Monday, October 30, 2006

Global warming and erosion of the bank account

There's a golden rule for voters of competing parties: never, ever agree about anything.

When politicians detect a glimmer of consensus on any subject, with barely concealed delight, the first thing they will try and do is look for ways to tax it. Having taxed all the traditional sources to death, the new opportunities of congestion charges and now climate change are providing rich new pastures for those who think they can spend your money more wisely than you can.

The doom mongers commenting on the lingering summer and autumn are twittering about global warming and imminent doom. But before we get overwhelmed by the assumptions, let's examine what's actually going on.

We are told that planting a tree is necessary to balance the carbon equation through the process of photosynthesis that uses the combination of sunlight, H20 and chlorophyll to hoover the C from CO2 and fix in complex hydrocarbons, and then release back the 02 to the atmosphere. However, trees take a long time to grow. So consider the immediately beneficial effects of extending the period of the year in which the green stuff is able to rinse the atmosphere. Would it be fair to suggest that by extending the growing period for a month, we might get an extra 15-20% of the carbon absorption?

While you are cursing the need to cut your grass in November, just think how much extra carbon has been taken from the atmosphere in the growing process.

Higher temperatures, lashings of rain and the effect of extended growing seasons look very much like nature's feedback system at work. So whilst we may need to build a little more thoughtfully to keep the roof on - and improve the drainage - just maybe things are not quite as dire as the more hysterical tree huggers would have us believe.

What is more energy efficient? Running a vehicle for 500k miles and accepting that older engines emit a bit more of the nasty stuff - or go mad like the Japanese and devise emission rules that require engine replacement every 50-75k miles or so? (Which actually results in the Japanese shipping loads of second hand cars around the LHD world and keeping their home economy churning.)

Let's put this in perspective: the UK is responsible for 2% of global pollution, there will be no more fossil fuels in 30 years time anyway.

Easily the biggest political challenge arises from who controls what's left, and governments (like ours) that have wasted their peoples' resources. So governments that are now perilously dependent on savvy Russians and unstable Saudi Arabians would prefer not to admit this to the voters, but try and find ways to deflect attention onto other things - especially when it means they can tax something new and kid the voters that they are doing them a favour.

The main reason for you to fret about energy conservation is cash conservation. The best use of old engine oil is to pour it into vats, boil it, and place them on the roof of your porch, ready for when New Labour's numerous new tax inspectors come calling.

If only we could find a way to tax the sanctimonious...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Taxation has been the government’s response to every problem since the sixteenth century. I used to look back on the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as a bunch of self righteous tax dodging nincompoops but in the light of the taxation fetish in this country they look remarkably far sighted.

I am continually bombarded by enviro-guilt literature informing me that I need to be conscious of my desecration of the environment and must religiously recycle every product I use. I am willing to do so, but where are the recycling bins?; at Brent Cross, conveniently located across a murderous mass of dual carriageways. So to be a good citizen of the earth and recycle I need to own a car which emits around 4.3 tonnes of CO2 a year. Not that this bothers me too much. This idea that we all have a carbon footprint sounds spookily similar to the Calvinist concept of original sin or which I am similarly contemptuous.