Thursday, January 31, 2008


It is late at night and my blood pressure was too low so I decided to boost it by logging on to the Green Party site. Now it is in overshoot. I have printed off a couple of articles by former leader Jim Harris who has never heard of the Jevons Paradox. In the first article he uses a graph to show that since 1947 refrigerators in America have tripled in efficiency but are one third the cost, saving consumers billions. In article two he praises the great state of California for imposing efficiency standards on electronics to eliminate standby or vampire time, thereby saving everyone billions. Those standards spread across the country. Similar praise is being heaped on Governor Schwarzeneger for his green initiatives re. low emission automobiles and electric cars development.

What Harris will not do is mention population. He doesn't mention that although the electronics of California may be more efficent, there is a hell of a lot more people in California (38 million) than there were in 1947 (10 million) and it has taken a toll on the environment (eg. the loss of one third of its cropland) that electricity consumption savings won't repair.

And OK, lets assume Mr. Harris's refrigerators are three times as efficient now as they were in 1947. Did he notice that there are more than twice as many consumers in the United States today as in 1947 and nearly four times as many consumers in California today as in 1947, many of whom have a refrigerator upstairs and another downstairs in the rumpus room or the basement suite and another out at the lake and one more in their Winnibago or motorhome? It would have been instructive for Mr. Harris to tell us how many refrigerators are currently in use, that is a critical fact we need to know before awarding prizes for efficiency. Air conditioners were made 17% more efficient, one might recall, so consumers responded by going out and buying more air conditioners so that there number is 36% higher than when the efficient models were introduced.

But alas you don't have to be Green to be a love-lost technology groupie. Right wingers are almost universally like that too. Take Mr. Nicholas Schneider of the Fraser Institute. He predicts that sensible GHG emissions policies will likely focus on "reducing emissions intensity", ie. by increasing the "efficiency" of existing energy sources. What Schneider can't grasp is that the "efficiency" or "intensity" of a technology means squat. It is about reducing the total consumption of energy in this country. Our shiny new renewable technology can be 25% more efficient, and our per capita consumption can decline accordingly (believe it when I see it) but if our population increases to pick up that slack our dear old atmosphere will not know the bloody difference. Do you follow?

Schneider immediately closes out the option of stabilizing the population by introducing the issue with this statement: "You can control emission by lowering a country's population or its GDP. But it's unlikely government would choose these policies since Canada has a policy of increasing population largely through immigration, and Canadians would be averse to falling real incomes." It is amazing that so much ink is used to discuss the cost of Kyoto, coal vs nuclear or wind but none of these long-winded commentators are willing to spend two paragraphs challenging the wisdom of Canada's policy of mass immigration

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