Blogs, environment, politics, technology and the kitchen link, often all in one post!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Blogroll Five: Tax Foundation Policy Blog

Adding the Tax Foundation Policy Blog to the blogroll.

TFPB has been writing about Pigouvian taxes -- negatively, but intelligently, at least relative to the NoPigouClub fools.

Kitchen Linker will respond to some of these, but in the interest of "linking across the aisle" and access to data ...

The last blogroll addition was Tim Bray's ongoing.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Dies Natalis Solis Invicti!

Sol Invictus (Wikipedia):

A festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) was celebrated when the duration of daylight first begins to increase after the winter solstice, — the "rebirth" of the sun.

The Sol Invictus festival ran from December 22 through December 25. Eradicating the remnants of this much-celebrated pagan holiday is likely the reason why Christmas was picked by the early Catholic leaders as the birthday of Jesus Christ.

Kitchen Linker wishes you and yours a happy one.

Sanguine about Pigou

Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek:
For this reason, among others, I cannot join my colleague Tyler Cowen in joining Greg Mankiw's Pigou Club. Even if global warming is a reality, another reality -- one with a much more consistent track record throughout history and across different countries -- is the perversity of political incentives. Given these perverse political incentives (not to mention the inevitiable scrawniness of government's access to information and knowledge), I don't trust government to impose and administer a Pigouvian tax with sufficient disinterestness and skill to make such a tax a plausible policy option.
So Don, Kitchen Linker has a question for you: Do you really prefer taxes on income and capital to a Pigouvian energy tax? Please read Pigou means less planning.

At least Don doesn't stoop to linking to the fools at the NoPigou Club.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Efficiently attacking inequality

Since discovering the Pigou Club, Kitchen Linker has gotten a little interested in tax policy. Here's a great article on this that has nothing to do with Pigou or energy. Sebastian Mallaby on Attacking Inequality in the Washington Post:
Fixing these egregiously regressive programs could yield really juicy benefits. On a back-of-the-envelope calculation, raising the minimum wage might transfer $10 billion a year to poor workers; call it $20 billion if you want to stretch the assumptions generously. But if you eliminated just a quarter of the subsidies in the tax code, you would liberate about $180 billion a year -- enough to finance a big expansion in the earned-income tax credit plus a cut in the regressive payroll tax. And this sort of redistribution would not risk higher unemployment or compromise economic growth at all. Democrats on the left and right ought to be embracing it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Milk Mafia

Unlike the SugarCorn Mafia, the Milk Mafia doesn't directly impact energy policy, but read the stunning and disgusting expose in the Washington Post and take our your anger on the SugarCorn Mafia.

p.s. Kitchen Linker says "milk is bad for your bones and immune system, say away from the cows, don't get hit by the milk mafia!"

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A pro-Pigouvian anarchist!

It seems even anarchists accept that Pigouvian taxes are superior. Or at least hard-core libertarians can accept this, as Kitchen Linker is not certain that Degrees of Freedom is an anarchist, though the probability is high given DoF linkage. After a list of moralistic reasons taxes in general are bad, DoF says:
If a tax on gasoline could be implemented as a dollar-for-dollar replacement for the tax on capital gains, even I would be in favor of that.
DoF doesn't think a tax shift is possible because politicians like to spend, but then no tax reduction would be possible ever, and obviously taxes have been cut at various times. The important thing though is that a NoPigou type has admitted that Pigouvian taxes are superior!

Should other anarchists reconsider? And if anarchists, the only group that can logically oppose Pigouvian taxes, then everyone else should join the Pigou Club, pronto!

An anarchist comments!

Someone who claims to be an anarchist has commented on a post in which Kitchen Linker said:
Unless all NoPigouClub members are anarchists, they will admit that taxes need to be collected. The level of energy tax should not be set by the EPA or Commerce Department, but by Congress ... just as Income and other taxes are now set, mostly according to what Congress thinks it can get away with and how much is needed to cover spending minus borrowing. There is no additional planning, just a shift from one sort of taxes to another.

And the shift is better if you care about the environment, the economy, or simply distrust planners.

Why?
  1. Taxes on income and capital suppress positive externalities (ex: economic growth).
  2. Pigouvian taxes substitute for regulation and prohibition of greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions.
  3. (Redundant, but Kitchen Linker must drive home the point) Without pigouvian taxes, we will continue to have damaging tax on labor and capital AND extremely inefficient and politically determined non-solutions to our environmental problems (ex: the SugarCorn mafia)
Come to grips with reality NoPigou and switch clubs!
So Francis St Pierre is an anarchist. Other NoPigouers, come out or come to grips!

