Thursday, December 18, 2008

Emissions trading

You all knew this was coming. It was inevitable. It's the Midga response to Penny Wong's emissions trading idea. Now I've only just got up and not eaten anything yet today (it's my day off, I can spend it in bed if I want) so my brain isn't feeling too good - therefore this will be a goonish response not a 100% serious one.

First, a disclaimer which will come as a relief to all of you - I'm not going to tackle the whole thing of climate change. I want people to reply to my blog, but I don't want it that badly. I'm going to assume that Wudd and Rong want the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reduced and take it from there.

Ullo ullo - what's goin' on here den?


OK, I'll clear off then.

He's gone! Heeeee'''''sssss - goooooooonne! To cover the silence, I will tell a little jokule! Penny Wong is the Ministrer for Climate Change - so why doesn't she change it faster? Ehee! Pauses for audience applause, not a sosinge. Thinks: if I'd told the joke about Sabrina they would have applauded.

Bluebottle you little devil, stop that naughty thinks! You're too young for that sort of thing!

Thinks: that's what you think!

[jelly splosh in face]

Ehee! You have splashed me in the face and wetted my shirt all the way down the legs! Exits left to change shirt. Remembers second jokule and comes back. Laddies and gennerplums, what is emissions trading? It's when I misser Seagoon gives me his cigarette smoke and I give him my [BLEEEEP] Ties self to mast, waits for 50 lashes. Mr Greenslade, you have bleeped me! Can't I say [BLEEEEP] on the BBC? Well how about Methane? Ladies and gennlemens, Seagoon gives me his cigarette smoke and I give him my methane! Still not a sosinge. Exits left to buy record of applause.

That was the Goon Show, a BBC recorded programme, ...

Ahem, I'll be a bit more serious now.

1. Will emissions trading reduce carbon emissions?
I guess this is the most important point. Effectively "emissions trading" really means "emissions tax" - every industry that makes emissions will be made to pay up. Companies that abate the carbon they produce (usually by planting trees) will of course pay a negative tax. The rest of the kitty will be spent by the government on things it feels are strategically important - research into environmentally friendly technology, rebates for Working Families who put solar panels on their roof, sweeteners to car manufacturers who build low emission vehicles in Australia, and of course keeping Penny and her department in superannuation.

And of course to save the WFs from having to pay the passed on costs, Kevin Claus is going to give rebates on things that are thought of as essential like petrol and electricity. If you're finding it confusing at the moment, so am I, it looks like we're all going to have to become environmental economists before we can understand what goes on.

But in its simplest form, the idea is to make people's hip pockets (a very sensitive part of the anatomy) feel the pain that they inflict on the atmosphere. Sounds all well and good. But will it work? Andrew Bolt (whatever you might think of him, he does come up with some good ideas) wrote one of his columns on that very thing. 30c/l price increase on petrol was the idea at the time. It will save our children's children, said Kev. But hey, said Andrew - we've just had a 30c/l increase in the last two months due to the price of a barrel of oil! Has it cut consumption all that much? No, it's just created more hot air from people talking about it (to say nothing of the environmental destruction of a Senate Enquiry printing millions of copies of their findings on paper that a tree died for).

However, and this is where I will very briefly allow my other life to enter my blog, we did notice that public transport patronage went through the roof at the time - a 30% increase in patronage I think was the figure quoted. But a 30% increase from a base of an 11% market share doesn't equate to much really. Did anyone notice freeways getting emptier? Nor I.

OK life, that's your lot, now get out. [SLAM] Insert a Greenslade quote involving listeners with a degree in higher mathematics.

So the question was, will it work: NO. Midga 1, Rudd-Wong, 0.

2. Will it have harmful side-effects?
Will it ever! Let's see if we can brainstorm a few...

1. Rorting - can anyone imagine a savvy company with an eye for a dollar or three and no conscience? Funny, so can I. Can anyone name ten in one breath without stopping to think? Yes, quite. Now imagine this hypothetical company making press releases about becoming carbon neutral by planting trees on public land. And claiming its carbon credits of course. A tree will absorb a tonne of CO2 over its life - I know that because I read it on the internet. It was in the Google snippet in fact. Actually opening the link would have told me it takes 100 years to get to a full tonne but let that pass. This hypothetical company is planting 200 trees a year which means they can claim to have abated 200 tonnes of CO2. OK, that was fun and we paid on average $1000 a year more for the planting than we would have spent on carbon tax, but we probably made that up in goodwill with our press release. Good times.

In five years we'll have used up all our available land, so we'll call in an environmentally friendly logging company to cut down those trees and make woodchips for export. Then we get to go round again! Anyone notice a problem here? I don't think Penny's Department for Climate Change will be checking up on every single company that's claimed carbon abatement to make sure they actually do it.

Midga 2, Rudd-Wong 0.

2. Apathy - can anyone imagine people just paying up instead of making efforts to reduce their carbon emissions? The pattern is fairly clear. Australians don't economise until it becomes absolutely necessary (and usually not even then). When prices go up sharply they whinge, and some might try cheaper alternatives for a while. But like a frog in a pot, they get used to it after a while and just pay anyway.

Look at the price of coffee in the 70s - there was a shortage, the price went way up, people paid it anyway. (After the shortage finished the price just stayed up, of course. No good business misses an opportunity like that.) And petrol in the last year or two, as I said above. And what about Council rates, they go up by massive percentages but people don't move to Dandenong South just because it's cheaper there.

Midga 3, Rudd-Wong 0.

3. Overheads - has anyone factored in the energy usage that would be required for all this carbon abatement? I'm guessing tractors will be used to look after the trees. Will they be plug-in hybrids connected to dedicated wind power plants? I don't think so. Do solar panels use silicone? It's made by melting sand in a very hot kiln. Will the solar panel manufacturing company's carbon emissions be treated the same as everyone else's, or will they get special grants because they're innovative? Truth be told, the energy required to make a solar panel is still greater than its output over its entire life. That fact isn't repeated often, it's politically incorrect.

Midga 4, Rudd-Wong 0.

An alternative
Just let it get hotter! What's the prediction, 2C by 2050? That means for every day in 2008 that's 16C (cold enough that I'll stay inside and play computer games) it will be 18C in 2050 (warm enough that I'll go outside and pick some of the nectarines off the tree before they go rotten). So the polar ice caps will melt and the sea will rise by six inches? That will drown the ants! Every island with a beach that slopes at 20 degrees will lose (fires up calculator and works out the sine of 20 degrees) 18 inches of their land, and everyone who lives within 18 inches of the high water mark will lose their home! But let's not stop there - everyone who suffers from fever during the hot summer will die because their body temperature will be 2C higher than it used to be! Fever happens more than pneumonia doesn't it? And people will use their air conditioners more often, leading to spiralling increases in heat and energy usage, and the planet will rock off its orbit and dive into the sun!


Well how about just creating huge tracts of land somewhere in the middle of the Simpson Desert for the dual purpose of sucking carbon out of the atmosphere and desalinating water, like I put in my last post?

Midga 5, Rudd-Wong 0. There's something to be said for water on the brain.

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