Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Technological fixes are only part of the solution

Articles like this drive me nuts. I don't disagree with the idea of green vehicles, but the rosy outcomes offered by the "magic pill" of new technologies is typical of short sighted, quick fix, too often American perspective. One excerpt shows the error:

Switching from a car that gets 20 mpg to one that gets 50 mpg will save the
average American nearly $1,100/year in gas costs at $3/gallon (given the average
distance Americans drive per year – about 12,000 miles; savings rise
considerably as gas prices and miles driven go up). That savings is nearly two
times the cash provided to us by our 2008 stimulus checks! Multiply that by the
112 million households in the U.S. alone, and that’s $123.2 billion/year that
American households are now spending on gas that with a mandate for more
efficient vehicles, they would have to spend on…everything else.

And what kind of products are we going to spend that extra cash on? We could buy a bigger house that requires more heat and air conditioning. How about a second energy hogging plasma screen TV. Or how about a bigger car, so instead of 50mpg, it is just 35?

I think the effect(s) I am pointing out here are negative feedbacks...unanticipated negatives from a positive change.

What we need to do is a combination of technological fixes and some behaviorial change. Personally, I don't think appeals ot ethics and what not are likely to be very effective. I think we need a serious carbon tax...I think there needs to be a cap and trade and dividend on business and a good tax on households with that tax money spent on sustainability models, climate change mitigation, and adaptation efforts, and a push to move us away from petroleum based fuel (or crude alternatives like ethanol) for our transportation needs.

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