Monday, July 23, 2007


Alice in Mallabyland

Sebastian Mallaby has a piece in today’s Washington Post - the point of which continues to elude me. He begins with the touching story of Tecnosol, a Nicaragua company bringing renewable energy to Nicaraguans that previously were forced to rely on wood burning for basic energy needs. While you’d think this would be a good thing, you have to remember that Mr. Mallaby is a liberal and, well:

“But the villagers involved in Tecnosol's project are being cheated. They are not getting paid for reducing emissions, even though solar conversions are good for the climate, good for health and good for poverty reduction.”

…but, most of all, good for the VILLAGERS! The solar conversions allowed those villagers to have the energy to develop and irrigate farmland, heat and light homes – all the things we take for granted in our connected energy grid system. Only in Mr. Mallaby’s world would that constitute being cheated. I suspect it was more than just space limitations that accounted for the lack of pity-me quote from one of those cheated villagers. (…and perhaps because it wouldn’t have dove-tailed nicely with the overall tone of this piece, there is also no mention of the US contribution to Tecnosol’s success.)

But he’s not done yet; this is a global warming bit and he predictably laments US non-participation in worldwide efforts:

“The Kyoto system represents the culmination of a huge global diplomatic effort, and the United States was wrong to turn its back on it.”

That gentle chide is immediately followed up though with this:

“Nevertheless, the system has not lived up to its promise. Nearly all the trading under the Kyoto mechanism involves comparatively rich developing countries such as China and projects that generally don't benefit the poor, such as capturing greenhouse gases created as byproducts in industrial processes. Almost no money goes to the least developed countries or to poor people. The reasons are partly understandable: It's easier to trade bulky industrial offsets than to collect small tokens of progress from dozens of remote villages. But even with that caveat, the Kyoto mechanism works badly.”

Yep – Kyoto sucks but we should still be part of it. Remarkably, he concludes:

“But if Congress creates a mandatory cap-and-trade system that mimics Kyoto's clunkiness, it will funnel billions to Chinese industrialists, creating perverse incentives for greater emissions. And Nicaraguan villagers will be cheated.”

So, to summarize: With US help, some Nicaraguans now have clean, plentiful energy where previously their sources were harmful and limited. Also, the Kyoto system is not doing what it was supposed to do and Congress should not seek to emulate it here. The Mallaby Take on all this: The Nicaraguans got a raw deal and we should be part of Kyoto.

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