Sunday, June 30, 2024

Contradictory demands stand in the way of transitioning to a greener economy.

Transitioning to green technology, while maintaining the American people's consumptive lifestyles, is likely to be very difficult. I listen to both liberal and conservative experts and I especially hear from conservatives about logistical problems with things like mandating electric 18 wheeler trucks. Things like weight of batteries + vehicle, given road weight restrictions, for instance. Another topic is sources for the minerals in batteries, given restrictions on domestic mining. There's lots of nimbyism and contradictory environmental concerns that need to be sorted through.

Some conservatives make good points about economic logistics; when they aren't just yacking about the culture wars.

I still think the economic transition is possible, but it will take a lot more patience than most people have in this era of blame and finger pointing. I think we can make these transitions, but the current culture of blame and greed puts obstacles in the way.

In an ideal world, technology would keep advancing and evolve into greener practices, but it will be difficult to bring a lot of changes without people, themselves, accepting change. We will need changes; such as using more public transit and less private cars, on the one hand, while on the other hand, accepting more things like wind turbines, solar panels, mines and even nuclear power.

Transportation is just one example, but people will need to be open to big changes across the entire economy.

Some of these changes can be seen as improvements, rather than sacrifices; such as enhanced safety of public transit versus private cars and the health benefits of things like bicycling. Benefits; such as the quieter world of electric motors versus internal combustion engines comes to mind as well.

Advancing technology can help us. I don't think we can go back to the past; especially with our much larger population than before.

I wonder if we can make the transition and changes we need, given the political climate and the fact that so many people feel like they aren't getting a fair deal. People seem to always want more wealth.

Our entire culture will need some deep changes not just at the top, but at the grass roots level as well.

I wrote this after hearing an interview on June 26 Pullman Radio News with Idaho Congressperson Russ Fulture. After his dismal post mortem of Biden's performance at the debate (to be expected from a Republican) he talked about electric truck mandates. Yes, if we use current battery technology, it adds extra weight, on road surfaces, to an already heavy vehicle for tractor trailers. There are lots of rules about weight of trucks on highways. That could mean less weight devoted to the load which reduces "economy of scale" in transport. More cost, or a need for less consumption.

I personally think mandates are a bad idea leading to lots of pushback. For instance about the vaccine, it's a good vaccine, but the mandates may have backfired in terms of the overall goal of getting people vaccinated.

An example of change in culture could mean going to more rail, for transport of goods, versus highway trucks, but rail lines need to be built and changes in the way business is done needs to happen. This could also mean some inconvenience with less door to door delivery, but we could go back to having more patience as consumers.

Barge on Lake Washington Ship Canal. Image taken during my June 2024 trip to Seattle.

He also panned the proposals to remove dams on the Snake River and the loss of both hydropower and barge traffic. Yes, that fits the narrative of contradiction. Barges that ship wheat out of that Northern Idaho / Eastern Washington region could be another way to reduce reliance on trucks, but there are proposals to remove the dams. Lewiston now calls itself "the seaport of Idaho" due to barge traffic on the Snake / Columbia River system.

Yes, lots of contradictions in demands for having an economy while protecting the environment. Logistics that will need to be dealt with.

1 comment:

Jeff in Bellingham said...

I love your suggestion that "we could go back to having more patience as consumers." It's such an important point, but it's also one of the things that discourages me about achieving the positive change that we need: our society is so defined by the perceived importance of convenience that I just don't foresee us ever surrendering that on a broad scale. I hope I'm proven wrong one day, but it's an enormous obstacle to overcome.