The real consequences of being Green

by Don Keayes

I love being green. I live in a pond, after all, so it’s pretty much what I do. But even I am sick and tired of the “environmental movement” hijacking sensible management in favour of cash-grabs and power.

Tim Blair wrote such a wonderful piece on this topic yesterday that I’m forced to quote it here in full:

New South Wales has a long tradition of exporting trash to Queensland. This is generally referred to as Schoolies Week.

But we also export actual garbage. Huge reeking truckloads of it, hauled for hundreds of kilometres along highways by diesel-burning semis before being deposited in Queensland garbage dumps.

Naturally, this environmentally-harmful circumstance came about due to a desire to improve the environment. The NSW Waste and Environment Levy was introduced during the 1990s, requiring waste facilities to pay for the garbage unloaded at their sites. “The levy aims to reduce the amount of waste being disposed of and promote recycling and resource recovery,” the government’s website reports.

Problem is, the levy keeps going up. It’s now reached a point where recycling and resource recovery are giving way to elemental market forces. “The government here has created a waste levy of $95.20 per tonne,” Tony Khoury, executive director of the Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW, told the ABC last week. “It’s increasing by $10 plus CPI every year.” And Queensland, which imposes no waste levy, suddenly becomes an option.

“When the waste levy in Sydney was $70 per tonne, there was no talk of waste going to Queensland,” Khoury continued.

“When the levy was $82.20 per tonne, there was talk of waste to Queensland.

“At $95 per tonne, the trucks are on the road.”

And thus we have the latest case of environmental do-goodery leading to both greater costs for consumers and no environmental benefit. This is an almost universal outcome for any environmental initiative. Consider Labor’s carbon dioxide tax, which was supposed to change Australian buying habits. “There will be price impacts,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised in 2011. “The whole point of pricing carbon is to say that goods that have got a lot of carbon pollution in them get relatively more expensive.”

Now the government is gloating that the impact of the carbon tax is sufficiently concealed so as to have no impact on consumer behaviour. What with a welter of wealth-shifting compensation arrangements, the “whole point”, as the Prime Minister put it, has been missed.

Similar examples abound. Solar power sounds just dandy, until you strip away government rebates. There’s also the matter of where most solar panels are manufactured. China’s environmental record with photovoltaic cells is remarkably anti-environmental. Last year villagers in Zhejiang stormed a solar panel maker accused of dumping toxins in a local river. Local solar fans have the blood of innocent fishes on their hands.

Wind turbines are great for … well, I’m not sure they’re great for anything, unless you enjoy turning birds into mince ‘n’ feathers. Or setting fire to bushland, as sometimes happens when these pointless turbines ignite.

Battery-assisted hybrid cars offer marginal fuel economy advantages, but this is offset by complexity of manufacture and eventual disposal. And the greater purchase cost, which basically erases all of your fuel economy benefits. It’s much cheaper to buy a used V8.

The introduction of bike lanes in Woolloomooloo sure helped the environment. Too bad they were built so wide that they stopped buses from using Bourke st.

Remember the Port Kembla sea-power experiment that scored nearly $3 million in federal funding? It sank after just two months, causing a 45-minute power outage as it gurgled towards the ocean floor.

South Australia’s ban on sales-point plastic bags led to a boost in purchases of plastic bin liners. The same thing happened when Canberra banned plastic bags. Also, Canberra shoppers began driving to nearby Queanbeyan, where no ban applied.

Nobody is immune from the tyranny of unintended green consequences. The faith’s leader, former US vice president Al Gore, went on a greening binge a few years ago after investigators discovered that his Nashville mansion was a massive energy gobbler. But, as the Beacon Center of Tennessee reported in 2008: “Despite adding solar panels, installing a geothermal system, replacing existing light bulbs with more efficient models, and overhauling the home’s windows and ductwork, Gore now consumes more electricity than before the green overhaul.”

Gore has always been a perfect symbol of the green movement: wealthy, bossy, impractically idealistic, hypocritical and utterly unaware of various economic realities. But now, thanks to NSW environmental regulations, he finally has a rival.

The next time someone pitches up some kind of clean-green planet-saving notion, simply imagine the likely outcome. History is your guide. Instead of ecological harmony, an accurate image of life under green law may be found as you drive along the Pacific Highway.

It’s a semi-trailer, blowing diesel smoke and loaded with garbage.

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