All taxes not created equally

Greg Mankiw finally comes out swinging against NoPigou types, making points Kitchen Linker has been trying to make:
The Pigou Club wants to move beyond the rhetorical syllogism, all too common in Republican circles, that

1. Taxes are bad.
2. Pigovian taxes are taxes.
3. Pigovian taxes are bad.

Such a simplistic mindset makes it impossible for people to discuss in a responsible way the relative merits of different tax systems. Instead, we Pigovians acknowledge:

1. There will be some government spending.
2. This spending will be funded with taxes.
3. Government should use the least bad taxes it has available.

and this:
Pigovians have no magic bullet to keep down government spending. Like many others, I believe that government spending is too high. But Pigovians need not be united about this. The key thing that unites us is the belief that whatever government spending is done, the tax revenue to pay for that spending should be raised in a way that does the least harm or, better yet, the most good.

Greg Mankiw also points out that economist and writer Tim Harford has succinctly joined the Pigou Club:
Consider the problem of climate change: a centralised regulatory approach here would be a catastrophe, lashing out at easy political targets such as SUVs or cheap airline travel. But pure laissez-faire will not save the planet either. A predictable tax on carbon would unleash a lot of world-saving creativity at minimum cost.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Jon's radio moves to Microsoft

The very first Kitchen Link blogroll additon has joined Microsoft, to evangelize for all that is good, as Jon Udell has always done:
Over the years I've evangelized a bunch of things to the alpha-geek crowd: Internet groupware, blogging, syndication, tagging, web architecture, lightweight integration, microformats, structured search, screencasting, dynamic languages, geographic mapping, random-access audio, and more. There's a purpose behind all this, and Doug Engelbart saw it very clearly a long time ago. The augmentation of human capability in these sorts of ways isn't just some kind of geek chic. It's nothing less than a survival issue for our species. We face some really serious challenges. The only way we're going to be able to tackle them is to figure out how to work together in shared information spaces. I've chosen to align myself with Microsoft because I think it has the scale, the resources, and the business incentive to help me empower a lot of people to learn how to do that.
Congratulations!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fourth blogroll addition: ongoing

Yes, ongoing additions to the Kitchen Link blogroll, and this one by Tim Bray is called ongoing. Tim Bray writes eloquently about IT and Canada (no kidding) and has a wonderful sense of design. Apparently he is one of the inventors of XML. That sounds painful, but he can visit the Kitchen any time so long as he keeps his sharp angle brackets at home.

The last Kitchen Link was inspired by Tim Bray.

The last blogroll addition was Tom Evslin's Fractals of Change.

Taxing Avatars

Tim Bray writes about calculations that say an avatar in an online world consumes as much electricity as an average Brazilian. Kitchen Linker thinks this is a little exaggerated, as a human uses many other forms of energy. But those who run server farms could use some additional incentive to become more efficient. Yes, that's right, time to trot out the Pigouvian energy tax yet again. That might not be bad for Sun, Tim's employer, which apparently sells efficient servers and has an enviroguru.

Besides, aren't politicos looking for a way to tax virtual worlds anyway? An energy tax is a way to do it non-intrusively.

But long term virtual worlds are all good for the environment. They can allow us to cut back on car and plane trips. As Kitchen Linked before, IT is an efficiency-enabler.

Third blogroll addition: Fractalize Everything!

Actually, Tom "nothing great has ever been accomplished without irrational exuberance" Evslin's blog is called Fractals of Change, but the title of this post is a probably stretched reference to his recent post Distribute ALL Networks. Decentralization, and not just of computer networks, is one of Tom's themes that Kitchen Linker finds compelling, and required reading. Here's an excerpt:

However, the same technology which allows us to run a decentralized communication network like the Internet and which can allow us to move to a mesh architecture for Internet access, also can help with decentralizing our energy supply. To be continued shortly in another post.

Previously blogged about a decentralized Internet as America’s Antiterrorism Network (here and here).

The Kitchen's second blogroll addition was Greg Mankiw, who has been Linked more times than KL can count by now.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Unfair hearing for Pigou Club

Greg Mankiw says Bloomberg's Amity Shales gives the Pigou Club a "fair hearing." Kitchen Linker isn't going to judge "fair" but the columnist gets everything wrong in Gas Tax Fans Invoke a Telling Name for Road Hogs. Her three anti-Pigouvian arguments:

Well not all. For there is already a No Pigou Club, founded by Terence Corcoran, editor of Canada's National Post. Corcoran offers some compelling counterarguments. Pigovian taxes change behavior, he notes, but not necessarily as their sponsors wish. Gas taxes may depress driving, but perhaps not enough to matter. Late in life Pigou himself acknowledged this, writing that when it came to such taxes ``we seldom know enough to decide'' which is the right tax or the right tax rate.

The second argument against a gas tax is that today, when even GE calls itself green, it's a hard sell. Democrats in Washington believe they won in November by playing against the stereotype of their party. So they are unlikely to push for a levy associated with Al Gore.

But the strongest argument against a gas tax is that revenues from such taxes tend to be used for purposes other than those intended. The states' cigarette taxes, for example, are classically Pigovian, punishing an unwanted behavior. But the billions those taxes have earned have promoted another kind of sin: excessive government spending. Too often the money has gone into state general revenue coffers instead of paying for smoking prevention and medical care for smokers.


