Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Price On Carbon Currently a Hindrance

--First Draft ---
This need breaking up and LOTS of work and editing .

A price on Carbon ?
Well lets assume we actually mean "Greenhouse Gasses"
What we are asking of this mechanism hanging off a few innocent molecules is truly V A S T .


Its not the objective though its just a tool.

How effective it would be is debatable in any case, how quickly it would work even more so.
It would surely help a transition to a low carbon economy, but its not all thats required.

Essentially the argument for it goes:

Add a price (albeit artificially) to a system and Mr. Smiths "invisible hand" of the market will magically find you the best and cheapest solution. Both major parties and many industry "Lobby Groups" ( "foyer groups" just don't sound right ) seem unable or unwilling to move away from that mechanism at all. Its the ONLY way. Anything else will pollute the ideological self admiring beauty of it.

Well OK thats fine. Its remarkably like saying all swans are white though.

As a development mechanism this is arguably less reliable than a Windows desktop.

It can and demonstrably _will_ deliver you something you already have, much more efficiently.
Over time.
We do not have a lot of that time thing.

Remember this is the same invisible hand that delivers broken software, the ethically challenged goods and consumption that break our planet, no real content differentiation on any Television network anywhere, _commercial radio_ etc etc. All good things in some sort of moderation.

It _might_ do as asked, it _might_ even deliver a whole new swath of technologies.
It is probably, over time, a great idea.

A price mechanism alone is unlikely to get us to a new system quickly enough, or importantly with enough diversity.

It is likely to (also) deliver an entire new industry based around trading leveraged options in shares of the same somehow evil gas. That may even be a "Good Thing", it keeps the ASX and the Prestige "widget" factories ticking. Someones gotta buy all those black suits.

Most fundamental technological breakthroughs have not arisen from pure market forces.
The enabling and defining technologies of this era grew from military and related needs.

The Internet is a notable example:
the protocols designed around delivery of a robust distributed network that could direct interceptors (fighter aircraft) toward strategic bombers during a potential nuclear conflict. The hardware platforms that host the "net" come from a similar heritage (add Apollo as an accelerator) etc etc.

Now this is not to dismiss the "hands" fecund effects on cost and performance.

99+ percent of capital investment happens _after_ a new technology, paradigm or modus is proven and established. (then usually to the point of pure waste, even dehumanisation). Think of Tulips, Dot Com bubbles, Sugar and Cotton slavery, 1800s Taylorism etc.

The potential and even realised disasters we have seen with privatisation of public utilities:
Power - California or even SA
Water - South America , UK
Telecommunications - Australia
Fossil Fuel extraction - Globally

These systems nearly always end up demanding IP and or physical Monopolies to deliver some version of efficiency and stabilty. That is they often work to EXclude competition.
Its only nature at work here of course.

A definitive example of this is the petrol (gasoline -- it is called that because ?) engined vehicle. Why do we still drive the things ? They are stupidly inefficient on any number of levels. (Most nations that build the things do so as they need solid industrial capacities to re-fight WW2)

The barriers to adoption for a new transportation technology are simply massive. The increment of improvement would need to be an order of magnitude for wide adoption. Which is why electric cars are being made to be as much like ICE cars as possible.

What we need is an efficient low impact system for generating, storing and distributing energy.

Given our current global infrastructure that energy needs to be presented as Electricty at end point.

Consider it took somebody with the organisational skills and gravitas of General Monash to initiate our electrical distribution system that has grown to what we have now.

We are asking a mob called the Market to jump at least as high.
It never has before, it didn't it the US when they first built there national grid, it helped for sure just as it did when it got a free ride to build the railways. Did we ask the farmers to build our rail system, or the snowy scheme? (we did it collectively/nationally because ?)

Putting a price on carbon will make building needed new infrastructure even more expensive.
Material toward a greener economy should probably be exempt. We all know that they will just claim it as a business expense in any case. (or rort the thing somehow, its just what "they" / "we" do)

Put a price on "Carbon" but understand it wont actually deliver much that is new.

First we are going to need some robust way of generating delivering and securing our energy supplies, ALL of them. This wont be a single technology and I would argue nor should it be.
ANY system based on one idea is inherently fragile , hostage to forces of nature conflict and the market alike. Lets at least try not to make that mistake again.

This nation is blessed with the resources knowledge skills and other capacities to build what we need and build it so well that it may serve duty as a model for others, and an exportable commodity for us.

We need not wait for a price on green house gases, though that will help. We need to start yesterday on rolling out distribution systems , core pilot plants and control and monitoring systems. If need be these should be subsidised until the gas taxes are in place. Which indirectly is an argument for a Carbon tax I suppose.

There is great opportunity here if the market can be helped through those first dangerous steps.

First Draft Only ----

Lets set aside issues like guts and leadership.
Those are hard to define or measure.

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