Saturday, August 13, 2011

A week of Red and Black but no Green


This was a crazy week of black and red with almost no green. The stock markets around the globe were like yo yos and went down and up. The yo yo is a pretty green toy that uses gravity for motion and a little jerk of the finger to recover the downward momentum into upward momentum. This is a lot greener a toy than any toy that needs a battery. I love to play with a yo yo and find it kind of soothing until the loop on the string really tightens on my finger and cuts off my circulation. As a kid in South Africa I remember a particular couple of years when Coca Cola gave out free yo yos if you collected 100 bottle caps. Those red and white yo yos where really cool and I did manage to get a couple by drinking a few hundred Cokes.

Cokes in South Africa were made with cane sugar and tasted pretty darn good under the hot African sun. A two liter Coke has about half a pound of sugar in it. That is a lot of sugar. The sugar is far more gangrene than the plastic bottle. There is move afoot by Coca Cola and the other major bottlers to use some bio plastics made from bio derived ethylene glycol for their bottles. Kind of stupid to work on the minor side of the problem when the sugar or high fructose corn syrup in the drink far eclipses the carbon, water and land footprints of the plastic in the bottle.

I guess the stock markets and debt rating agencies also felt that governments are working on solving the wrong problems and hence the wild swings in the markets over the past weeks. The Green Machine has always proposed a small carbon tax as the partial solution to the deficit. The carbon tax should be on the carbon emitted in various stages of value addition to products and services. The rate at which it should be charged is perhaps $20 per ton (1 cent per pound) of CO2. For example if you take a 25 mile taxi ride and the taxi cab gets 25 mpg the ride you took emitted 20 pounds of carbon dioxide and the VAT for the ride should be 20 cents. There should also be a corresponding Carbon Dioxide import duty on goods and services that are imported into the USA. For example if a steel pipe that weighs 50 pounds comes from China and we know China emits 0.75 pounds of CO2 for each pound of steel produced the added CO2 import duty will be 37.5 cents for that piece of steel pipe.

OK so you all think I am a tax and spend person. Actually I am not and I don’t really worry about the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as we will adapt and survive as a species even after we reach 500 parts per million or 700 parts per million. The carbon dioxide tax will help us adapt a little faster to a lifestyle of wasting less and that is my sole interest in being a Green Machine. Nonsense technologies being promoted by Al, Vinod and their friends that tax us at over $1,000 per ton of carbon dioxide will not be part of the adaptive lifestyle as that level of taxation is simply too much of a burden. At $20 per ton of CO2 the US could raise about $120 billion of taxes on domestic VAT and another $50 billion on imports. French imports will bear the least duty as they produce goods and services with the least amount of carbon dioxide emissions. The Chinese who are polluting the planet will bear the most and maybe they will do something about their emissions.

I once suggested to Jonathan Lash who heads the WRI and was President Clinton’s guru on sustainability that the membership dues that countries pay the United Nations should be based on the carbon emissions. China would have to pay more dues than the USA and France would get a break. I doubt that all the politicians that love to talk green would ever agree that the “fair” way to levy dues for UN membership is based on carbon emissions. Australia and South Africa who have fairly small populations but burn coal like there is no tomorrow would have to pay more to belong to the UN. Perhaps the Green Machine should be Secretary General of the UN as well as the Engineering General of the US. This all fits in with my general theory of relatives that states you cannot pick your family but you can pick your nose if you have a good plastic surgeon. Coke should pick a better sweetener rather than a better plastic. Let’s all work on solving problems that yield results. Controlling the population explosion is the first problem to solve in our quest for greener pastures.

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