Thursday, 4 December 2008

NOT PJ: Pssst Buddy ... Wanna Buy An Emission?

BernardDarnton Bernard Darnton writes that there’s a market for crap -- and voters are buying it wholesale.

As a concept, emissions trading completely escapes me. Why would you want to buy an emission? No one’s ever offered to buy any of my emissions – some have even complained about getting them for free.

You used to be able to sell old Coke cans to Comalco, mainly because aluminium production is so energy intensive that the can – at two cents – was worth more than its contents. Homeless people would push shopping trolleys from bin to bin and fish out the cans so that they could cash them in for a couple of dollars. Even so, they’d probably have been better off selling their shopping trolleys back to the supermarkets they were “borrowed” from.

That line of business has been ruined by councils who now pay people to drive round in big trucks to pick up your cans and bottles from the kerbside. Another kick in the teeth for the entrepreneurial vagrant.

There’s absolutely no question that kerbside recycling is desperately inefficient. I once watched as the bin-man, or “resource recovery officer” or whatever they’re called now, picked up the recycling outside our house. He picked the bottles out of the bin and threw them into the truck one by one. There were a lot of bottles there so it took forever. When I say “a lot” of course I mean a perfectly reasonable number for a social drinking New Zealander. Not that many at all. Very few actually.

Anyway, assuming minimum wage and a market price for glass of thirty dollars a tonne, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that recycling isn’t even worth the time it takes to do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation. The time I’ve just spent writing about it has added to the problem and the time you’ve just spend reading about it has compounded it further. The folly never ends.

People from Yorkshire sometimes say things like, “Where there’s muck there’s brass,” and give you a conspiratorial wink. It’s a conspiracy that I’m certainly not party to, being born well south of the Humber. I simply don’t understand the desire to trade in waste.

Emissions “trading” isn’t trading at all. Genuine trade requires two willing parties. The baker wants my four-dollars-fifty. I want the baker’s Rogan Josh pie. We swap and then we both say “thank you.”

By that definition, emissions trading isn’t really trade – it’s rationing. The government puts a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide industry is allowed to emit (a “cap”) and then unused quotas can be sold. It’s certainly not a market operation because the key feature is the government limit, not the buying and selling.

This is called a “cap-in-hand” system; the important feature of the system is that productive people have to go cap-in-hand to people who’ve never done a day’s work in their lives to ask for permission to be productive. The truly bizarre part is that these finger-wagging clipboard-wielding people who’ve never raised a cow, laid a brick, or drilled for gas – who’ve done nothing except get in the way of those who have – still expect society to provide them with food and a warm house. Presumably by magic.

It turns out there is a market for crap and voters are buying it.

My father grew up in Sunderland during and after the Second World War. He used to tell me about rationing and it didn’t sound like fun. Once again fascists are trying to destroy our industrial base so it’s no surprise that rationing is making a comeback.

This time around, rather than sinking convoys full of supplies and having rationing as a consequence, our overlords have decided to cut supplies by applying the rationing directly. At least it saves on those nasty fossil fuel-burning U-boats.

* * Read more from Bernard Darnton every Thursday here at NOT PC  * *


  1. That's an excellent point about rationing: it's like trading fishing quotas.

    Emissions trading is global socialism, ie stealing from the "rich" and giving the money to the poor":

  2. Emissions trading will be a dream come true for those people who make and sell fake goods. Unlike a Rolex or a pair of Nikes, a fake carbon credit is identical to the real thing - and costs virtually nothing to "produce".
    I see a lucrative opportunity here.

  3. carbon trading is enron for greenies. And it will end the same way.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.