Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Musings: Dead Ends

With polluters, industrialized nations and the World Bank moving to ensure that only market-based “solutions” — and thus, no real substantive changes — dominate at the Cancun Climate Summit, alternative energy remains a topic of hot debate.

I explore the Islands’ current fascination with biofuels as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative in a Honolulu Weekly cover story that delves into some of the many obstacles we face in transitioning away from our dependence on imported oil.

Shortly after writing the article, I heard a Democracy Now! interview with Derrick Jensen, who was talking about how “the dominant culture is killing the planet.” It was a thoughtful exchange, which I hope to delve into a little more in future posts, but he made one point that should be at the forefront in our discussion of alternative fuels:

[O]ne of the problems that I see with the vast majority of so-called solutions to global warming is that they take industrial capitalism as a given and the planet which must conform to industrial capitalism, as opposed to the other way around.

That pretty much sums up the issue. So long as we keep trying to perpetuate a way of life based on the endless consumption — and waste — of precious renewable resources, we’re going to keep running into dead ends. Literally.


Casey said...

I think there is room for markets to help solve the problem of climate change, water usage, etc.. The point of a market is to measure the value of something (like carbon, water) that is difficult to quantify. They way people use something tells you how much it is worth.
The problem now is that people don't know how much they *should* be spending on gasoline, because the damage of CO2 emissions are not included in the cost at the pump. A carbon tax, for example, would make that obvious to everyone who buys gas. If the cost of gas got higher than that of their solar car (or whatever) they'd start buying solar cars.
There are other solutions, certainly, but they tend to be much less efficient. After all, it's just plain difficult to tell the entire world that they should use less gas or water!

Anonymous said...

Relying on markets to set values for intangibles like clean air/water is pretty silly. Markets are subject to manipulation by the strong players such that they end up with the benefits at the expense of the rest.

Gaming the system is what traders live for. Enron anyone?

Anonymous said...

Wow Casey, you are sooo right on. All it takes is proper marketing and sufficient profit margin, and all would be perfect.

Anonymous said...

The population of people and polluters on the planet is increasing at exponential rates while the intelligence and consciousness of the masses might be increasing only linearly.

Good intentions may not be enough to stem the tide.

The dominant culture will eventually have its way and just like parasites munching away at the planets resources....will kill the host (the Earth) end up dying along with the Earth in our own waste.

Good good news is: We will all be dead by then. So no worries!

Its our children and grandchildren who will suffer.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Casey, you are full of it. The whole energy market is artificially manipulated for maximum profit and control of the commodity. We could easily have fast, efficient automobiles using gasoline that got 100 miles per the gallon. And when you put water, one of the essentials of this life as given by the Creator into the same equation as "the market" you are EVIL!!

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:53

That's a load of crap.

There is nothing being done by energy companies to prevent 100 MPG cars from being on the roads. That borders on paranoid.

If you really believe that nonsense, just answer why China or India aren't producing your magic car since the oil companies have little sway there?

Anonymous said...

Anom 10:21 you are clueless!!! The oil barrons have a total lock on refinery technology, ie. proprietary, that excludes even some of the largest oil producing countries from producing their own gasoline. It is how they maintain their strangle hold on the fuel market. Just like Microsoft controls so vast a share of the computer world. If one of those countries balks at the system, they might have all the crude oil in the world but without the ability to turn it into fuel it is worthless.
Iran's oil production is totally dependent on it's access to proprietary technology to refine it into all of the different petroleum products. Refinery capability is everything. So one has to play the game,comply with the market strategies et al or they would simply be cut out of the loop. Ya ever heard of diamonds? There are shit loads of them out there, enough for every one to own, but through ruthless control of the supply the price is artificially kept sky high. The world is not the load of CRAP we are sold!
Lee Harvey Oswald with three perfect shots did not kill Kennedy, James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther KIng, Moses did not part a sea, Jesus Christ did not walk on water nor was he born of a virgin. Grow up and learn to see things as they are not as the spoon fed crap we're supposed to accept like good little sheeple. !00 mile to the gallon cars are totally possible. China???? The country that cuts it's milk with melamine??

Anonymous said...

Sorry o paranoid one.

Refinery technology is easily bought both anywhere in the globe. Your example of Iran is one exception as they are under quarantine.

the only reason more refineries aren't built is economics. They're simply not profitable much of the time. Even US runs are below 85% and we're the biggest market in the world.

And I note you morphed the debate from 100 MPG cars to refineries. Lack of availability of refinery technology should spur production of a 100 MPG car. You're all twisted in knots.

Don't let your politics blind you. If you think Exxon could stop GE from producing a 100 MPG car, you're nuts. And if you think China is still some backward place unable to produce cutting edge devices, you're 20 years out of date.