The second is not an argument against Pigouvian taxes per se. It just says they will be politically difficult to enact. So what? Is any change from the status quo politically easy? As noted previously, any tax change is hard, so why not go for a big and much better one?

The first and third arguments only make sense if Shales is an anarchist. Does anyone ever argue against taxes on labor or capital because it is hard to figure out their "optimal" level? The fact is the primary purpose of taxation is to raise revenue for government, nevermind their "optimal level" for any other purpose. Quite simply Pigouvian taxes discourage harmful behavior, most taxes (for example on labor or capital) discourage productive behavior. Any questions?

Any anti-Pigouvian non-anarchist ignoring these facts needs to address them or completely miss the point, verging on dishonesty.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

WikiElders

Are you an advocate of elder rights on the Internet?

Have you ever used or edited a wiki, such as the world-famous Wikipedia?

Then we want you to join the Wiki Elders Movement.

http://wikielders.org

Wikis like Wikipedia allow elders everywhere to share knowledge, ideas and experiences. But wherever elders use the Internet, they are faced with ignorant and condescending views. Crass and unwise "youth culture" pervades online content and communities. The Wiki Elders Association seeks to give elder readers, users and editors a voice.

Beyond demanding equal treatment as wiki contributors, our goal is to build a shared understanding of wiki ethics. Vandalism and immature behavior are condemned on most wikis, and sensible learning approaches for new wiki users are encouraged. We want to have fun, but not at the expense of others. We want to help you to understand the maze of wiki-rules, so that you too can have fun.

We would also like to give intelligent elders a shared social space where they can talk about their experiences in not only wiki communities, but also their daily lives. eventually, we hope that we can develop the WEA into a true social movement which organizes events and campaigns. But our initial goals are modest: we only want to become the single largest world-wide community of elder wiki users.

The WEA is not a formal organization. There is no membership other than registration for our wiki and forums.

Join today!

Someone should start WikiElders. Kitchen Linker has nothing against WikiYouth, who are probably wise indeed relative to other youth. May all you become WikiYouth, all elders WikiElders, all people WikiPeople, all robots WikiRobots ... ok, let's not get carried away.

What is the age distribution of Wikipedians?

Win-win taxes

Pigou Club founder Greg Mankiw quotes Brink Lindsey on win-win taxes:
Tax reform also offers the possibility of win-win bargains. The basic idea is simple: Shift taxes away from things we want more of and onto things we want less of. Specifically, cut taxes on savings and investment, cut payroll taxes on labor, and make up the shortfall with increased taxation of consumption. Go ahead, tax the rich, but don't do it when they're being productive. Tax them instead when they're splurging--by capping the deductibility of home-mortgage interest and tax incentives for purchasing health insurance. And tax everybody's energy consumption. All taxes impose costs on the economy, but at least energy taxes carry the silver lining of encouraging conservation--plus, because such taxes exert downward pressure on world oil prices, foreign oil monopolies would wind up getting stuck with part of the bill.

Blogging and scooping

Kitchen Linker didn't intend for this blog to be dominated by green tax policy. The expectation was to write about technology, cool stuff, blogging, and the occasional rant.

So back to about blogging for just one post. I decided to add a link to Scoopt, which facilitates licensing of blog content to mainstream media.

That means if you don't want to play by the Kitchen Rules you can pay to still use the Kitchen.

Gas prices change habits

Kitchen Linker says, duh. San Francisco Chronicle, SALES SLOW FOR HYBRIDS: Gas prices fall, so does federal tax credit. Just evidence that increased gas prices change long term behavior, which is what is needed for a long term solution to global warming. A pigouvian tax of course can push this change along nicely, and replace destructive taxes on labor and capital.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pigou Club on Wikipedia

Did you know the Pigou Club has an article on Wikipedia?

Kitchen Linker did link it last post.

Another reason a gas tax is ideal

San Francisco Chronicle, Gas prices hardly effect demand.
Record high gasoline prices haven't made a serious dent in America's demand for fuel, a new UC Davis study suggests.
But:

Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute, noted that the UC Davis study measures short-term changes in gasoline use based on short-term price increases.

Long-term changes in driving and buying habits are harder to track but matter far more, Borenstein said. And taxes, which stick around year after year, can prompt drivers to make long-term changes, such as buying more efficient cars or living closer to work.

"That's what actually changes auto fleets, housing decisions, political support for mass transit," said Borenstein, whose institute organized today's research conference. "They're right that this is a little piece of that puzzle, but the jump they make on gas taxes is a stretch."

This however is totally untrue:

Research showing that use doesn't decline much as prices rise undercuts arguments for higher gas taxes.

Rather, it means there is huge latitude for higher gas taxes. And Kitchen Linker says shoot for the moon, cause enacting a high tax that can replace, say the payroll or other harmful tax as Al Gore and others have proposed, is no harder than enacting a small increase. Also from the Chronicle article:

"I would advocate for a tax, but I'm also a realist, and I know it would never work," said Christopher Knittel, a Davis economist and one of the report's co-authors. "It's hard to get a 10-cent gasoline tax passed, much less one over a dollar."

