Saturday, February 02, 2008

Come fly with me

One of the discussion groups that Eli follows recently linked to a survey on conference travel and carbon offsets. Rather than swamping the survey, Rabett labs will simply put up the questions and Eli's answers. See what your take is. A large part of the issue is that the bunny would be a lot happier paying a surcharge that was imposed on everyone for travel to cover the externality of carbon pollution than volunteer. This is part of his prejudice against free riders and frankly Jean Jacques Rousseau was full of crap and so is Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman.

All the questions have the usual five point scales,

  1. I'll die for that,
  2. Seems good to me,
  3. Whatever,
  4. You gotta be kidding and
  5. Over my dead body
being good representations and there is room for comments for each question

1. Do you feel that CO2 offsets make a difference?
How large or small of a difference do you feel that CO2 offsets make?3. What alternative(s) do you propose to CO2 offsets, if applicable? (essay only)4. Would you be willing to pay money from a grant or other funding source to offset the CO2 used on your business-related travels?5. If you could not be reimbursed for CO2 offset expenses, would you be willing to pay out of your own pocket?

Eli's answers were

1. Somewhat (2) They would only become significant if applied universally
2. Somewhat (2)
3. Eli Rabett's simple plan to save the world
4. No (5), this would be a large fiduciary stretch
5. Definitely (1), Eli intends to do so (1) since thinking about the survey.
6. No, see answer to 4, however the conference fees could be used to buy offsets for the conference activities themselves. That's a lot of hot air for most conferences
7. Eli needs to go look for offsets that benefit developing countries who are experiencing costs due to climate change.

To understand Eli's position on why it would be much better to have mandatory charges reigning in the free market fairy we have this amusing take

The Free Market Fairy is invoked to solve all problems with no explanation given for its wondrous powers, just look at the magical incantation: highlight a problem, invoke free markets, and poof, out pops the desired result. The most important aspect of the Free Market Fairy is that it is magical, with magical devices having three hallmarks; they work outside normal physics, they are outside science (they may be invoked by mere muggles but can never be comprehended by them), and finally they have intent (either good or evil).
What works is a combination of regulation taxation and social pressure such as killed off plastic bags in Ireland.
In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.
Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.
“When my roommate brings one in the flat it annoys the hell out of me,” said Edel Egan, a photographer, carrying groceries last week in a red backpack.


William M. Connolley said...

I did the survey but was a bit more cynical. To expand:

(1) If everyone carbon-offset, we'd run out of offsets. So it can't be universal.

(2) Why is aircraft travel a magic source of CO2 that requires offset, when heating your house and driving to work don't?

William M. Connolley said...

I'm sure you'll notice, but I was prompted to rant about it:

ps: don't forget to take my test (prev post)!

guthrie said...

I'm afraid I don't do scales, and you've made it a five point scale which means people can pick the middle option.

1 and 7- no

2- probably bugger all.
3- Implement much of what George Monbiot has written in his book "Heat". Division of labour, you see, he has already written a book on the topic, so i refer you to it.

4,5,6- no idea. The place I work has a combined gas and electricity bill of over half a million pounds, I believe. We make carbon fibre furnace insulation, and use rather outdated and ineffiient methods to do so. But we've got furnaces that can do 2,200C, mwhahaaahaha.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to fail (3), because this is not an essay. What about a company that would sequestrate CO2 for you? Of course, this would be much more expensive to set up than promising not to chop down a forest until your company is bought up by a paper mill. So, the first few years (millennia), the money would only go into a fund until there was enough money to:

Get rights to pump CO2 into an aquifer (rights that you can't buy a the moment)
Drill a hole
Set up a pipe line from a CO2 producer (e.g. ammonia plant)
Make sure that the CO2 capture tech you are using is implemented such that the net atmospheric CO2 output is less

Now, there's probably a thousand thing wrong with this, but eventually CCS wil need to be done, so why not start early.

Use the money to buy a wind farm is also a possibilty.

guthrie said...

Sequestration, from what I have read, is more of a last resort than a really nifty method of saving our backsides.
For starters, you have to use quite a percentage of the elctricity generated in order ot liquify the CO2. You then have to pump it into a reservoir of some sort which will definitely hold it for centuries.
In the UK, there are a few such sites, the problem being not many power stations are near them, and we need lots of infrastructure.

You'd probably be better off insulating your house, turning the thermostat down and buying mroe local food, and not flying abroad every year, as well as ensuring your job is only a short journey away.

Anonymous said...

Sequestration does not come cheap, which is why I tried to embellish my post with caveats. I suggested CO2 from ammonia plants because:
1. Ammonia production is big (not power generation big - but you need to start somewhere)
2. Ammonia production needs CO2 capture to work, so the capture tech is already in place
3. At the moment the CO2 coming from most ammonia plants is vented to atmosphere. Why? Because there's only so much CO2 coke, pepsi and safeway home-brand can put into fizzy drinks.

The alternative suggesting you make are also good. May I add, cycling to work, which may have been implicit in your suggestion.

However, if you really have to fly, the question remains, what is the best way to compensate. Wind power would now be my best shot today, with CCS in the future.

guthrie said...

*Gets up onto soapbox*
Slightly off topic, but relative to the topic.

Look at the above link. the technology for low energy houses has been around for more than a decade. Yet our chicken government, without a conviction that doesn't come with a cheque, have avoided putting in any legislation that would force the housebuilders to implement the easily implementable changes that would, in new builds, greatly reduce the CO2 emissions now and over the life of the house. And they would also save the occupiers a fortune. But funnily enough, the free market doesn't work very well when it comes to this sort of thing...

Anonymous said...

the technology for low energy houses has been around for more than a decade.

as well as the technology for 100+mpg cars.

Anonymous said...

WRT low-energy housing, where I am it's not just that it's not enforced; not even that it's not encouraged; local planning regulations actually prohibit it... Nice, eh? But then, we've got a president who supposedly counts our dear Lubos among his advisors on the environment, so small wonder really.

Horatio Algeranon said...

To emit, or not to emit: , that is the question...

Anonymous said...

I just went to the store and bought single candy bar and hd it double-plastic bagged. And I'm gonna smuggle black market plstic bags into Ireland. Mwahaha. Take that...commy motherfuckers. Nuke the fucking baby seals. DIE, DIE, DIE.