Is There Something Wrong with Economics?

11 08 2008

By Teasome

I was just hit by a thought.

What is meant by renewable sources? If you need to make solar panels and wind turbine out of petrochemicals – then what’s the point?

If we recycle loads of trash, and stop produce most of the petrochemical trash we’re currently producing (like coca-cola bottles (and coca-cola itself), plastic bags kilos of which are flying around the supermarkets and then go to waste, crappy ugly plastic toys), then we can perhaps solve the problem for a while.

No there’s something clearly wrong in the whole thing. Economics just went wrong SOMEWHERE, at some point.

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2 responses

12 08 2008
economicsfairy

Hi T,

this reminds me of our discussion a few months ago concerning the use of “to go”-plastic coffee cups, because it is so cool and so New York-style to drink your coffee on the street while running to the tube station … I always thought that, of course, it would be better (“environmentally sustainable”) to sit down in a cafe and have your coffee in a real mug (probably also better for your psychological health!) – but apparently, there are calculations according to which it is not that easy:

You have to take into account the way the mugs are produced, how they are cleaned (which washing-up liquid is used, how much water you need) or how much energy for the dishwasher, the (environmental) transport costs….
In short: Complicated!

Economics can come in here quite handy with proper calculations that reflect the trade-offs and also with maybe sometimes surprising results.

Although I think that in your example it probably still makes sense to further invest into renewables. But as oil is such a widely-used resource, we have to think about the time after the last drop has been used up, one way or the other. Actually, in this matter, I do have confidence in the human mind, its ability to think in new ways and its strive for experiments and new technological inventions.

However, I am less confident in the human mind as far as politics and the ability to push through the appropriate sensible policies are concerned.

14 08 2008
teasome

I like this! One goes crazy in the end, trying to calculate what is more environmentally sustainable… It’s probably impossible because we never have enough information. But I like it! I used to call people like this disparagingly ‘tree-huggers’, but now I am one myself! Congratulations me!

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