Knittel is wrong to be pessimistic. Join the Pigou Club and make it happen!

Rational energy tax, what would it look like?

Good longish article:
Our national energy tax policy is misguided in at least three ways. First, a policy to promote energy independence through reduced oil imports is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how energy markets function. A policy that attempts to establish energy independence by promoting domestic fossil fuel production is especially misguided. Second, our policy relies heavily on energy subsidies, most of which are socially wasteful, inefficient, and driven by political rather than energy considerations. Third, current energy taxes are deficient on a number of levels.
The article is from the AEI, a conservative think tank. They use different language, but the policy ends up matching Al Gore's proposal. Also from the AEI article:

Second, we should implement a green tax swap. A green tax swap uses revenue from environmentally motivated taxes to lower other taxes in a revenue-neutral reform. For example, Congress could reduce reliance on oil and other polluting sources of energy by implementing a carbon tax. The revenue could be used to finance corporate tax reform or reductions in the payroll tax. [12] Consider a tax of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide--a tax rate comparable to the current carbon price in the European Emissions Trading System. Focusing only on carbon [13] and assuming a short-term reduction in carbon emissions of 10 percent in response to the tax, a $15-per-ton tax rate would collect nearly $80 billion a year, an amount that represents 28 percent of all corporate taxes collected in the United States in 2005. Assuming the carbon tax was fully passed forward into consumer prices, it would raise the price of gasoline by 13 cents a gallon, the cost of electricity generated by natural gas by 0.6 cents per kWh, and the cost of electricity generated by coal by 1.4 cents per kWh.

Or Congress could raise the gasoline tax, index it for inflation, and return the additional revenue through a tax reduction. A gasoline tax increase is less efficient than a carbon tax at reducing carbon emissions. [14] Accepting the references cited above at face value, however, the gasoline tax increase would move us in the direction of the optimal Pigouvian tax on motor fuels, taking into account other pollution externalities as well as congestion and accident externalities. [15]

Next we should eliminate the gas guzzler tax loophole for SUVs and light trucks. Congress might also consider augmenting the gas guzzler tax by shifting to a feebate approach whereby low-mileage vehicles are taxed at increasing rates, as under the current gas guzzler tax, and fuel-efficient vehicles receive a tax subsidy. That could be structured to be revenue neutral.

Bravo!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Answering NoPigou in Canada

Mike Moffat has a great article at about.com answering NoPigou in more detail than Kitchen Linker did but with the same thrust and an explanation of how taxation, spending, and regulation actually work in Canada (where NoPigou originates).

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pigou means less planning

NoPigouClub:
But here's Jaccard's big claim: He supports Pigovian taxes because they involve "no role for planners." We'll have more on this untruth in later postings, but let's begin with one question: Who sets the price--i.e. the tax?
and
And then another question: What do we do with the money collected through the Pigovian tax? Let's get the Ministry of the Environment and the Department of Industry...but, hey, no planners, please.
Unless all NoPigouClub members are anarchists, they will admit that taxes need to be collected. The level of energy tax should not be set by the EPA or Commerce Department, but by Congress ... just as Income and other taxes are now set, mostly according to what Congress thinks it can get away with and how much is needed to cover spending minus borrowing. There is no additional planning, just a shift from one sort of taxes to another.

And the shift is better if you care about the environment, the economy, or simply distrust planners.

Why?
  1. Taxes on income and capital suppress positive externalities (ex: economic growth).
  2. Pigouvian taxes substitute for regulation and prohibition of greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions.
  3. (Redundant, but Kitchen Linker must drive home the point) Without pigouvian taxes, we will continue to have damaging tax on labor and capital AND extremely inefficient and politically determined non-solutions to our environmental problems (ex: the SugarCorn mafia)
Come to grips with reality NoPigou and switch clubs!

65% of economists are pigouvians

Arnold Kling quoting Robert Whaples:
65 percent of economists are members of the Pigou Club--they want to raise taxes on energy.
Kitchen Linker is surprised that percentage isn't even higher.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pelosi's pigouvian opportunity

SF Chronicle on how fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax, which hits Democratic voters hard, is putting the new Democratic Congress in a tough spot:
But if Democrats impose the pay-go rule, they cannot fix the alternative minimum tax without gutting existing spending programs -- much less creating new ones -- or sharply raising other taxes.
Sounds like a perfect opportunity to swap in a gas tax, which should doubly please environmentalist Democrats.

Friday, November 24, 2006

SugarCorn Mafia

Bring it to justice. James Surowiecki in the New Yorker:
Our current policy is absurd even by Washington standards: Congress is paying billions in subsidies to get us to use more ethanol, while keeping in place tariffs and quotas that guarantee that we’ll use less. And while most of the time tariffs just mean higher prices and reduced competition, in the case of ethanol the negative effects are considerably greater, leaving us saddled with an inferior and less energy-efficient technology and as dependent as ever on oil-producing countries. Because of the ethanol tariffs, we’re imposing taxes on fuel from countries that are friendly to the U.S., but no tax at all on fuel from countries that are among our most vehement opponents. Congressmen justify the barriers to foreign ethanol with talk of “energy security.” But how is the U.S. more secure when it has to import oil from Venezuela rather than ethanol from Brazil? These tariffs are bad economic policy, bad energy policy, and bad foreign policy. Talk about your Domino effect.
Of course ethanol from tropical sugar, not eight times less efficient midwestern corn, could be an important component of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Time to congress with Congress.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Java and Javascript, free and efficient

Wow, Javascript and now Java, free.

