Paying off the bad guys

Kevin Drum thinks that a cap-and-trade system for controlling pollution is not worth having if you don’t auction off the permits:

There are loads of special interests who hate the idea of a 100% auction, of course. But once you start giving away permits, you’ll never stop. It is, plain and simple, a massive giveaway … makes a mockery of any serious cap-and-trade plan. …Without a 100% auction, cap-and-trade is a bad joke.

Unless you have the option of a decent tax scheme I don’t really see what his problem is. Read more

In favour of the ‘iwi tax’

Fishermen on the Waikato are apparently going to be subjected to an environmental levy on their earnings by the iwi who own the river. The newspaper article seems a bit negative about the scheme and I can’t see why. To me this is a great idea on a number of levels. I just hope that the levy is a tax, rather than a one off charge. Read more

Is doing nothing better than doing a little?

Apparently National has decided to allow coal and gas-fired power plants, in a reversal of the previous government’s decision. They have almost simultaneously discarded the obligation on fuel companies to provide biofuel.

In a way, Gerry Brownlee is right that “the ETS put a price on pollution, providing adequate incentives for power companies to invest in renewable generation.” The regulations did distort the incentives of producers to invest in green technology as Matt has previously written about. Removing the distortions and implementing a carbon market is probably the best way to ensure we reduce our emissions at a minimal cost. So why aren’t I happy about the government’s decision? Read more

A world without growth?

My favourite article of NewScientist’s series is Herman Daly’s. The father of modern ecological economics lashes out at the way economists ignore the source of inputs to production and the capacity of the waste sinks that we have. As he puts it, we should imagine the economy as a system within the world’s ecosystem. Read more

Does sustainability make us happier?

So we are going to have to cut our consumption and it’s not going to make us better off. How come NewScientist’s authors seem to agree that we won’t necessarily be unhappier? Where evidence is given it tends to be in terms of happiness measures. Kate Soper (London Metropolitan University) points out that wealth doesn’t correlate with happiness over USD15,000 of income, while Andrew Simms (New Economics Foundation) makes much of the fact that people with vastly different living standards report the same level of happiness. The difficulty is that happiness isn’t the kind of measure that works for cross-country comparisons. Read more

Will sustainability make us better off?

An important question raised by the writers in NewScientist’s feature is whether we will be less happy living sustainably. This is the part of the series I felt was weakest. The general consensus amongst them is that we will actually be happier if we live sustainably because we will live healthier lifestyles. David Suzuki claims that ‘we would go out and walk around because there would be shops, musicians and people out on the street that we’d want to meet’. Kate Soper thinks we’d ‘…enjoy healthier modes of transport such as walking, cycling and boating’.

The authors appear to be projecting their own lifestyle preferences onto others here. It is this element of the environmental rhetoric that bothers me most: the idea that we would all be happier people if only we were more like them because they know what’s best for us better than we do. Read more