Thursday, December 02, 2004

George Monbiot: Feeding Cars, Not People: Biofuels (unlike hydrogen cells) are shaping up as one of the few viable sources of alternative, renewable energy. And yes, as Monbiot points out, they cannot possibly replace what oil supplies now. But they could create a vast new 'cashcrop' plantation-style industry in the thirdworld jungles of the Congo, the Amazon and Borneo. The natives will starve so that firstworld automobiles can continue to roll a little bit longer.

"I know the definition of sustainable development has been changing, but I wasn't aware that it now encompasses mass starvation and the eradication of tropical forests."

Oil is used primarily for transport and agriculture. What would you do in a world without oil? Starve to death where you stand, basically.

That's pretty much the current 'plan', if you want to call it that. That's what I call 'Plan Snooze'. The other popular plan is 'Plan War': the guys with the biggest guns will grab the stuff they need and kill anyone who opposes them. 'Plan Powerdown' is the only sane approach, which is to transition to a sustainable economy which uses less energy per capita. Monbiot's article seems to me a pretty revealing indicator of the state of 'planning' in spite of the fact that we are this deep into the crisis already.

The incentive structure should be taxation on scarce resources and on polluters rather than grants or subsidies to new and renewable industries. The proceeds of such taxation need to be invested into sustainable energy and socio-economic systems. For example, instead of providing taxpayer-funded subsidies and grants to the coal industry to encourage less C02 emission, a carbon tax should be imposed which would provide a general market incentive both for alternative fuels and for reduced emissions, in addition to providing desperately need public funds for essential investments such as research or light and heavy rail.

1 comment:

Leo Gatchell said...

Not bad.