Both are good for the environment, too. Adobe's JS VM is way faster (i.e., more efficient) than the ones that ship with web browsers. And Sun's Java is way fast too. To the extent scripting languages (Python, Ruby, ...) run on the Java VM instead of their own, lots of cycles (i.e., energy/emissions) are saved.

Kitchen Linker lives in interesting and cool times!

Pigou or what? Part III

Mike Moffatt talks sense in the National Post:
High taxes on labour discourage work. High taxes on capital gains discourage saving, investment, and risk taking. High taxes on activities which pollute will encourage consumers to switch to environmentally friendlier alternatives.
Pigou opponents need to respond to this or they're merely blowing hot air.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dealing with (climate) change

Thought provoking post by James Annan, not a climate change skeptic: Is (climate) change bad?

Good to think about because change is happening and frankly, dealing with it is more than half the battle at this point.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pigou or what?

David Masten writes No to Pigou!

He notes many real problems with Pigouvian taxes. Like the NoPigou Club he fails to address the real and far worse alternatives to Pigouvian taxes: regulatory and prohibitionist approaches to externalities and taxation of productive labor and capital.

Do Masten, NoPigou, and other critics of Pigouvian taxes really think energy central planning and income and payroll taxes are preferable to carbon taxes?

p.s. Posner has joined the club.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rev the Commons

Creative Commons is having a fundraiser and you can contribute just by watching their cool videos and checking out ads tacked onto the videos, a scheme cooked up by Revver. Sez Boing Boing.

Remember the Kitchen use rules?

Be frugal to be green?

Tyler Cowen in Slate on "Can You Really Save the Planet at the Dinner Table?":
Pollan makes much of the energy costs incurred by the long food supply chains of American grocery stores. It may look like we are eating Chilean grapes, he argues, but in fact, once we consider transportation costs, we are guzzling petroleum. Economics offers a clearer view of what is going on. We do need to save energy, but it is difficult for a central planner (or for that matter a food commentator) to identify what is waste, relative to the costs of eliminating it. We should rely on higher market prices, if need be with the assistance of taxes, to increase conservation. If fuel becomes more expensive, we'll likely adopt peak-load energy pricing, and drivers may scrap their SUVs for hybrids. But we probably won't plant grapes in our backyards. While we must conserve energy, we cut back where it makes the most sense; grape-shipping is not the place to start. Global trade does involve transportation costs, but it also puts food production where it is cheapest, again saving energy by economizing on costs of labor, irrigation, and fertilization, relative to the alternatives.
So, is simply being frugal the best way to be friendly to the environment, at first approximation (which may be the most accurate we can be)? There's some discussion at Marginal Revolution.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pigou manifesto great but too low, too slow and a tax increase

Greg Mankiw in the Wall Street Journal.

Kitchen Linker says:

1) $1/gallon over 10 years is too low and too slow

2) It needs to be revenue neutral, as Al Gore has proposed.

But the manifesto is excellent. Seven reasons you should support this. Call your politico and tell them. Maybe interrupt their lewd IM convo if necessary.

"Green" software development and n-order effects

Thought provoking post:
Face it: every layer added between your code and the hardware costs something once you scale it up, just like it does for a million gasoline cars. In the case of web pages and applications, that something is electricity. Most of which is generated by fossil fuels. Most of which comes from coal mines or oil imports.
As a first-order effect, yes. But IT is an efficiency-enabler. As an n-order effect, Kitchen Linker is not sure that making programmers more efficient by allowing them to write inefficient code is a bad thing for the environment.

But, do turn off your damned screensaver!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tax waste not capital

Tyler Cowen in US News and World Report:
Phase out all forms of capital income taxation, including the corporate income tax, and replace them with a carbon tax, including a gasoline tax. "Savings and investment boost economic growth, but when it comes to energy, global warming threatens as a major problem and our dependence on Middle Eastern oil damages our foreign policy."
Kitchen Linker prefers Al Gore's proposal to tax waste not work but either or a combination is critical.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

NoPigou then what?

Greg Mankiw points out Join the Nopigou Club in Canada's National Post, which basically says pigouvian taxes are central planning, thus they are bad. Kitchen Linker understands this, but the alternative is much more central planning -- direct controls and prohibitions on greenhouse gas production and subsidy of things like ethanol -- all of which are inefficient, to say the least -- better to tax than prohibit.

The NoPigou Club has a blog. Hopefully they'll address the "if not pigouvian tax, then what?" issue.

