Sunday, October 29, 2006

Carbon Dioxide emissions and the environment

Just wanted to clear something up just so there are no misconceptions in the green debate.

According to the Fascist Mail on Sunday David "Look at my lovely face" Milliband is proposing to tax on green issues until the pips squeak. This will hurt the poor more than the rich, the rural poor doubly so. You can read their article here. Us conservatives need to come up with better answers.

However when we talk of Carbon emissions we should be clear on what it is we mean.

If you did up some coal, or drill for some oil, and burn it you are releasing fossilised carbon. That results in higher concentrations of CO2 in the environment, and as I said in this article, it absorbs heat more than air does so the atmosphere gets hotter.

However, that does not mean that carbon based fuels are in any way bad, if they come from plants that have removed carbon from the atmosphere first.

Also from an environmental point of view it is nuts to scrap all the cars we have in favour of new ones, if we can find non fossil based fuels to run them on. Well they do exist. Cars can be adjusted, but more interestingly you can mix bio fuels with fossil fuels to get net carbon emissions down NOW. The only problem is, you may have to reduce tax on something.

Hat tip to Dizzy who also has a good article on the subject here.


Timothy said...

There's a slight problem with widespread use of biofuels. We need the land in order to grow food crops. In a market economy, supply adjusts to follow the money. Clearly, the rich, with their cars, will be able to pay a lot more than the poor.

This sort of effect has been observed in most famines. Food has been available, it's just that subsistence farmers have never had the money to pay for it. Consequently, some charities now hand out cash in famine areas to encourage the market supply of food [rather than undermine the local food markets by handing out free food].

However, if you create a demand for fuel crops, backed by cash-rich middle class demand [in developing countries as well as Western countries], then land will be turned over to grow biofuels, by fair means or foul, and poor people will starve.

Biofuels can make a contribution - they can be made from some of the waste byproducts of food crops for example - but they aren't even a stopgap solution.

I agree about the fallacy of building masses of new "green" cars. We need to find more efficient ways of living that:

1. Don't involve travelling so much. It's a waste of time as well as carbon.

2. Make travel more efficient. Why do people waste so much effort driving themselves? Why not travel as part of a group with someone else taking care of the driving? More public transport is unfashionably part of the solution.

Benedict White said...

Timothy, many thanks for your comments. I do agree with you about issues with developing countries and famine. However I don't agree that it has to be that way with bio fuels.

For a start your position seems to assume that there is some shortage of farming land. I don't think there is. The Ukraine is capable of feeding itself and the rest of Europe to the West of it. Mush of the former Soviet Union has been poorly farmed but even worse the USSR's ability to get stuf from field to market was appalling.

Also these is much scope I feel for building solar powered water dislitation plants to irrigate either desert or recently new desert. That would have the advantage of providing both jobs, and food where there is currently much immigration preasure, as well as tying vaste amounts of carbon up in the production cycle.

That said you talk about bio energy from waste crop products, which is true, but you can collect it from the farm and produce gas, and from the end user and divert it from land fill and also produce gas.

Both ways also tend to produce good fertalizer depending on what temperature you run the bio digesters at.

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