Archive for the 'Unintended Consequences' Category

Obama Energy Chief: Climate a trade ‘weapon’

March 18, 2009

The Wall Street Journal reported today,

Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Tuesday advocated adjusting trade duties as a “weapon” to protect U.S. manufacturing, just a day after one of China’s top climate envoys warned of a trade war if developed countries impose tariffs on carbon-intensive imports.

Mr. Chu, speaking before a House science panel, said establishing a carbon tariff would help “level the playing field” if other countries haven’t imposed greenhouse-gas-reduction mandates similar to the one President Barack Obama plans to implement over the next couple of years. It is the first time the Obama administration has made public its view on the issue.

“If other countries don’t impose a cost on carbon, then we will be at a disadvantage…[and] we would look at considering perhaps duties that would offset that cost,” Mr. Chu said.

While trade is a proven tool of international economic growth and peace, green is shaping up to be a tool of protectionism and international hostility.

Green irony: Recycling sags with economy

March 16, 2009

Trash has become worthless in China, crimping the recycling business, the New York Times reported on March 12.

The problem isn’t confined to China:

Environmentalists and recycling experts worry about the impact of the recycling slump. With Western curbside recycling programs becoming less profitable, local governments are being forced to re-examine their programs as they struggle to balance budgets. In some cases, that means that office printouts and soda cans, once exported, went to landfills.

“It used to be that recyclers would pay governments for these goods,” said Mr. Savage of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. “But now governments have to pay recyclers. What was once a revenue stream is now a cost to cities.”

So maybe the greens were a little hasty in condemning economic growth?

Anti-gasoline jihad makes key chemical scarce

March 11, 2009

The Financial Times reported this morning that,

The crisis in the car industry has led to a global shortage of a chemical solvent used for everything from checking the mould level in a chocolate bar to making sure a tablet of aspirin is safe.

The solvent, acetonitrile, is a by-product of the process used to make acrylic carpets and plastic parts for the car industry, and as demand for cars has plunged in the global financial crisis, so have supplies of acetonitrile.

That is alarming, say some observers, because the substance is used to break down products such as food or pharmaceuticals into their component parts to check their safety or efficacy, a process known as chromatography. “This is very serious,” said the head of procurement at a large European pharmaceuticals group. “If you cannot test products you cannot sell them.” And, “in many cases, you cannot even make them”.

What’s this got to do with the greens?

The looming-demise of the Big Three automakers can easily be traced back to the green choke-hold on our gasoline supply. The ongoing financial crisis has certainly intensified the Big Three’s problems, but rising gas prices was the root problem.

Steve Milloy discusses in his new book Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them how green policies pose a threat to your safety and standard of living.

Green IT not so green

February 24, 2009

From a Feb. 24 University of Calgary media release:

Richard Hawkins, Canada Research Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, says there is no evidence that information technologies necessarily reduce our environmental footprint…

“It was once assumed that there was little or no material dimension to information technology, thus, it should be clean with minimal environmental impact… However, we are finding that reality is much more complicated.”

Firstly, Hawkins notes that digital technologies require a lot of energy to manufacture and eventually they create a huge pile of ‘electronic junk’, much of it highly toxic. They also use a lot of energy to
run. Some estimates are that they use up roughly the same amount of energy as the world’s air transport system.

Far from denying these environmental implications, Hawkins points out that many IT producers are gearing up to produce ‘greener IT’, using the environmental footprint as a marketing tool. “But probably most of the negative environmental impacts occur in the form of completely unintended, second and third order effects,” he says. “These ‘rebound’ effects may not be mitigated by inventing ‘greener’ IT products and, indeed, may be intensified by such changes.”

Rebounds occur when the use of IT contributes to or reinforces an increase in other activities that already have environmental effects.

“For example, technologies such as cell phones actually help us to become hyper-mobile,” he says. “We didn’t adopt the mobile phone so we could drive and talk on the phone, we adopted it because we were already driving so much. Creating a greener cell phone won’t reduce the impact of increased mobility. The real question is what amount of mobility is sustainable?”