Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3: Energy efficiency

There are plenty of reasons to be gloomy about the prospects of stabilising the global climate, but there are also some promising developments, so I’ve started a series on this topic. Part 1 on peak gasoline herePart 2 on solar PV here

This post is about energy efficiency, which is often neglected, but is likely to be the biggest single source of emissions reductions over the next few decades. I’m going to define efficiency fairly narrowly, to refer to technologies that deliver essentially the same services using less energy than those they replace: so, for example, I’m including more efficient airconditioners, but not “smart” systems that cut off when demand is high.

The shorter version is

1. With existing technologies or straightforward extensions, it’s possible to double energy efficiency (reduce energy use per unit of energy services by 50 per cent) at relatively low cost and with marginal changes in performance.
2. With rising carbon prices over time, it’s likely that further improvements can be made in many areas

3. Concerns about possible rebound effects (aka the Jevons paradox) are misplaced

Read More »

Weekend reflection

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. In keeping with my attempts to open up the comments to new contributors , I’d like to redirect discussion, and restatements of previous arguments, as opposed to substantive new contributions, to the sandpit(s). In particular, please post nothing related to nuclear energy. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

A quick post for a long break

When my wife sent me the link, this ABC story was headlined Treasury head says Australians must work harder. It’s now been changed to “Australians must increase productivity: Treasury head”, which sounds a bit more reasonable, but I think is still a somewhat problematic.

I’ll try to discuss this in detail later, but for now I just want to push a point I’ve been making for a long time, which came up in comments recently. If governments want a simple reform that would improve our economic performance (though maybe not the standard measures of that performance), one of the best things they could do is legislate for six weeks annual leave as a standard employment condition. We have parental leave for parents of new babies, but there’s an equally big problem for parents of school age children trying to deal with the mismatch between school holidays (six weeks over summer, as well as term breaks) and the measly four weeks they are allowed, unchanged since the Whitlam government. And the rest of us could do with more of a break as well.

An extra week’s leave is like a 2 per cent wage increase. If annual leave were increased in a couple of stages to six weeks a year, it would only be necessary to find productivity increases or other offsets of 2 per cent, and, as Martin Parkinson implies, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Marxism without revolution: Capital

I’ve been writing series of posts examining the question – what is left of Marxism, as a way to understand the world, and as a way to change it, once it is accepted that capitalism is not going to be overthrown by a working class revolution. The first was about class and the second about crisis. Now for the final instalment: capital.

By the way, the first post got translated into Spanish, here. It’s one of the things that I still find stunning about the Internet that things like this can happen.
Read More »