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

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Price of Gasoline SHOULD Go Up

Tom Evslin (on the kitchen blogroll) has a must read post on why The Price of Gasoline SHOULD Go Up:

Suppose we were to raise the tax on gasoline and diesel used as motor fuels by $.50/gallon every six months for the next three years. We could immediately end the $.50/gallon subsidy to ethanol producers without discouraging production. We could remove the stupid restrictions on importing ethanol made from sugar since there’s be plenty of demand for both foreign and domestic ethanol. We could stop the tariffs which protect the sugar growers as they find a market – as corn has already done – as a fuel source.

Even more expensive biofuels would become economical without subsidy. The government could stop playing the pork barrel game of trying to decide which alternative fuels to subsidize how much and let the most efficient producers replace gasoline.

Putting aside the politics, there are still two enormous problems with this proposal:

  1. The tax is extremely regressive – the working poor pay much more of their income in gas tax than the rich.
  2. The government will withdraw huge sums from the economy and legislators’ll invent vote-buying programs to spend it.

Both problems could be solved, however, by reducing or eliminating social security taxes – also regressive – at lower income levels, maybe after keeping a little of the surplus to make sure that social security and Medicare are actually funded for when the baby boomers retire.

Absolutely, though Kitchen Linker will argue that a gas tax is not regressive on a global and long term scale.

Peak Oil vs. Global Warming

David Friedman points out an apparent contradiction in the arguments of those who believe both peak oil and global warming are problems:
A recent post on FuturePundit cites some interesting calculations by CalTech professor Dave Rutledge. Using the estimation approach on which current, widespread concerns about running out of petroleum are based, he finds that the IPCC global warming calculations overestimate future hydrocarbon burning by a factor of at least three or four--because the hydrocarbons are not there to be burned.
Nice try, but Kitchen Linker illustrated how both could be problems in 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!
David Friedman, in this kitchen doing nothing (still) is a false choice.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Greening Linux

Kitchen Linker noticed on that Linux Foundation says:
Power Management: Throughout the Summit, Linux developers, including the Linux Desktop Architects, met to discuss the increasing need for efficient power management in Linux. As a result of these meetings, Linux Foundation is organizing a “Green Linux” initiative to improve power management functionality in Linux. Making Linux “green” is becoming ever more important in all aspects of Linux adoption: mobile, desktop and server. The Linux Foundation will work with its workgroups, identify key projects and coordinate resources among its members to improve this functionality in the Linux platform. Power management developers will meet next week in Ottawa to continue work in this area.
That smells good in the kitchen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Be freegan to be green?

Not Buying It in the NYT:
[T]he freegan movement has become much more visible and increasingly popular over the past year, in part as a result of growing frustrations with mainstream environmentalism.

Environmentalism, Mr. Torres said, “is becoming this issue of, consume the right set of green goods and you’re green,” regardless of how much in the way of natural resources those goods require to manufacture and distribute.

“If you ask the average person what can you do to reduce global warming, they’d say buy a Prius,” he added.

Kitchen Linker isn't a freegan, but has some sympathies. Freeganism is the extreme of be frugal to be green.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tax global warming

Kitchen Linker loves this idea to impose high carbon taxes to the extent there is evidence for anthropogenic global warming, quoted via EconLog, as the original source is behind a paywall, so they don't get linked into the kitchen:
climate models predict that, if greenhouse gases are driving climate change, there will be a unique fingerprint in the form of a strong warming trend in the tropical troposphere, the region of the atmosphere up to 15 kilometres in altitude, over the tropics, from 20 degrees North to 20 degrees South. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that this will be an early and strong signal of anthropogenic warming. Climate changes due to solar variability or other natural factors will not yield this pattern: only sustained greenhouse warming will do it.

...Suppose each country implements something called the T3 tax, whose U.S. dollar rate is set equal to 20 times the three-year moving average of the RSS and UAH estimates of the mean tropical tropospheric temperature anomaly, assessed per tonne of carbon dioxide, updated annually. Based on current data, the tax would be US$4.70 per ton...

This tax rate is low, and would yield very little emissions abatement. Global-warming skeptics and opponents of greenhouse-abatement policy will like that. But would global-warming activists? They should -- because according to them, the tax will climb rapidly in the years ahead.

The IPCC predicts a warming rate in the tropical troposphere of about double that at the surface, implying about 0.2C to 1.2C per decade in the tropical troposphere under greenhouse-forcing scenarios. That implies the tax will climb by $4 to $24 per tonne per decade, a much more aggressive schedule of emission fee increases than most current proposals.
Really neat idea, but Kitchen Linker still supports high carbon taxes, now, for two reasons: 1) prevention better than cure and 2) a carbon tax would be a big improvement over production taxes even if global warming did not exist.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Javascript 2 reference implementation in Standard ML

Kitchen Linker says this is way cool:

As we've discussed before here on LtU, the reference implementation of ECMAScript is being written in Standard ML. This choice should have many benefits, including:

  • to make the specification more precise than previous pseudocode conventions
  • to give implementors an executable framework to test against
  • to provide an opportunity to find bugs in the spec early
  • to spark interest and spur feedback from the research and user communities
  • to provide fodder for interesting program analyses to prove properties of the language (like various notions of type soundness)
  • to use as a test-bed for interesting extensions to the language

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Prediction: Europeans and Asians take over rap

SF Chronicle on jazz fans complaining about too few African American jazz players, although people of African descent pioneered the genre -- in America.

The same will happen to rap and hip-hop. In a generation the vast majority of rappers will be of European, Asian, or mixed descent, and there will be similar complaints.

The big question is this: What is the next big mainstream genre? Will it be pioneered by African Americans? Kitchen Linker has no idea what the next big genre is, but suspects it will be pioneered by Africans or Indians not living in America -- or perhaps Brazilians.

America is too rich, complacent, and stifled by copyright to be the wellspring of the next big musical-cultural shift. "America" includes African Americans.