Saturday, July 19, 2008

In which Rick Ruffin and I are in complete agreement

We are both environmentalists, although Mr Ruffin is more enthusiastic and more political than I am. We've had a few differences, more in quantity or degree than in the basic details.

He has an article in the Korea Times (I told you he was more enthusiastic - I confine my opinion to this poorly read blog) about the cost of fuel, the availability of oil and the use of bio-fuels.

It interesting the way coincidences stack up. I am reading The Return of the Omnivore by Pollan and he starts by describing how much energy goes into making corn (oil is the base for the fertilizer, is one example) and the irony of using corn to make a replacement for fuel.

The problem is that, as is the case of cigarettes, the price of fuel is wildly elastic. People are willing to pay enormous amounts to continue driving. From the article:
However, some people, in spite of high prices, still refuse to consume less. South Koreans are a perfect example. While in the United States people are consuming 5 percent less oil than a year ago due to rising fuel costs, in South Korea people are driving just as much as before.

A recent article in The Korea Times showed that bus companies are threatening to curtail their services because of high fuel costs. That's pretty strange.

These high petrol prices should be a boom to public transportation everywhere. Buses should be SRO (standing room only) because of the current high fuel prices.

The article also includes a photo of Pyeongchang government officials cycling to work because they spent all their money on wasted Olympic bids to encourage reducing fuel use -I don't know if Ruffin supplied the photo or the editors did, but it seems apropos.

Ruffin does quote Diamond's Collapse, which sits half-read on my bookshelf, describing a warning sign of cultures on the edge of collapse being food shortages. Diverting food corn to become fuel stock doesn't save fuel (at least the same amount is used in growing it) but does reduce available food for the world.

He also defers to WorldWatch founder Lester Brown on the need to reduce beef consumption as the food and area used to feed cattle could be used to feed 1.4 billion people. Again, based on Pallan's The Omnivores Strike Back, I have changed my eating habits slightly to cut beef almost completely out and get my protein from poultry and vegetable sources. On the same subject, Bizarro's Perraro advocates for vegetarianism with the catchphrase "If you think you're an environmentalist and you're eating meat, think again".

Ruffin finishes by telling President Lee to scrap the canal project. I thought it had been quietly shelved already but perhaps it does need to be formally removed from as an option.


Masuro said...

Perhaps I've already mentioned this somewhere, but I overheard a woman ask a bus driver if there was an increase in passengers because of the high oil prices. He said the number of passengers was still about the same. I take the bus so often because I don't like the stress of driving. Oil prices are high but people still speed, change lanes often, and accelerate quickly. I have never been a fast driver but these days I am trying to stay at the speed limit because it saves fuel. And because it really irritates the maniacs behind me. :)

kwandongbrian said...

You've said that before but I don't know if you've written in before.

I don't think I can describe 'the tragedy of the commons' eloquently enough to make a post of it, but the concept really applies here. I try to conserve fuel consumption but if others do not, I do not get a gold star or any benefits - when its gone, its gone for everyone. If I conserve while others don't, it makes little difference - I guess I can have a feeling of moral superiority but that doesn't help me get groceries home from the market.

Masuro said...

Of course, when the oil is gone or much too expensive to use for everyday chores, you'll be fine because you are used to riding your bicycle while others are crying.