Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Perverse Subsidies

I’m going to make the under-precedented move of recommending a book I haven’t even read yet: Perverse Subsidies. While it might not seem like the biggest page-turner, it’s high on my list, and I’m hoping it will clarify the rather complicated, yet terribly important world of government intervention in the global economy – where it’s good for us and where it’s bad for us. Given that content is in some ways inherently dry, I’m not expecting you all to run out and buy it, but I would highly recommend checking out this Amazon review by Robert Costanza (a stud Ecological Economist – scroll down to the 3rd review).

This little blurb from PointCarbon is what got me thinking about this issue again this morning:

11.07.06 WWF calls for Marshall Plan for climate change
(subscription required)
The Group of Eight (G8) nations need to switch conventional fuel subsidies amounting to $250 billion per year to fund ambitious energy efficiency and renewables targets, according to a study released today by Environmental group WWF.

Unfortunately, I also read that Bush is working on pushing a pro-nuclear platform at the G8, and promising Russia billions to take the waste, here’s the scoop from Grist (they're wicked funny):

One Minute to Midnight
Bush plans nuke deal with Russia; G8 to spread nuclear power worldwide

On the eve of next weekend's meeting of the G8 -- where developed nations will unveil an ironically named "global energy security" plan that would expand nuclear-power technology across the globe -- the U.S. will announce a deal with Russia that would allow broad cooperation between the two countries' civilian nuclear industries. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been pushing hard for nuclear power: Under the G8 plan, he hopes to use his country's nuclear expertise to mass-produce floating nuclear power plants on barges. Seriously. And under the deal with the U.S., Russia would be paid billions to store much of the world's nuclear waste -- especially comforting given the country's solid nuclear security record. The G8 plan would resurrect fast breeder reactors, which don't require as much uranium but produce highly fissile waste; thankfully, developing nations that receive the technology would have to promise not to use it for weaponry. Possibly even pinkie swear. We sure hope Iran and North Korea aren't reading the newspapers.

straight to the source: The Washington Post, Peter Baker, 08 Jul 2006
straight to the source:
Sunday Herald, Rob Edwards, 09 Jul 2006

So, while the global economic / energy / security picture may still seem overwhelming and confusing, here’s a little thing you can do right now to exercise your democratic muscle and get us on the right track – this is what seems like a pretty well-organized site aimed at sparking some political will:

I highly recommend taking a few seconds to go through the motions. By separating oil from state, we have a better chance at eliminating the perverse subsidies that help keep fossil fuels artificially cheap. Those billions can then be put towards holistic strategies that radically reduce energy and fuel demand, while at the same time foster smart growth, and clean, renewable energy sources – remember we’ve got a virtually unlimited amount pouring down on us everyday that can be converted and used in many ways (solar, wind, biomass, hydro, etc). That way we can avoid the horrors (ecological, social and economic) of nuclear. Every voice counts. Stay going.