economics


CFMEU rejects carbon trading job claims – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Electrical Union (CFMEU) says the release of figures warning that emissions trading will cost thousands of jobs is part of a scare campaign.

The Minerals Council says emissions trading will cost 23,000 jobs in the next decade .

But the CFMEU’s Tony Maher says the Minerals Council is using the figures irresponsibly.

“Even on their own shonky report there’s a very significant growth in employment,” he said.

It’s nice, really nice, to see Tony Maher from the CFMEU being honest. The Minerals Council are spinning this for all it’s worth, even though they’re getting more than they asked for in the CPRS. The CFMEU has run spin campaigns with the Minerals Coucil before, but obviously they aren’t as conjoined as it previously seemed.

Also worth noting that on Stateline tonight (I’ll link to the transcript when it goes up), solar researchers are planning to start a PV cell manufacturing industry, which they estimate will provide 70 construction, and 120 jobs. They also estimated that such an industry could eventually end up providing 40,000 jobs (if I remember the figure correctly).

That’s what I call an offset.

I don’t usually like spruiking for the corporate media, but channel 7 is doing something good with their Sunrise solar panel petition. I don’t make any comment on the rest of what channel 7 does – I usually avoid it like the plague.

But they’re right, a means test on the solar rebate scheme is bloody stupid. There are lots of people out there who want solar panels, but for the rebate, you have to have the money upfront. Not many people on a median wage (~$25,000/annum) have thousands of dollars just lying around. If they have a mortgage, neither do people on an average wage (~$57,000/annum). So means testing the rebate has already meant a massive drop in household solar installations(1).

But a means test could be a good thing. If the government wants to do something that has a real impact, and is actually equitable for people of all socio-economic classes, it should means test. But don’t means test down, means test up. For the rich, leave it as it is, or perhaps leave it at $8000 for households on $100k/annum or what ever other arbitrary measure you want, and reduce it in small increments as wages go up. For everyone else, offer an increasing rebate as wages go down, and a low-interest (0%, inflation adjusted) loan>here was a loan something like this in the budget this year (not sure how “low interest”), but only for solar hot-water, and only for a couple of hundred thousand homes(2). Expand this to include all homes and photovoltaics, and by all means means-test the loan.

A good idea might be to cap the loan at a calculated value – say enough to buy a system that could power a small family house – and then offer normal, or slightly lower than normal interest rates for any money needed over that cap. That would allow even mcmansions to go solar, but without encouraging excess energy consumption.

Obviously this solution wouldn’t be perfect, but it would sure be better than what’s currently on offer. The main thing at this stage is to wean ourselves off fossil fuels at quickly as possible. And that means spending big now – it won’t seem like much of a cost later, especially when it pays itself off in a few years anyway.

  1. Rethink solar rebate, industry urges Govt. (2008, May 17).ABC News. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/05/17/2247721.htm.
  2. Simon, D. (2008, May 14). “Green” budget passed and pasted in Australia. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from http://de.indymedia.org/2008/05/217318.shtml.

After months of wondering why Americans are always complaining about petrol prices, I finally figured out why.

This might seem obvious to some, but the solution everyone seems to come up with seems pretty stupid to me. To start with, let’s compare fuel prices in a few countries (unleaded fuel, at the bowser):

  • US fuel price: around $4/gallon (1)
  • Australia: about $1.65/L
  • UK: about £1.18/L (2)
  • France: about €1.40/L (3)

Just to compare, let’s change that to US$/Litre (1 US gallon  = 3.7 litres, Exchange rates from http://www.xe.com/ucc/):

  • US: $1.08/L
  • Aus: $1.57/L
  • UK: $2.32/L
  • Fr: $2.19/L

Of course, these calculations could be off a fair bit, but with a difference like that, the error couldn’t be very sginificant.

From that, you can see why I was confused: Americans have some of the cheapest fuel in the industrialised world. It certainly isn’t anything to scream about. In fact, with peak oil almost certainly hitting around now (The actual centre of the peak being somewhere between a couple of years ago, to perhaps a few years ahead), it more like something to just get used to. It certainly isn’t going to get cheaper for any significant period of time.

But then I realised that there was another factor: Wages. If americans are earning less than us here in Aus, then the fuel is obviously costing them relatively more. So let’s see average weekly wages for the four countries:

  • US: $600.80 (4)
  • Aus: $1008.10 (5)
  • UK: About £460 (from average yearly estimate wage of $24000)
  • Fr: ???

And compared to fuel costs:

country fuel cost
(100L)
weekly wage 100L as % of
weekly wage
USA $108 $600.80 18%
Australia $165 $1008.10 16%
United Kingdom £118 £460 25%

Which is obviously the reason why americans currently care more about fuel than australians. This is obviously going to be compounded by wage inequality – the average wage is a pretty stupid measure of income, because the richest few people make the average wage higher than the vast majority will ever earn. Looking at a median wage is a far better way to do it, and if that was done, and considering that america seems to have worst income inequality than most industrialised nations, that percentage, compared to australia would be much higher than it is above, both absolutely, and relative to the other countries.

