Tuesday, January 30, 2007


W described climate change as a “serious challenge” in his State of the Union speech last week. What he actually means by that and what he aims to do to address this challenge remain to be seen.
The UN environmental agencies are drawing to a close a major study on global climate change. The news wires report that the study is expected to predict a 3.0 C (5.4 F) warming of average annual temperatures between now and 2100. This report is to further attribute this warming, with some 90 percent certainty, to the activities of humans.
While far from perfect, the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol by much of the industrialized world has enjoyed some success in putting the brakes on what the best science in the world believes to be the cause of this problem.
The US government has sat idly by while many of our friends and allies have worked to reverse this problem. The excuse given by the Bush administration was that adopting the Kyoto Protocol would cost Americans jobs. I have to ask, how many American jobs does the purchase of foreign oil create? How would cultivating a domestic biofuels industry be bad for the economy?
Given the speed of government and the fact that Kyoto runs-out in 2012, it may be Kyoto’s successor that turns on the heat under the US. In conjunction with the UN’s new report on global climate, there is a redoubled effort to hold a new summit on climate. UN scientists are lobbying Secretary General Ban to hold such a summit in September. Given planned discussion of warming-related concerns like the flooding of coastal cities, perhaps the Bush administration will suggest New Orleans as a venue. Perhaps not.
Can we wait for the government to stop talking and start acting? The US and its neighbors to the north and south have enormous agricultural resources. We have the potential to move toward energy independence by producing ethanol and biodiesel for transportation, but the entrepreneur, not the bureaucrat, must realize this change.
American industry has been stymied by a government of the oil, by the oil, and for the oil. Perhaps if we stopped creating an infrastructure so lopsided in favor of petroleum, other sources of energy could compete in a free market. McDonald’s could start marketing McDiesel, made from all of that used fry oil, and Mr. Daniel could start selling Old No. 7 high-performance fuel for hogs. Or is that “hawgz”?
We need more consumer demand and new policies that don’t hand so much to oil companies.


Anonymous said...

Good post about Kyoto! I think the problem lies with the media mis-intepreting the threats of global warming which confuses the constituents who vote for people that do not have it on their agenda.

I love it when people say it will hurt the US Economy, especially business leaders. Apparently they do not have the foresight to realize how much $$$$$$$ they could make if we switch to a greener capitalist system.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Thank you. It’s important to keep in mind that the news media (on the whole) are for-profit operations. While this is not in and of itself a bad thing, it does raise questions about ethics when a story might trash one of their advertisers. Also, conflict sells papers. You always want a good rivalry or a good villain to make an interesting story.
I think business needs to evolve its thinking with respect to natural (and human resources). Rather than simply focusing on short-term profits, businesses need to begin to consider other streams of value. Perhaps this means (someone much cleverer than I am) devising net present value calculations for shared resources that are expected to operate in perpetuity.
The environmental community needs to make an equal change to its thoughts and ways, and start looking at problems with an eye for finance. Backpackers will always be environmentalists. There’s little progress to be made by appealing to their values. We need to get management accountants to consider the environment.

Anonymous said...

"...but the entrepreneur, not the bureaucrat, must realize this change."

The word "entrepreneur" in the above line could also be interchangable with the word "individual". The masses are waiting for some type of Green God to lead them to salvation from global warming, someone to tell them how their tax dollars are going to keep the Earth's temperature from rising. We want someone else to take charge--to fix the problem. People flocked to see "An Inconvenient Truth", but how many after viewing this movie, chose to do something themselves to help the situation? I'm betting not many.

I'm rambling, I know, but what I'm wondering is why aren't there more programs that encourage responsibility for our climate on an individual level? Does that sound crazy? If a million individuals started taking some type of action against global warming, don't you think that would make a difference?

E. R. Dunhill said...

Thanks for stopping by. You make a good point. The kinds of changes that need to take place in order realize any kind of meaningful improvement in the environment are in the day to day decisions in the lives of the masses. People need to be more mindful of the choices they make in everything from “what do I want for dinner?” to “why should I buy one car instead of another?”
The reason I chose the word “entrepreneur” here, is that as you put it, people “are waiting for some type of Green God to lead them to salvation”. In our media-driven capitalist economy, people are accustomed to being lead as consumers. I see the entrepreneur as the best change-agent in this scenario. Entrepreneurs find markets, create demand, create value.
The trick is to use this kind of business sensibility to get people invested in environmental quality as a fundamental characteristic of every product and service. If consumers considered the environment as part of the value-proposition every time they spent money, we wouldn’t need government to try to affect change through programs. The market would increasingly select environmentally/socially responsible firms.

Anonymous said...

You're so wise Mr. Dunhill. Sometimes I wonder how I dare commment on your blogs at all, I guess I'm just shameless.

I can imagine it all now:

Instead of chasing after Louis Vuitton and True Religion, by way of some ingenious entreprenuers, the consumer starts demanding designer LNG and name-brand post-consumer products--because it's oh so stylish. I mean, why not? All the kids on MTV's Laguna Beach are doing it...

E. R. Dunhill said...

Lord, I’m a pretentious ass. Dare to comment. Your insight is no more or less valuable than mine. And that goes for you blog-lurkers, too. Educate me.
I think there’s merit in environmentally-friendly products being hip. Even more, I’d like to see people become aware of the ramifications of consumer scenarios. Every time a consumer buys a product there is some sequence of input-process-output. The sequence uses-up things and produces waste that must be addressed. The artificial divorce of our minds from their environment allows us to think of consumption and waste generation in false isolation.
What I’d really like to see is people seeing “bad for the environment” as a fundamentally bad deal. We wouldn’t go to the grocery store and buy from a bin marked “Poisonous Oranges”, just because they’re on sale. Likewise, we need to move toward a mindset that we can’t upset global climate and ecology, just because coal is cheap.
Again, I see the entrepreneur making a better product and convincing people that the environment is a valuable part of the bargain.