Resistance Begins at Ohm!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

An energy idea at least worth civilized discussion

This comes from a Scientific Alliance newsletter. Hats off to Prof Phillip Stott for sharing. Get it from the professor, it is a lot easier to read. The newsletter title is What priority for climate change at a time of European crisis?
The proposition is basically this: Give electricity to the people who don't have it. Tax it.

(So, we aren't really giving it, they are going to pay for it. Somehow). This actually makes some sense because energy is the "master resource" upon which wealth is built. In other words, without energy (electricity), plowing fields, carrying coal out of mines, hauling goods to market with your ox cart, just isn't going to make you competitive. Energy is a multiplier of work. The more work, the more the economic rewards, and the better those markets are for buying products and services from other markets.

Along the way, because more energy is being made, the unit price of energy will go down. 

I'm not actually convinced this will happen. Electricity doesn't flow out of the ground. Behind it is oil, natural gas, coal or nuclear, the first three being highly volatile to supply and demand issues. Can't argue that expanding electricity into new markets isn't going to have major impact on that. And Solar and wind are not economically viable, they require too much government subsidy to even exist in the market place, let alone compete. They are just too inefficient  and unreliable to represent a primary resource now or in the future. Kind of like corn-gas, it doesn't take a nuclear physicist to figure out the numbers don't add up.

But the idea is that with the expansion in electricity "manufacture," the unit price goes down, making a tax bearable.

Even if it is not bearable, using government subsidies to bring energy where it isn't is a lot more efficient use of that resource than pouring it into the endless hole of subsidies for nonviable energy solutions at home.

Use the tax revenue to fund energy research.

Yes, but the government can't be picking and choosing the winners. Otherwise, we will keep getting stupid ideas like corn-gas because someone's uncle has a farm that loses money making wheat futures. As much as I would hate to have such a beast, an independent board would have to review proposals, provide the funding and assess the results. Given how East Anglia worked, one would have to say perhaps three boards with mutual oversight might be necessary. Kind of like three credit reporting agencies. Or three branches of government. And obviously, the UN is not eligible because with their history, none of the money will ever get to the researchers. (When are we going to fire the UN for malfeasance and incompetence, anyway? Keep the security council, just get rid of the pathological waste fraud and abuse departments, like ICCC.)

And use the tax revenue as a safety net for countries that are not prepared to cope with disaster such as floods, drought and weather.

You mean like property and flood insurance? Sure, but there has to be some payment in for the value received. With improving economies due to new electricity resources, payment into should increase and reliance upon should decrease. But having people continue to build houses below sea level is not an option. That is not an insurable risk. Except in the Netherlands, where they have the economic resources to protect themselves. We need to stop protecting people from their own stupidity.

Whatever my opinions, I have to give them credit for a revolutionary idea that rather turns the arguments on their heads, while still trying to achieve the same objectives, just in a more palatable way.

And England's idea is that since they aren't going to make a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, they need to increase the goal to 30%. I cannot fathom how stupid government policy makers can actually be. I think their logic is that because of their economic downturn, they will not be using as much energy, therefore will not have the same absolute number of carbon units reduced as if they keep the fires burning so to speak. This is what happens when you put a value on a non-thing like a carbon unit. Forget that there is an increased reduction in carbon unit creation because people aren't using the same amount of energy. Those units apparently don't count. Oh wait, that's because they aren't taxed. This would be like penalizing someone because they put less trash out to the curb. I think we should turn out the policy makers' lights. How much carbon would that save? It's not like there is productive use going on.

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