But what about the UK? Why aren’t they going nuts about fuel prices? Even if their income inequality is far less that the US, they probably still have a higher fuel price compared to wages. The answer is obvious: they spend less money on fuel because they buy less fuel. There are two reasons for this: the UK is a more compact country than the US – people don’t need to drive as far when they do drive. But more importantly, both for its impact, and for its potential for change, is public transport. Most of the US, by all accounts, has a terrible, or even non-existant public transport service. New York has the metro, and San Francisco has it’s trams, but most other cities are designed almost exclusively for cars – in some it’s hard to even walk any where. When you’re forced to drive a car to get to work, school, or anywhere else, you’re going to feel the fuel crunch pretty hard.

Americans do have a fuel problem, but calling for lower prices isn’t going to help in the long run. Peak oil means that fuel prices are on a roughly exponentially increasing path – even if we knock 20 cents off now, it’ll only be a matter of months, a couple of years at the most, before it’s back where it was again. If you want a solution to fuel prices, then call for a decent minimum wage (the american minimum wage is far less than the australian minimum wage, and was even when the australian dollar was at US$0.55 a few years ago. Now it’s well under half). If you want to do something permanent about making transport cheaper, then call for real public transport systems, especially electricity driven public trasnport, like trains, trams, and street cars. That’s going to be just about your only livable way out of this mess.

Sources:

  1. http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/gdu/gasdiesel.asp
  2. http://www.petrolprices.com/
  3. http://www.prix-carburants.gouv.fr
  4. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
  5. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/08/18/1123958181797.html

There’s a useful new article on envirowiki on CCS and Clean Coal: Carbon Capture and Storage in Australia.

The article covers all the projects planned in Australia. If you find any more info on each of these, feel free to add more detail on the pages, it’s a wiki after all.

If you don’t feel like editing it yourself, feedback would be most welcome here on my contributions, or on the discussion page for the article.

Daniel,

You argue that the major defining factor of population size is food limits. Australia (to give an example), currently has a birthrate less than 2 births per woman. We have an overall annual immigration, so our population is growing, but if we had no immigration, our population would be decreasing. Australia is a fairly affluent country: plenty of food, people are educated, well supported with social services, and generally feel secure. They don’t need the added security of a large family (I don’t claim that this is causal, but believe it may have some impact). This seems proof that it is at least possible to disconnect population growth from food supply (and then be able to decrease food supply due to decreased demand). You answered this in response to Q&A 122: “the country has traversed the “demographic trap” and gotten through the growth phase of the population dynamics”.

Obviously, as you have pointed out, there’s plenty of food in the world, and if it were (able to be) shared out equitably, then no-one would starve. This being so, wouldn’t the best course of action be, after figuring out the relevant system dynamics, to attempt to give those in the highest population growth areas the same security we in the affluent, and low-population growth, minority world have? This might include immediate food aid for a period or, preferably, some kind of “food asylum”, which might lead to an immediate population spike, but a combined approach of social support services and education, seems like a population growth control method that is more than equitable, just might work, and doesn’t seem like a “sci-fi fantasy”, as you label other birth control schemes.

As an aside, what do you think of permaculture? Seems like a way of at least starting to break the food lockup, and something that doesn’t rely on some kind of fascist revolution.

(This was originally posted on the Ishmael.org guestbook)

There’s a huge wave of open-licensing sweeping the ‘net, and it’s starting to get into the real world. This is definitely a good thing – freedom of information is a great. The most common licenses, such as the GNU FDL, or the Creative Commons BY-SA stipulate that anyone can use the works, as long as they acknowledge the author, and that they keep it free (usually by using the same license). The last tactic has been called “viral” by numerous capitalists, and they are correct, it is. Eventually it will take over the world, or at least a large part of it. I can’t wait.

Creative Commons, and perhaps a few other licences, give people the option to license their work with a “non-commercial” (NC) clause, This is strongly derided amongst the free software movement particularly, as economic exploitation by a creator is considered a freedom and a right. This is argued well on the Freedom Defined wiki.

There are two main arguments against using an NC license, the first is economic, the second in a matter of compatibility. A third minor argument against the CC-BY-NC-SA, is an argument against creative commons itself. I will deal with these in the above order. (more…)

Please note that the intent, order, and formation of the title of this post is sarcastic. There is no way that I would ever put “money” before “going green” in normal conversation.

Anyway, looking around for places to promote envirowiki (http://www.envirowiki.info/ – knowledge database for environmentalist and social justice activists, which you should check out and contribute to), I came across http://envirostats.info/, a reasonably cool site. On the “green your life” page I noticed a link to “29 Ways to Save Money on Gas” (on another site). I kind of get pissed of at these light-green/neocon in camouflage posts, I mean who cares about the money? If you fuck the planet you aren’t going to be able to buy anything anyway! And if you have enough money to care about how much you save of it on fuel for your car, then it’s pretty much guaranteed that you have enough money not to worry too much about money.

But anyway,it got me thinking, if there was an ecoanarchist approach to “how to save the planet, in ways that are also, co-incidentally, economically efficient”, what would it look like? And pretty much, I reckon it’d be this:

naught101’s big list of saving the world (and some cash on the way):

  1. STOP BUYING CRAP YOU DON’T NEED.
  2. STOP designing/manufacturing shit that doesn’t work, so other idiots won’t buy it.
  3. STOP thinking of ANYTHING as waste, and start thinking of it as a resource.

Maybe I’m missing something. Obviously, I could also add some crap about being slightly more efficient or whatever, but Jevan’s Paradox kinda fucks that right up, doesn’t it? No, I think that really cover’s most of it..

Good buy, and lucky planet saving!

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