Thursday, April 26, 2007

Really not going to save the Whales

I've written very briefly about climate change once before. It's not an issue I follow much, because it often invokes an "ARGH we're all doomed lets spend these last few days we have watching Buffy" response in me. But what has really frustrated me is how easily efforts to fight climate change have been co-opted by industry.

On Tuesday Checkpoint had an interview with someone from the trucking industry. Now lets take a moment to point out that if we're going to move cargo in the most efficient way possible, then trucking is pretty much out.* The only things worse than trucking is flying; rail and sea are much more efficient.

So if the trucking industry shrank considerably then that would help lower carbon emissions straight away. What did the trucking industry suggest?

1. The government should change the depreciation rates on trucks so that trucking companies can buy newer, more efficient, truck soon.

2. The government should invest in the road system, because if trucks are in traffic they're wasting carbon.

3. Change the safety rules so that trucks can carry more cargo and be more efficient.

What do we notice about these rules. Well the first thing is that 1 & 2 would only save carbon emission if you were able to make truck and road building carbon neutral. I don't know what sort of carbon emissions road building creates, but I do know that metal production creates a shit-load of carbon emission.

But as well as not being at all useful, all of these changes are things the industry were wanting anyway, and have just dressed up as helping reduce emissions (which they probably wouldn't).

* To what extent can we afford to move cargo at all? Is it another part of our lifestyle which will result in the sea rising and the penguins dying? I'm not even going to begin to answer those questions. But would recommend watching Innocence while you still can.


  1. Anonymous2:02 am

    yeah, its so frustrating. maybe that one of the problems with campaigning on single issues. all of the other issues important to climate change i.e. capitalism and poverty, havent really been incorporated. people would rather not talk about that kinda stuff even though there is no such thing as sustainability under capitalism. my definition of sustainability is focussed around social and political liberation as well as the environment.

  2. Anonymous9:13 am

    A friend sent me this link the other day:

    sounds to me like it's basically tarseal/bitumen based. Bitumen is of course just a byproduct of petroleum production too- pour petrol onto a road and it will reform with the bitumen into crude oil!

    So what we have here is a new way of marketing tarseal, but made out to be a green product. They extract crude oil at high environmental cost, refine it to form a massively pollutant fuel source, and then market the waste product as an amazing carbon sequestration medium- combining the words 'hydrocarbon-based environmentally-friendly' is ludicrous to the point of farce! It's recycleable in the sense that you can re-use it, but can't really ever get rid of the stuff....

    I really enjoy the blog, by the way.


  3. Here in England the main debate is around airlines. The government wants to impose new taxes on airlines to discourage people from flying so much and increasing CO2 emissions, and the airlines have responded with some very convoluted attempts to paint themselves green.

    Easyjet, a budget airline whose low-cost flights have gone a long way towards increasing short-hop flights and high emissions, has been putting out ads saying it is more efficient than other airlines because it's planes are always full. So they divide their emissions by the number of passengers and get a smaller number. A plain bizarre calculation, for which they were rightly hauled over the coals by the Advertising Standards Authority. Very reminiscent of the argument that trucks should be allowed to carry more cargo, and equally unlikely to save the planet, or even the whales.

  4. Anonymous6:41 pm

    This is the adverserial system you listen to the guys and discount out all the self interest.
    There is a point to (2)cost of building a road is likely to be dwarfed by savings due to less stop start traffic if it is done at key bottlenecks. Of course the government already has an incentive to do that (angry drivers!)

  5. Anonymous8:15 pm

    Inefficient as opposed to what? Putting it in backpacks to ship from the rail yards? Horses perhaps? (They emit far more than trucks on a weight/mile basis)

    Fact is, trucks are almost always needed to get stuff to where it's going to go. We can't all live near a railroad.

    That's the beauty of capitalism, we know what is more efficient - it's the one that costs least.

  6. But scrubone it would be far better to have most freight shifted by rail as much as possible, and only by truck for the bits of the journey rail wasn't available for. That isn't what happens now, when trucking is done even when going between two points connected by rail.

    Also I think it's ridiculous that there is no train line in Auckland from the central city to the airport. When I was travelling there was a train line between them, in most of the cities I visited, and a god-send for travellers it was too.

  7. Anonymous12:21 pm

    Scrubone, there isn't always a correlation between ecological efficiency and economic efficiency. And we all know which is preferred by the free-market to the detriment of the other....