The Rants of Issachar

Friday, May 25, 2007

Greenhouse Gases Part 2 - Kyoto

I cut short my earlier post on Greenhouse gas emissions because it was turning into an incoherent post on an overly broad subject. But Major John and Caleb both brought up issues that pointed me at the next part. My apologies if I'm misrepresenting them, but they both pointed out that higher gas taxes would hurt the working and middle class more than the rich.

Of course they're right, but I'm mostly motivated by an irritation at people who delude themselves about costs.

Case in point: Canada's commitment to the Kyoto protocol. The Canadian government signed the protocol in 1998 and finally got around to ratifying in the House in 2002. Kyoto committed us to reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels during 2008-2012. After signing the protocol, the government did sweet nothing about it. (I wonder if that's because talking green gets more votes than actually making people pay for the costs of being green).

By 2004 emissions were 27% above 1990 levels. (Source via Wikipedia). Two years later we got a new government that said we weren't going to be able to meet the targets so they were coming up with a new plan. The problem is that meeting the protocol would require measures that would flush our economy.

The response of the opposition parties has been to insist that we can meet the targets and to ignore the financial data.

That's what's irritating me. People who ignore or deny information that they don't like like.

I believe in responsible stewardship of creation. That means using sustainable resources. That's why I'm proud to work in the forest sector. But we need to be honest about the costs of making changes and recognize that those costs are going to be paid by everyone.

:: posted by issachar, 11:50 PM | Permalink | 5 comments | Links to this post

Thursday, May 24, 2007

US Border pre-clearance dispute

So the Canadian and US governments have been negotiating to set up a pre-clearance station at the border between Buffalo and Fort Erie. The plan involved having US and Canadian customs stations just inside the Canadian border, (apparently expanding on the US side would have meant demolishing houses), and streamlined border clearance. (This being rather important to both sides as trade via highway is worth a lot, ($335 billion in 2004).

The negotiations have now been abandoned because the US Department of Homeland Security insisted that if US guards asked a person to step inside to be fingerprinted, that person could not simply refuse and walk away. Of course the facility would be located in Canada and the Charter of Rights bars fingerprinting without consent unless that person is charged with a crime. (Globe and Mail - Subscription) (Washington Post)

Frankly, the US is being downright stupid in insisting on this. We can't agree to it. If the Canadian government asked to locate a facility inside the US in which they would be legally allowed to violate the Bill of Rights, I hope the US answer would be a firm no.
Publish Post
If you're not interested in streamlining hundreds of billions of dollars in trade, then have the courage to say so. (And maybe you should have said it before we spent two years working on this). And don't say it to us. Say it to the US businesses you're hurting.

As for the security issue, I don't buy it. This is the thing that's going to make the US safe from terrorists? How many people cross the border from Mexico on a daily basis? Right...

:: posted by issachar, 8:26 PM | Permalink | 4 comments | Links to this post

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gas prices and greenhouse gases...

The Globe and Mail reported this weekend in their BC section that Vancouver's Translink had seen an 11% increase in usage since last year. This coincides with an average pump price of $1.27 per liter.

So it seems that David Suzuki was correct when he said that if you really want to "green up" the automotive sector, then one of the best policies is higher gas prices. (Time to think the unthinkable: Put a tax on gas - Globe and Mail April 20). I never got around to writing about it at the time, but if you think about it, it's almost glaringly obvious. If you want less emissions, then people have to drive less. If you want people to drive less, then make gas more expensive. It's not exactly rocket science.

I found the responding editorial written a couple of weeks later that argued that a gas tax wouldn't reduce greenhouse gases fairly unconvincing. (Full text online here). You can argue that human activity isn't causing global warming, or you could argue that it's actually a good thing, or you can argue that there are better ways to reduce global warming, but to argue that increased prices doesn't decrease usage is simply silly. Actually I'm a little surprised the Globe published such a poorly argued piece. To quote from the editorial: "Taxation doesn't stop people from doing things they need to do, such as heating their homes." Very true. Of course one can also turn down the thermostat a bit to save a couple of bucks.

Higher prices reduce demand. Arguing about that just makes you look foolish.

One good thing about an environmental gas tax would be that people just might figure out that if we want to reduce carbon emissions, then there will be a cost and it won't just be paid by "other people".

:: posted by issachar, 4:40 PM | Permalink | 7 comments | Links to this post

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Two Experiences in Islam

If you haven't already read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book Infidel, I really think you should read it. It is a terribly depressing book in a lot of ways, but I really appreciated it. At it's core, it's honest. She's telling the story of her life growing up as a Muslim woman in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya.

Ms. Ali was the woman who made the short film Submission with Theo van Gogh, who was later murdered by an angry Muslim for making the film.

You might guess that book is a fairly damning endictment on the treatment of women in Islam. (And to an extent on the anti-modern nature of Islam in general). It doesn't say anything about Islam that I didn't already know, but Ali does say it in a very personal and compelling way.

Persepolis is a lot more lighthearted. It is a graphic novel about a girl growing up through the Islamic Revolution in Iran, but it is light-hearted. My favourite line from it is from the part where the (female) teacher is lecturing the parents on how their children are poorly behaved and don't wear their veils properly. "If hair is as stimulating as you say, then you need to shave your mustache!" (Apparently her father actually said this).

Having said it's uplifting, it also has a rather disgusting item about the Iranian government in it. (And I already knew about the plastic keys to heaven for youngsters clearing minefields with their feet). Apparently virgin women who are sentenced to death are first given forced marriages (i.e. (rape) , because virgins apparently go to heaven. I did some googling and it's referenced in Google Scholar at the very least.

I'm going to look for the second one she wrote.

:: posted by issachar, 7:31 PM | Permalink | Links to this post