Monday, August 22, 2005 Northwest states unite on car emissions

This really happened. A couple of months back, I was part of the NUS English Debating Team that when Down Under to the (relatively) sunny coast of Brisbane and this was the second morning we were there which meant that they were going to feed us breakfast. Anyway, fast-forward half-an-hour, one newspaper and a couple bowls of cornflakes later, we were joined by a member of another contingent, this one from one of the Australian Universities.

At any rate, between my reading of Snoop Dogg's attempt to end the 'beef' (feud) between the East Side and West Side (a literal war that has claimed many lives and a piece of trivia that came in useful) and commentary on the England-Australia Cricket match forthcoming was an article which stated that certain states in America were considering using ethanol as an additive to fuel (which is theoretically more environmentally friendly).

Anyway I have no idea how it came's what happened.

S: So anyway, certain states in America are legislating a E5 (which means adding 5% ethanol to the fuel) for all vehicles in the state. And I think it's a pretty good idea. Hopefully we start seeing E10 or even E30s sometime soon.

*Silence at the table*

S: (beat) *Clears throat* well this is a particular interest of mine, environmental standards and ethanol levels.

*More silence at the table and some weird looks*

S: This is really sad isn't it?

*Concuring silence at the table*

S:*sigh* back to my corn wheaties.

The reason I happened to bring that up was to reiterate that I am an environmentalist. It's just that my reading of Lomborg, my opposition to the Kyoto Protocol and my belief that the market can handle what is a seeming complex problem coupled with a belief that the world is not going to hell in a handcart has led a number of people to assume that I'm evil. Yes, I'm evil in certain respects but definately not because I'm not an environmentalist. This article is a very good example of how wealth promotes a better environment rather than the converse. Once you actually have enough money to stop having to worry where your next meal is coming from, you can actually start demanding better as opposed to simply adequate quality environment.

Now, the fact is, the biggest contributors to carbon dioxide pollution is not cars but energy production and heavy industries. However, considering the very cheap (by relative standards) gasoline prices in America and their perchant for gas-guzzling SUVs, cars are perhaps one of the biggest contributors in terms of disproportionality.

Theoretically, this is a pretty good fix. The price increases will probably be split between the consumers and the auto-industry. The auto-industry pays for the pollution it's causing with its factories and product and consumers pay for the cleaner air that they demand. Admittedly, the auto-industry is going to take a bigger hit since there already is a glut of cars on the market. But this is good in the long run and perhaps is a chance of certain carmakers to reinvent themselves and stop competing on SUVs and attempt to convert the consumers to smaller and more efficient cars.

But honestly, it isn't that the auto-industry is deliberately pushing inefficient cars, but that consumers want bigger and more power cars that tend to be more inefficient in contrast to the econo-box models. Case in point, simply look at the changing car taste patterns in Singapore. People do want bigger cars. So why should we penalise firms for responding to the wants of the people?

But having said that, this should be a big boot up the car-maker's butts and would be a good spur for more radical innovation as opposed to legislation. Companies should really view this in their own favour as this would forestall even more extreme reactions whether from the state or the environment movement.

If you got frustrated at the equivocation and wishy washiness of the previous few paragraphs, good, that's the way policy is suppose to be. There are very very few unnuanced moments and few where it can be readily said to have an absolute good or absolute evil. And those moments tend to be ones where the body-count starts racheting upwards.

Anyway, there's debate training tomorrow after at 6 p.m. at the Faculty of Law. We're meeting outside the moot-court. Come by and watch or participate. We're doing something on homosexual rights.



At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Evil Environmentalist,

You must like the Rocky Mountain Institute then. They have put out a book called Winning the Oil Endgame, an "Executive Summary" of which can be downloaded at the website.

Amory B. Lovins, CEO of RMI, has also written an article "More Profit with Less Carbon" in the Sep 2005 issue of Scientific American, listing many ways energy can be more efficiently used (and putting down nuclear power, BTW, in favour of other alternatives like solar and wind power). The thrust of his article was that more efficient energy use actually means more "profits", or benefits, for businesses.

I am not sure if he isn't a tad too optimistic, but it makes for an interesting read.



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