Sunday, January 8, 2012

Brazilian ethanol finally allowed into the US

American ethanol uses to much energy to produce it is probably no greener than petrol. Not only that but it displaces food production pushing up food prices. Alternatively, it requires using land that could be used to grow trees. American ethanol production uses billions in subsidies. Funds that could be used for health or education or transport or the environment or lower taxes for businesses and workers. Anything. I came to the conclusion some time ago that it only exists because of the power of the corn lobby. On the few occasions that I fill up a car in the US, I deliberately avoid the mixed petrol-ethanol on offer. I reckon it is probably less green than pure petrol.

Brazilian ethanol takes less energy to produce (even including transport), uses less land per litre to produce, is cheaper and more efficient. Finally, in the current climate of cut-backs, it can't be justified not to allow it to compete with the US variety. It should result in a large reduction of ethanol being produced in the US. Brazil's economy should grow faster lifting more people out of poverty and the American consumer can have cheaper and greener fuel for their cars. The subsidies should go, the land used for food or forest. The world will be a greener place. And, I can fill up cars with ethanol. Oh, but the small vested interests of the corn-lobby in the US which produces inefficient American ethanol due to the utterly crazy subsidy scheme will lose out. All thanks to the fact that Brazilian ethanol is finally allowed into the US.

Britain's progress (and lack of) in cycling

HERE is a great Guardian Focus podcast on cycling in the UK. Part of the great Bike Podcast they do. 

With the caveat that I do not live or cycle in London, I agree with some of the things discussed but disagree with others. Not enough is invested in cycling especially considering the economic benefits of cycling and the billions lost every year because of congestion. I think they have been too harsh on Boris Johnson - although it is not perfect, plenty of progress seems to have been made in London on cycling. A lot more needs to be done though. London's Blue Lanes are clearly insufficient but I disagree that they do nothing - I think that they are likely to raise awareness and change attitudes slowly. I am concerned however at the lack of resources used for cycling when funds are found for other transport. I was interested to discover that Tony Blair revealed in his memoirs that the closest any of his governments came to collapse was when there were queues at the petrol pump (I have not read it). It shows the power of the car lobby. I was happy to see that petrol prices in the UK are probably now about two thirds to three quarters of the full cost of humanity. They still need to rise further.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A couple of cool bike things

1. Strava. I used it for the first time today. Very cool app for smartphones keeps track of cycling times and distances, plots it all on maps and shows you the main climbs. No need for a special computer any more! (HT: SS)

2. Phones use a lot of battery especially if you are running GPS using strava. So what you need is a way to charge your phone using your bike. Enter Global Cycle Solutions. They design products that can improve lives in developing countries using bikes and I love them. You can buy your own from their website too!

3. Buy some bicycle art from this etsy store. Available in different sizes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Carbon offsetting is sexy!

I did it for my flights to the UK over the xmas hols and for the 1600 miles I managed to clock up in the hire car. I don't think that I should have had to do either as it should be included automatically. Happily, any airlines flying into or out of the EU now have to pay the carbon tax if they exceed their (tradeable) limits. It's a pity these carbon credits were given away rather than sold to begin with and not sold but it is a good start. 

I am really happy the EU resisted pressure from airlines and other countries not to introduce the tax. See, for example, this stupid article from the Washington Examiner which thinks that the EU is trying to get foreigners to bail out the failing European economy - um... Europeans have to pay the tax too; increasing transport costs hurt not benefit the economy in the short run; and, quite frankly, we will all destroy all of our lives if we done implement schemes such as this - in economic models, that results in a utility of minus infinity making this excellent long-run economics.

Carbon offsetting the flight and the car journey makes them both more expensive but if I don't pay, someone else (who is probably significantly poorer than me) will pay for it

I use to do my carbon offsetting.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Junk mail

Just two weeks away and I got all of this, just from Comcast. It is already all on its way back to them with a request not to send any more of this junk unless it is actually important (as per the indication on the envelope). How many trees? How much transport? How much energy? ....