Fire after humans

BoingBoing indrects to a Treehugger article and graphic, apparently based on a NewScientist article and Times of London graphic, about what the disappearance of humans would mean for the environment.

For the most part the articles look accurate and the results good for the environment, but the graphic is way too sanguine about the first months and probably years, e.g., "IMMEDIATELY: Most endangered species start recovering."

Why? Because if humans disappeared fire would be the dominant environmental factor for awhile. Cities and fuel would burn, quickly at first due to unattended fires, then slowly as lightning-started fires burn out anything that can be burned. And managed wild spaces that were not allowed to burn would do so, too.

Some non-human species would be wiped out by the fires and resulting poisoning. Then the recovery would begin.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Airbus, bankruptcy, and monopoly

The Economist has a story about the daunting problems facing Airbus. As usual the magazine is informative, but for one bit of idiocy:
More alarmist analysts think that doing nothing would kill the company and make Boeing a monopoly producer.
Let's say Airbus/EADS goes bankrupt. Boeing will not be a monopoly producer, because Airbus will continue. Its investors will lose their shirts, its factories and other assets will simply be picked up by other investors.

Even in a make-believe world where bankruptcy led to assets going *poof* Boeing would only have a temporary monopoly position in a part of the market for large airliners. Bombadier and Embraer would develop larger airframes, Ilyushin would have a viable market position and one or more Asian companies would see an opening and act.

The only concern Kitchen Linker has is that these companies may be behind Boeing and Airbus in producing efficient aircraft. And that is a major concern.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Greenspan goes green

Alan Greenspan quoted in the New York Times:
In late September, as he spoke to a group of business executives in Massachusetts, a question was posed as to whether he’d like to see an increase in the federal gasoline tax, which has stood at 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993. “Yes, I would,” Mr. Greenspan responded with atypical clarity. “That’s the way to get consumption down. It’s a national security issue.”
The article also gives publicity to Greg Mankiw's Pigou Club. Excellent!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Taxing planes

That is plane trips tax the environment. "Jane Galt" says:
If you take just two cross country and two overseas trips a year . . . not a big number for today's more mobile young adults . . . you're consuming as much carbon as you would by driving a huge gas-guzzling SUV 12,000 miles a year.
So Kitchen Linker says,

  • Discourage low-value plane trips with a pigouvian tax.
  • Stop subsidizing airlines. There are many subsidies, see a recent New York Times story about a smaller one.
  • Lead the way with "only travel when strictly necessary" policies, replace travel with tele-, video-, and "second life" meetings.

On the other hand, air tavel has been getting much more efficient, which surprised me a little bit.

Friday, October 06, 2006

$30/gallon water

Wired News (found here) on a very cool sounding technology Making Water From Thin Air has this:
The cost to transport water by C-17 cargo planes, then truck it to the troops, runs $30 a gallon. The cost, including the machines from Aqua Sciences, will be reduced to 30 cents a gallon, Roy said.
A single gallon jug of water costs about $1 at retail in the U.S. Maybe the money would be better spent improving Iraqi infrastructure so bulk commodities did not have to be flown in on cargo planes that are themselves boondoggles.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Green Party of Canada joins Pigou Club

The Green Party of Canada has joined the Pigou Club, according to the Toronto Star:
Canadians should pay a carbon tax on gasoline and other fossil fuels in return for lower income and other personal taxes, the Green party says.

The shift in the tax burden — designed to ensure federal revenues don't increase — would cut consumption of fuels that cause climate change and help Canada to achieve its Kyoto Protocol target, Green Leader Elizabeth May said yesterday.

Even conservative economists have concluded "a carbon tax ... is the single most effective way" to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote a strong economy, May told reporters.

The heaviest tax would be imposed on fuel with the highest carbon content — coal. The levy would be lower on cleaner fuels, such as natural gas. It wouldn't be punitive: "It's not intended to change driving habits," she said. It might raise the cost of gasoline and heating fuels by cents a litre.
I don't get the not intended to change driving habits part, but good for the Greens.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Penguin.swf

Well this is a little sad. I don't know if Adobe is taking the right approach with Flash 9 for Linux, but they sure are moving slowly. But what else do you expect? Linux still has a tiny share of the desktop market. Why should Adobe care?

All the Linux advocates carping at Adobe need to just pony up (money or time) for Gnash development, which is moving along.

All the news on global warming points in one direction...

Is the Sky Really Falling? A Review of Recent Global Warming Scare Stories makes one interesting point:
It is highly improbable, in a statistical sense, that new information added to any existing forecast is almost always “bad” or “good”; rather, each new finding has an equal probability of making a forecast worse or better. Consequently, the preponderance of bad news almost certainly means that something is missing, both in the process of science itself and in the reporting of science.
That rings true in a general sense. I would not be surprised if much of the "bad" news about global warming coming out every day is false, or at least hype. But the rub is that global warming is essentially true and probably was underhyped for a long time.

