Out There

Carbon Tax

Posted in politics by Pete on September 11, 2015

I’m not going to actually analyze this giant issue here and now, but an article in the ADN today caught my eye.  It cites a study that found that rural Alaskans would “benefit financially from a proposed national program designed to increase energy efficiency and move away from fossil fuels by charging a fee for carbon and returning dividends to households.”

Specifically:

Dividend payments to Alaska households in the study area would total $5.9 million the first year, which would be $2.2 million more than the cost of the fee. “Given the data we have, people in rural Alaska would fare well,” Colt said.

And the counter argument:

One important caveat found in the study is that while most residents would get more in dividends than they would pay in fees, a minority would not. “That is a concern with every kind of assistance program,” Colt said.

Although I’d heard of market-based approaches to the climate/carbon emissions problem before, I was intrigued enough to check out the org who paid for the study.  Their website has this banner at the top of the front page:

CCL banner

Nice.  And the more I think about it, the more I’m persuaded.  At first blush I like this plan.  I realize that as a middle to upper middle class person using lots of electricity in a village that gets most of its power from inefficient diesel generators, I probably will pay more than I would receive.  But the economist in me believes that an incentive-based approach is the most effective way to get everyone (and utilities) to pay attention and actually change their behavior.  Isn’t it preferable to intense regulation by the EPA that is the most likely alternative??  Doing nothing just kicks the ever-increasing costs and problems down the road to future generations – foolish.  Am I wrong here?  Feel free to comment if you can state your case reasonably with a minimum of a few sentences.

One other thing to note is the comments section at the bottom of that ADN article.  Classic.  In a depressing, mind-numbing way.  Way to think things through and put others first guys.

recycling in the bush – is it worth it?

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on December 6, 2008

Another new change is some recycling is happening right now.  There are a couple of people in our village who work on recycling, collecting used batteries, pop cans, bottles, etc.  It must be grant funded.  They drive over to our school from Akula by boat or snowgo (1.5 miles each way), sort out the tons of nasty candy wrappers, spit cans, and other trash that gets placed in the recycling container, put the recyclables in huge plastic alpar bags, drive them back over to akula, later drive them to the runway and put them on a Hageland Aviation plane, which takes it 25 miles to Northern Air Cargo in Bethel, which flies it 400+ miles to Anchorage, where it is picked up by a Smurfit-Stone recycling company truck (the people who run the recycling center behind napa auto parts on Dowling).   I think it gets crushed and semi-processed there, and then a lot of it gets barged over 1,000 miles to Seattle or somewhere for further processing.  Now, all of these planes and barges are carrying the stuff for free or at a steep discount because it is all “back haul,” going the direction in which the vehicle is usually empty (NAC planes fly from ANC to BET stuffed full, and fly back nearly empty, so prices to send freight from BET-ANC is cheap), and because it is a “good cause” and because it is usually light (bags of pop cans are light).  Finally, we actually get a check from the Anchorage recycling people for $.35 per pound of cans we sent in.

SO.  My question is, can it possibly be worth it to go through all of those steps?  What is the benefit from a single recycled aluminum can or plastic juice bottle?  In terms of CO2 emissions and global warming, can this process be mathematically justified? I doubt it, but I really don’t know.  I do know that shipping is expensive out here, and each pop can is going through a lot of shipping.  Now, I’m all for recycling.  I want it to continue in our village just to raise the awareness level, as more of a social consciousness exercise than for the practical feasability.   And I like the idea of less trash in the landfill and on the ground outside the school (see my old entry on the styrofoam lunch trays we use).  In fact, I’ve been pushing for our student store to start accepting used cans in exchange for a 5 cent credit at the student store (which would only really cost us like 2 or 3 cents per can).  The staff member running the store is concerned that we would be inundated with cans from people all over, cans not sold from our store.  I kind of doubt it, but even if so, great we’re recycling even more!  It’s ok, we’ll just agree to disagree on that one.  : – )  Of course the best recycling is just reusing something locally.  Like in Anchorage they use the crushed glass in some local factory.   Anyway, I just had to bring up that whole recycling issue.