Tuesday, 7 December 2010

You can take your guilt trip and shove it

Our electricity bill landed the other day.

There's nothing particularly special about that fact - it happens with depressing regularity, four times a year.

What is interesting, however, is this little snippet:

"You generated 1.9176 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions during this period. To reduce your environmental impact, switch to Government accredited GreenPower, and offset the the carbon emissions generated by your travel."

Let's play a little game: How many mistakes can you spot in those two sentences?

There should probably be a hyphen in "Government accredited" because it's playing the role of a compound adjective, it's not clear whether GreenPower relates to travel or to household usage and oh yes: I generated 1.9176 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

I'm sorry, who did?

Over the period covered by that bill, I emitted various greenhouse gases by normal biological processes. My transport patterns, dictated first by the fact I don't live within cooee of public transport, has released many more greenhouse gases but since I use a motorbike mostly, not a car, that puts me slightly ahead of most people but behind those who are able to afford an electric vehicle. I also chose to use household electricity in various ways which, ultimately, determined the size of this bill.

I did not, however, contact the electricity provider and insist upon all of that electricity being generated by fossil fuels.

If I were still living in Tasmania most of it would have come from hydroelectricity, which only generates greenhouse gases through maintenance work. If I was in Denmark, 20% would come from wind power. If I lived in various parts of various countries around the world, I would be getting a lot of it, without making any decision, from various forms of solar, wind, geothermal, wave or hydro.

Because I moved to Queensland, I am getting it almost exclusively from coal.

The electricity providers in Queensland are blessed with high levels of sunlight and large amounts of unused land and even though our water supply is questionable, there are actually generators built into the dams which supply our water.

Yet we get our electricity from a finite, non-reusable resource which is dirty before it's burned and dirty after it's burnt.

I do have an option of ticking a box and getting charged more for electricity generated partially by renewable resources. Because my partner and I are both in casual employment and have debts to pay off, this is not a sane option for us.

On the other hand, the government is complicit by providing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry (PDF).

Subsidies. So stop saying "But coal is cheaper!" or "solar is too expensive!" Let's move all of those subsidies from fossil to renewable resources and see what happens. Of course, that might mean we charge China slightly more for the coal we export, but since there's so much of it I'm almost sure it wouldn't take much to make up the costs.

The reason "I" generated greenhouse gases is because this state is inherently conservative and technologically anachronistic.

I'll make you a deal: I'll keep an eye on my own usage, making savings where I can, and you do your job and plan for the future, whether it involves a carbon tax or trading scheme or not, and stop trying to make me feel guilty by blaming me for your lack of foresight, planning and courage.

The only thing you're doing now is hastening me moving to an alternate provider.

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