And even if global warming was false, the good policies and innovation that are needed to combat it are generally beneficial policies anyway, so they ought to be pursued, i.e., pollution tax and new energy technologies -- they're more efficient (at taxing and creating energy) and wean us off fossil fuels.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Heterosexual divorce proves my point

Same-sex marriage foes say divorces prove their point:
"The separation of Julie and Hillary Goodridge is tragic not only for their daughter," the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition said in a statement released the day after the couple confirmed the separation. "But ... they have clearly shown just how little they value the institution of marriage and provide a chilling look into what our nation faces if homosexual marriage is legalized elsewhere."
What, that homosexual marriages sometimes end in divorce, just like breeder marriages?

51 ways to make a difference

The Clinton Global Initiative lists 52 ways to make a difference. 51 are things that one can do individually in the home, workplace or community. One just doesn't belong:
Deploy MBAs in developing countries to build local health management.
Huh? How the heck am I supposed to "deploy MBAs"?

Now healthcare does need serious reegineering...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Second blogroll addition: Greg Mankiw

I first got interested in Greg Mankiw's blog due to his Pigou Club (carbon tax supporters). I'm subscribing for Pigou updates and an ongoing stream of interesting posts. Apparently Greg was an economic advisor to George W. Bush. That sounds like a hopeless position, as GWB doesn't seem to take advice from anyone but the tooth fairy.

My first blogroll addition was Jon's Radio.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Orlando is DEAD

I don't plan to post much if at all about the housing bubblebust but this is too much, from CNN Money, Help! Home for Sale:

"We're planning on starting a family someday," says the 30-year-old Young, who builds simulation software for a defense contractor. "We wanted a bigger home - with a pool."

The new house cost $562,000 so they were really counting on profits from the old place to help. They had paid $167,000 for their current four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, 2,861 square foot contemporary that they bought new, on the last day of 2002.

Young had improved the place over the years, putting in tile floors, chair rails, crown moldings and other amenities. The house has formal living and dining rooms and Young also installed a lovely Koi pond in the backyard with a rustic Japanese bridge.

Believing that the house would sell itself, Young decided to list it through Flat Rate Realty, a for-sale-by-owner operation that will place a property on the multiple listing service for a fee of $99. He priced it at $402,000.

The only calls he was getting were from realtors, who wanted to act as his agent.

...

They re-priced the house, lowering it to $369,000 and then to $349,000. They've had open houses that nobody attended; run advertisements that elicited no responses; and sent out flyers that were totally ignored.

In all its months on the market, the house has drawn only two lookers.

"One sounded like he was just doing research. He may not have been a legitimate buyer," says Young. And the other couple just walked away.

...

The number of homes on the market in Orange and Seminole Counties has skyrocketed, from 4,473 in July 2005 to 19,827 in July 2006, according to raw data drawn from Mid-Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service Hotsheet reports.

To know the problem is no consolation to the couple, who are increasingly feeling the stress. They have to make a decision soon about whether to go ahead with the purchase and hope they'll sell the old house, or give up the new place and lose their $28,000 deposit.

They are so out $28,000. Why the heck do they want an even bigger house? Four bedrooms and 2,861 square feet is huge. Are they Mormons?

Dangerous conflation of global warming and peak oil

Clinton to Start $1 Billion Renewable Energy Fund, quote from WaPo:
"The Earth is warming at an alarming rate, we are running out of fossil fuels, and it is long past time for us to take action to correct these problems," Clinton said.
I applaud these efforts, but ain't the symmetry ... ironic, dreamlike, unlikely, ??? Actually there is no symmetry and the above is a gross oversimplification -- we're nowhere near to running out of coal or low quality oil sources (tar sands and shale), each of which is worse for the environment and global warming in particular than high grade crude that we are slowly running out of. So yes, efforts like Clinton's and Branson's are desperately needed, but they undersell the case!

WaPo closes (Bill) Clinton's quote:
"This is also a tremendous opportunity and there are countless good new jobs to be created in the field of green energy."
Ever the politician.

Friday, September 22, 2006

One Web Day

It seems kind of corny, but I agree online life is worth celebrating and protecting. The motto seems to be "one web, one world, one wish." The first two seem clear, but what wish?

Mine would have to be that people learn about the importance of open data to one web.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tax waste not work

Wow, apparently Al Gore wants to replace the payroll tax with a carbon tax. If he runs for president and makes this a centerpiece of his campaign ... I am going all-out for Gore! This is the best thing that could possibly be done for the environment and the economy.

Everyone else, jump on this bandwagon. Read about the Pigou Club.

Billion Biofuel Branson

Bully for Branson. The article reads like most of the expected $3 billion (highly unknown, based on future Virgin profits) will be spent on developing biofuels. That sounds unexciting, but looks like they're going for big improvements.
The first investment was made in Cilion, a new California company building ethanol refineries that Virgin officials said burn far less fossil fuel than conventional biofuel operations.
However I think people are confusing not using fossil fuels and not producing greenhouse gasses:
“But the only way global warming is going to be beaten is to invest in new fuels that can actually replace fossil fuels.”
Uh, biofuels still produce greenhouse gasses. That's why I'm more excited by solar, windpower and other zero-emission technologies.

