Tuesday, July 05, 2005

This is why people prefer markets over governments.

The US government is run by people with quasi-fascistic intuitions about how to maintain security and power. Their attitude to global warming is "conservative" in the worst possible sense of being incapable of updating their world view.

However. The government of the US is not the whole story in America and the rest of the world. There's also a wave of investment in green and alt.energy companies. On AltEng and World Changing you can see dozens of stories a week about new private initiatives.

Some are more useful than others. Hydrogen cars from Malaysia are not a great deal until the energy in the fuel cells is not ultimately derived from oil.

On the other hand, these are hydrogen cars from Malaysia! The world isn't waiting around for the US (or UK or French) governments to solve this problem. And the fuel cells are more flexible in that they can eventually be charged from any source of power.

A year or two ago we had a good argument on ThoughtStorms about sustainability and the character of our economy. Peak oil and global warming is shaping up to be a real empirical test of the rival theories. What's clear is that none of the technologies are "solutions" by themselves. Fuel cells? Still need to generate power. Ethonol? Pretty environmentally unsound most of the time. Wind? How do you transport, store energy? Solar? Photovoltaic cells are energy expensive to create.

At the same time, a complex combination or ecosystem of different solutions, often mutually supporting (eg. home solar furnace using lenses to suppliment a fuel-cell / petrolem / ethanol car) will start to diminish various problems on a piece-meal basis.

Now, constructing a complex ecosystem is something only a market can do. You need lots of parallel trial and error, not a single programme applied as a mono-culture across the country (or world).

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