Tag Archive | electricity

Linking taxes to empathy

I look at how logical Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands are [because they enacted a carbon tax] and wonder how we in the US are still so positively stupid.

(I’m not alone in thinking so.)

It’s the one tax that both conservative and liberal economists agree on. You tax the amount of gasoline you use, the amount of garbage you don’t recycle (since it releases greenhouse gases once it’s sitting in a landfill), and the amount of energy you use to heat your home. The result: more money for the government (which wouldn’t be in such a fiscal mess otherwise), and less pollution. If you design it so that lower-income households are subsidized, it doesn’t lower consumption or increase inequality.

You can’t blame Obama entirely because any environmentally-progressive thing he might want to do would be vetoed by the Republican-controlled House (though it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try). And you can’t blame Republicans in the House entirely because someone elected them. Could you blame the people that elected the Republicans?

I used to think that people who were homophobic, conservative, and tax-evading didn’t have the same access to good education. But then I remembered Alex. He and I went to the same public middle school and high school, and by his senior year, most of his opinions were already formed. He was smart and capable–he just didn’t care about most other people. And there’s the problem: no public school curriculum in the US teaches empathy.

Are all environmentalists good people? Probably not. Are all environmentally apathetic people “bad?” Certainly not. But for every person who opposes having taxes, I must ask: will they still refuse to pay taxes once they need the services of a fireman, policeman, public school teacher, or even sanitation engineer (garbage collector)? Once they or their children somehow end up needing social services support? Why should it be different for our shared environment and climate? Why do we need gigantic natural disasters to foster any significant action?

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Cleaner clean fuel sources

I came upon this in an article about alternative clean power sources:

“If 1 percent of the earth’s hot deserts produced clean solar-thermal energy, they would meet the entire planet’s current electricity demand.”

Solar-thermal energy in this case involves using hundreds of large ground-level mirrors to concentrate light on a tall tower, which then converts the light into heat, and then into electricity via a steam turbine. Such a source of power would require massive amounts of space and decent electricity infrastructure already in place to take it from a [presumably] desert area to villages and cities. While making mirrors and one steam turbine would definitely require fewer minerals (like gallium, arsenic, cadmium, and tellurium used in PVs) than photovoltaic-based solar power, and solar-thermal energy would probably have more attainable economies of scale, I wonder how transferable solar-thermal energy will be in reality, compared to PV solar. Given the lower marginal costs and seeming efficiency (at least, based on that quote), it seems strange that solar-thermal hasn’t become more widespread.

The writer, David Benjamin, argues that the visibility [or lack thereof] of these cleaner technologies is why they’re not more widespread–but one look at the controversies behind large-scale wind farms and PV farms seems to hint at a different relationship with renewables.

In a preliminary talk with a vertical wind-turbine developer, the start-up’s co-founder claimed that their product’s biggest selling point was its visibility and therefore image- and public-relations-boosting abilities. Should this really be the driver for innovation of clean tech — aesthetics, instead of efficiency? Is the public still so unconvinced by our rising gas prices, multiple wars in oil-rich countries, oil tanker crashes, climate change, and domestic ethanol biofuel subsidies (which were supported initially because the ethanol blended well with gasoline as a replacement for more toxic additives), that we need to focus on increasing the visibility of renewables for them to be used?

Link to article : http://www.nyfa.org/nyfa_current_detail.asp?id=272&fid=1&sid=17&curid=705