Saturday, April 19, 2008

Green2 Discontinued

I've decided to discontinue this blog indefinately. If I get the time later to address this subject as it deserves, I'll revive it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Want to Be Green? Work From Home

I'll make this prediction: In 10 years, more than half of white-collar employees will be working from home. The number of workers who work from home is on the rise. There are several reasons, and those reasons will be even more influential in the future:

1) Technology. Faster Internet connections, better video and voice conferencing technologies, and cheaper computers for home offices contribute to the trend.

2) Productivity. Some people commute for hours a day. Imagine if that time could be used working instead. And, if you work in a cube, you know how distracting hearing someone else's phone conversation can be.

3) Employee-happiness. This one speaks for itself.

4) Cost. I saved the most important for last. Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs, and working from home is a way to cut costs, and it saves the employee money too. If more workers work from home, the business doesn't have to pay for as much office space, including utility bills. If you think about it, leaving your house and going to work is a horrible waste of space and energy. For the whole time you are at work, your home is still there, taking up space and energy for no purpose. Even if you have family at home, your home is still big enough for you also, so why not use the space?

But not only does it save the business money (and here's the main point of my post) but it saves the employee money also. As gas prices skyrocket, businesses will increasingly realize that giving employees the opportunity to work from home is a bigger perk than it used to be. You thought your hybrid was saving the environment? How about not driving at all (well, for work anyway)?

And I believe this will be only a piece in a larger trend of a cutback on transportation. Grocery delivery will become more popular, since it is more efficient for one person to travel the neighborhood and drop off goods than it is for everyone in the neighborhood to drive to the grocery store. Locally grown foods will become more cost effective. More choices for entertainment will appear in even small towns, as residents are less willing to drive to larger cities.

All of these changes, which are positive in my opinion, depend on one thing: the free market. These changes will have much more impact than government-mandated fuel-efficiency standards, but these changes will occur as a result of unregulated market forces.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Happy Private Conservation Day!

Actually a day late, but I was waiting to post until The Heritage Foundation posted their video and audio. Private Conservation Day is held around the time of Thomas Jefferson's birthday to recognize the concept of environmental protection through private property rights.

Robert J. Smith, who coined the term "free-market environmentalism," was given the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from the CEI. In his speech, which you can find linked above, he gives an overview of the success of conservation through private property rights in the past, and opportunities for the future. It is about an hour long, but well worth the time.

For those who don't want to take the time, I'll summarize. Private property rights improve environmental conservation, from the time of the first settlers of the Americas to today. The government's attempts to protect the environment through regulation and government ownership fail. Mr. Smith gives many examples in his speech. We need to know how much land the government owns (some estimate it to be above 50%) and what the resources on those lands are so that we can begin to debate if private ownership would be better.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Hybrid Hummer?

Not likely, but even the Hummer cannot crush economic forces:

With sales of the brutish H2 in a free fall – they dropped from 28,898 in '04 to 12,431 last year – new Hummer models will be smaller, shorter, lighter and more fuel-efficient, says Martin Walsh, general manager of the division.

Of course this development alone is not going to make much a difference to our planet, but it is evidence that even the companies without the slightest sympathy for environmentalism cannot escape the reality of the changing market.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Hybrid is So Yesterday

The auto industry is going green:

Just as Toyota's hybrid Prius went from being a curiosity into a best-seller, so air cars may follow suit. Given the pace at which manufacturers are developing greener vehicles, that day might come sooner than anyone thinks.

To be clear, I don't know if any of the specific technologies mentioned in the article will pan out. But the important thing is that the auto industry recognizes that this is the future. Increasingly, green means profits. It won't be long, in my opinion, before the hybrid is the technology we are trying to phase out in favor of better, cleaner, and cheaper technologies.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ethanol: The New Oil

While researching for a post on how ethanol is like oil in many ways, I came across this recent article from the Heritage Foundation that said it better than I could. Here's a preview:

For a growing number of people, including some who had supported the mandate, the many problems, trade-offs, and unintended consequences have proven too great to ignore. Even those who see benefits have to ask themselves whether they are outweighed by the costs.

Expensive. Resource intensive. Environmentally damaging. Yes, ethanol is the new oil. This is one more example of the government thinking it knows better than the free market. Some have been asking since the beginning: If ethanol is cheaper and cleaner, why do we need a mandate?

Some argue that ethanol is just the first step to something better. I agree that is possible, but first steps aren't always viable. When the Wright brothers made their first flight, they didn't start hiring flight attendants. If there are more promising fuels down the line, the free market will find them easier without government-mandated false hope in corn ethanol.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Capitalism 101: Profits = Good

Oil executives recently were dragged in front on congress by the ears to explain how they could have the audacity to make a profit.

What strikes me as odd is that the same people who are so upset about the obscene, below-average profit margin of the oil companies also think we should get rid of oil in favor of ethanol and biofuels. (More on why those are bad ideas another day.) This is evidence of a fundamental misunderstanding of the free market.

When a resource becomes scarce, its price goes up. The rising price may mean a good profit for oil companies for now, but it also signals something of the future. There are two options:

1) The oil companies will realize that they must invest their profits in the development of other forms of energy if they want to survive in the future. As gas prices go up, consumers will demand alternatives.

2) Oil companies will ignore alternative forms of energy, and then go out of business when other, smarter companies find better alternatives and sell them for less.

Either way, the consumer and the environment win, without the need for a single government hearing.

On a related note, a pop quiz:

When companies make a profit, who keeps the money?

A) The CEO
B) Stock holders
C) Fat, suspender-wearing guys with cigars
D) None of the above

If you answered D, you're right! Profit, by definition, is what's left over after everyone else has been paid. Profits, then, are used to re-invest in the company, creating jobs, fueling innovation, and other evil free-market plots.