But airplanes aren't going to fly on electricity anytime soon, so Branson can be forgiven for being conservative. IATA has some cool figures on airplane fuel efficiency:
  • New aircraft are 70% more fuel efficient than 40 years ago and 20% better than 10 years ago.
  • The industry is aiming for a further 50% fuel efficiency improvement by 2020.
  • Modern aircraft achieve fuel efficiencies of 3.5 litres per 100 passenger km.
  • The A380 and B787 are aiming for 3 litres per 100 passenger km – better than a compact car!
I had no idea airplanes had improved so much. Sounds like another good investment would be to retire old planes ASAP. Maybe big airlines will lobby to force retirement, as new airlines using old planes are cutting into big airlines' profits.

Giant offshore windpower

Gizmag and Science Blog write about a really cool idea: giant floating wind turbines located offshore. Advantages:
  • Bigger is much better for wind power, and these can be huge.
  • More wind is much better for wind power, and there's lots more wind on open sea than on land.
  • They are not fixed, so can be towed to where power is needed.
  • They would be far enough offshore that nobody can see them from shore.
  • All of the usual wind power benefits (relatively cheap, no pollution, no greenhouse gas, no peak oilfossil fuel, not controlled by klepetro-states...)
This idea needs to be implemented ... full force!

Carnage against DRM

Important post from Mircrosoft employee Dare Obasanjo AKA Carnage4Life on DRM and Vendor Lock-in:
A number of recent events in the digital music space has made me start coming around to Cory Doctorow's way of thinking on DRM.
...
I now have to make music purchasing decisions based on whether I think iPod/iTunes or Zune/Zune Marketplace will be around in 5 years. That sucks.

I'm definitely not buying DRMed music anymore. Ripping from CDs is the way to go.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Zombies kill pirates.

No more talking like a pirate. No more talking!

Undead!

Let's see what blogger does with that title.

Beta blogger

Just switched to the beta version of blogger before I put up too much content.

It seems great! Template editing can mostly be done via a semi-drag-and-drop application. Much more non-technical user friendly.

I suspect some of the problems with publishing are corrected too, we'll find out shortly... YES!

(And of course there are tagslabels.)

Patent lawyer!?

So I'm not going to only link to Slashdot, but this from University of Virginia Student Graduates in One Year (quoting a WaPo story) is too much:
He says he may eventually pursue law school as a part-time student in hopes of becoming a patent lawyer.
Argh! What commenter brejc8 says:
This guy has some real potential, he could change the world, he could discover some fantastic advancements for the good of human kind, but no. He wants to be a lawyer.


In other news software patents are not that harmful and alternatives.

And read rethinking healthcare ... completely at TechDirt ... very relevant to the rest of this post.

OpenOffice rewrite!?

Slashdot relays that OpenOffice (which I use heavily) is going to get Mozilla Firefox-like extensions and ship with Mozilla's Thunderbird mail reader and one of Mozilla's still-crappy calendar projects. The first part is really cool, it has been too hard to develop for OO.o, this should open up the ecosystem. The second part is probably good to, or OO.o would have eventually and wastefully developed its own mail reader (every program eventually can read mail).

Anyone wondering why not Evolution (an excellent mail reader and calendar client) should consider that OO.o is headed by Sun and Evolution has strong ties to Mono (free implementation of Microsoft's .NET) which competes with Sun's Java.

The post /. referred to says something interesting about OO.o 3.0:

The only objective of the 3.0 will be to make it much more modular and running on tops of frameworks such as Eclipse, Netbeans or Mozilla's XUL.


Uh, do I hear total rewrite? OO.o 3.0 before 2010?

Download OpenOffice 2 now!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

First blogroll addition: Jon's Radio

Added a blogroll include to the (for now) right. First addition is Jon Udell, who is a year or so ahead on all things computing and that comes with an astute sense of how computing interacts with individual autonomy and freedom.

About every fourth post on Jon's Radio is a must-read. Check out his ongoing discussion of data translucency and selective disclosure. This will impact you and society, whether you're ever aware of it or not.

hAtom blogger template?

LazyWeb!

I want a(n?) Blogger template.

Help me with my grammar too.

Please. Frankly I feel a little safer if my data is in a standardesque format. That way I have to rely less on Blogger formally supporting any kind of export.

If you don't get this, uh, learn.

Link and share is the rule in this kitchen

That button (currently) to the right?

These posts are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which means you can do whatever you like with them, so long as you give credit (link) to Everything and the kitchen link and share whatever it is you've done under the same terms.

Learn if you don't know about this.

If the Kitchen Linker ever takes on co-bloggers they'll have to agree to publish under the same terms or KL won't take them on!

Linkers, stinkers, thinkers

Hello blogdom and spamorrah!

Twas years' late to the party, fashionably so.

This would be called 'linkers, stinkers, thinkers' (blogs, politics, technology) but that concept has been used already and the kitchen sink is such a cliche that it doesn't matter. Plus 'everything and the kitchen link' gives more latitude.

What's your intuition for set theory?