the EPA came up with the infamous “CHEERS” study (talk about Kafkaesque naming!) to study children’s exposure knowing fully well that they would not be able to accurately assess health effects on children with an observational study. The hope was that using a short term “study” that assessed acute toxicity, they would be able to “prove” no significant harm to children and get rid of the safety factor. A factor of 10 is big, and the pesticide manufacturers hate it because the tolerances become low enough that people will be over-exposed.
Isn’t that the whole point of a safety factor? We are still figuring out what happens at low levels of exposure to certain pesticides. This is truly an Environmental Justice issue. It is not the children of EPA administrators eating non-organic fruits and veggies that are going to be exposed. The gains from eating organic food vs. non-organic are dwarfed by the incidental exposure of the families of farmworkers and other people applying pesticides. Yes, you guessed it, they do not tend to be particularly rich or influential, but they are most in need of protection from government to ensure that their children do not get exposed to levels that may be harmful. This is not about shopping at Whole Foods, which is where most of elite America hears about pesticides, this is about the people being exposed to much higher doses. The safety factor is a must to keep them safe.
That’s what the USDA is saying, anyway.
With the “USDA organic” seal stamped on its label, Anheuser-Busch calls its Wild Hop Lager “the perfect organic experience.” “In today’s world of artificial flavors, preservatives and factory farming, knowing what goes into what you eat and drink can just about drive you crazy,” the Wild Hop website says. “That’s why we have decided to go back to basics and do things the way they were meant to be … naturally.” But many beer drinkers may not know that Anheuser-Busch has the organic blessing from federal regulators even though Wild Hop Lager uses hops grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides. A deadline of midnight Friday to come up with a new list of nonorganic ingredients allowed in USDA-certified organic products passed without action from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, leaving uncertain whether some foods currently labeled “USDA organic” would continue to be produced.
Whatever you think about the virtues of organic food, this amounts to dilution of the label, misleading labeling, almost amounting to adulteration favoring the big boys at Anheuser-Busch and General Mills, ADM, etc. Knowing fully well that the average consumer has no time to read every frigging label behind every food item, knowing that they would see the “organic” label and assume that the whole thing is organic.
The USDA rules come with what appears to be an important consumer
protection: Manufacturers can use nonorganic ingredients only if
organic versions are not “commercially available.”
But food makers have found a way around this barrier, in part because
the USDA doesn’t enforce the rule directly. Instead, it depends on its
certifying agents — 96 licensed organizations in the U.S. and overseas
— to decide for themselves what it means for a product to be available
in organic form.
Despite years of discussion, the USDA has yet to provide certifiers with standardized guidelines for enforcing this rule.
Ah, good old ill-defined “voluntary enforcement” mechanisms, we all know how that works!
Why not have a second label “mostly organic”!! How about “I can’t believe this is organic!!”.
I think “mostly organic” food is still better than conventional factory food, but it should be labeled as such so the consumer can understand why General Mills “organic cereal” is 2 bucks less expensive than your average small organic manufacturer’s cereal. Absent honesty in labeling, the average customer is apt to assume that the factory approach is always superior because it produces the same goods at lower prices, instead of coming to the correct conclusion that the factory producers constantly rig the game to their benefit.
The biodiesel boom has a high environmental cost, however. Critics say it’s contributing to global warming. Tropical forests help remove millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. Burning and clear-cutting not only eliminates one of the planet’s crucial air-filtration systems, the process also releases even more carbon dioxide into the air, in smoke or as gases released during the decomposition of forest waste. Annual clearing of Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatlands alone releases some 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases, according to a Greenpeace report. Indonesia is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the U.S. and China, says the World Bank. “We liken what’s going on [in Indonesia] to pouring petrol on a fire,” says Martin Baker, a Hong Kong–based communications officer for Greenpeace International. “It’s completely ridiculous to produce green fuels from places like this.”
This just makes we want to jit my head against the wall. Tropical forests are some of the most efficient sinks of carbon, and countries that hold these sinks should be paid as well as countries that are sources of carbon. Yes, this means setting a realistic carbon pricing scheme that can eliminate this perverse incentive to destroy tropical rain forests so Western nations can claim to be environmentally friendly.
This is not a bribe, or an incentive, it is recognition of the fact that carbon sinks have a monetary value.
Blogged with Flock
This is a very useful undertaking by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) to gather up a lot of technical information about India’s environmental research and activism.
They have a small multimedia section as well and I found this movie, appropriately titled Faecal Attraction to be an informative watch…
That’s the argument from a new paper published in Science today, written by Princeton University’s Tim Searchinger and others. The upshot? Clearing out forests to use the wood for bioenergy clearly has an environmental cost, but that’s simply not accounted for in any of the prevailing climate-change programs. Kyoto, the European cap-and-trade plan, and the House climate bill all treat bioenergy as carbon-neutral; nobody counts the effect of disappearing forests.
In my long blog post earlier this morning, I briefly alluded to the fact that proposed Canadian climate change legislation explicitly excludes land use. Well, bad idea! I am surprised this is being trumpeted as a major new finding, hasn’t it been obvious for at least the last few years that biofuel carbon neutrality is very dependent on how land use patterns change?