Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Dirty trade: How important are greenhouse-gas emissions from international transport? | vox – Research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists

Dirty trade: How important are greenhouse-gas emissions from international transport? | vox – Research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists.

I find the conclusions obvious. But the point is not simply to go local–that desire frequently papers over the pollution, for instance, caused by local trucking, as well as the possible inefficiencies ad hoc local production can get away with, as its small scale can escape scrutiny, but for policy that rewards *long-term* and *sustainable* efficiency. That is, for policies favouring modern sails and related wind technology for ships, for instance, or dirigibles for aircraft, provided those are actually more efficient to run, and also to make. And for policies that tax irresponsible practices–you know, the ones that brought us the 20th century and now this century’s rising sea of mess. (When we tally the real costs of supposedly cheap commodity energy, the expense is profound and yet to be fully plumbed. We are still paying for that litre of fuel and will be doing so for a very long time.)

WTO | 2011 News items – Lamy rebuts UN food rapporteur’s claim that WTO talks hold food rights ‘hostage’

WTO | 2011 News items – Lamy rebuts UN food rapporteur’s claim that WTO talks hold food rights ‘hostage’.

It’s never just about the politics of the local, and it’s always also about global dynamics. Nor is it about self-righteous indignation of the American sort over the apparent loss of sovereignty. Rather, it’s about what is wanted by us, where “us” really means the larger society–the 99 percent. And now is the time to take these questions seriously. That means articulating those priorities that affect us globally and investing in those endeavours that benefit us globally, but also locally. Is this in opposition to capitalism? Not as most of us understand it. It’s probably contrary to monolithic monopoly deployments of capital. That is, contra those entities which have determined and implicitly limited markets and access to them; and for local markets benefiting more and operating not in ignorance of other communities but very much with full knowledge about them.

My aim, my belief is that we–let’s say, all of us, people–can really only survive the challenges our grandparents have visited upon us (no end to them) by networked communities and not by the logic of centralisation that so characterised the long 20th century.

Mysterious blasts, slayings suggest covert efforts in Iran – latimes.com

Mysterious blasts, slayings suggest covert efforts in Iran – latimes.com.

Let’s say that the explosions noted by the Ha’aretz and so many others, as well as the probable downing of the drone, indicate that “we” are at war with Iran. Who’s “we”? The US? Nato? Israel? A combination of the lot? War has so often been fought by proxy, and I doubt that this is an exception. Furthermore, any explosive continuation would simply be a furtherance of the embargoes that have been going on for many years.  But as Greenwald and many others have noted, it’s one thing for the US to launch a war whose reasons and costs are held up for accounting, its another to simply do it without accountability.

Electric Cars for Rent Now: Lancé lundi à Paris, Autolib veut changer la route en ville, Actualités boursières

Lancé lundi à Paris, Autolib veut changer la route en ville, Actualités boursières.

My notion much earlier this year was not at all unlike this grand effort in Paris to make available electric cars in the manner of VeloLib: a citywide network of rental stations. Infrastructure would be implicitly taken care of, as each station would have charging facilities. And the cost of a vehicle would be immaterial, as one would pay, as one does now for AutoShare or Zip cars, per hour or so.

Paris, however, is a little unusual in two regards, at least. Its population density is high and for those living in the central arrondisements, car ownership is hardly obligatory. Of course, many other heavily developed European cities share these characteristics. But in North America, where car ownership is as much a badge of national identity as a means of transport (and a generation of right wing policies has made sure that there are few alternatives to cars in cities), making available electric cars for rent within urban centres is more of a challenge.

But not an insurmountable one by any means. Manhattan, for instance, resembles Paris in both regards, for instance, as do several other US cities (Chicago, Boston, SF come to mind). And here in Toronto, despite having some of the *worst* streets for cyclists (potholes, lousy visibility, no bike lanes, and a frequently hostile car traffic coming from the suburbs and grudging urban obligations), has its own bike rental system, Bixi. It also has ZipCars, AutoShare, and so on, as parking is both costly and hard to find.

Who would use these electric cars? For starters, all those who now rent hybrids for a few hours to go to the market, run errands, etc.–even go to the airport, say: cheaper than a limousine, it occurs to me (the public transportation, the subway/bus–you take the subway to the end of the line then wait for the ironically named “Rocket” to take you to the actual airport: a trip that takes me, coming from downtown, about an hour). Limos, taxis cost about 60 CAD. one way: a lot.

Besides the occasional if repeated errand, there are many other uses that come to mind. So it’s not that there would not be a market for this. It’s rather that the initial cost to set it up would probably be formidable. But here is where government help comes in. Our current mayor, Rob Ford, has gone on supporting cars over other modes of transport. This has not endeared him particularly among the inner parts of Toronto. But supporting a network of electric rental cars premised on the lines of ZipCar or AutoShare or the new Parisian model, would, in all likelihood, do a great deal to redeem not only Ford among the inner circles but also help with establishing a sustainable electric vehicle market. And given the way the world is going and given the dependencies of the Canadian, esp. the Ontario economy, on the US automobile manufacturing ecosystem (think Sword of Damocles), having such a solution, especially if the cars could be made here, mostly, would be not only a bold step in the right direction but a firm one that would benefit tens of thousands of people.

If only.

Gini coefficient – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gini coefficient – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 

The Gini coefficient is worthwhile reviewing from time to time. That it’s not promoted more as a key measure of the state of society is a nice judgement on the state of society.