September 22nd, 2006, 12:08 pm

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Mr-914
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The problem with saving the environment is this, the cost is not born by the product manufacturers. If I build an Excursion that pumps out tons of CO2, the CO2 is no where in my spreadsheet. Materials, yes. Assembly cost, yes. Design, engineering, marketing, sales, etc...yes yes yes. Environmental damage, nope. This makes it a negative externality. It is something that hurts society in general, but not the producer. Therefore, it is up to the technological fix of pollution to drop below the cost of the current product to ever succeed in a typical capitalist market.

This is the whole reason gas tax exists, and regulation. Government realizes that manufacturers are not paying for these negative externalities, and therefore forces them to pay, or follow a regulation, or discourage consumers from buying the product. It is the only way for this to work in a capitalist society.

You can blow this up to a trade debate too. To make a shoe in Tulsa, means I have to pay disposal costs for all the chemicals I use. I need to have proper ventilation for my workers so that they don't get cancer from the toxic glues I use. I can make the same product in Mexico or China and avoid these costs. However, the Mexican or Chinese society will pay for these costs in terms of environmental clean up later on, healthcare cost to sick employees, reduced quantities of clean water and clean food because of pollution.

That's part of the reason an imported product costs less to the importer. They are only paying for the material, not the negative externalities.

So is profit bad? No...but profit purely because of avoiding paying for negative externalities can be.

On another subject, I just found this tidbit at the BBC:
If ethanol is imported from the US, it will likely come from maize, which uses fossil fuels at every stage in the production process, from cultivation using fertilisers and tractors to processing and transportation. Growing maize appears to use 30% more energy than the finished fuel produces, and leaves eroded soils and polluted waters behind
I heard recently that US government policy at all levels is based on providing Americans jobs. Ethanol policy seems to be as well!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5369284.stm

September 29th, 2006, 2:00 pm

wellfellow
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Location: US
Mr-914,

"The problem with saving the environment is this, the cost is not born by the product manufacturers.Etc"

"It is the only way for this to work in a capitalist society."

Wrong on both counts. The cost is certainly born by the manufacturers, especially given the current climate of consumer environmental sensitivity. The cost is bad PR and loss of sales to an ever savvier market. That's how it works in a capitalist system.

"However, the Mexican or Chinese society will pay for these costs in terms of environmental clean up later on, healthcare cost to sick employees, reduced quantities of clean water and clean food because of pollution. "

Which they will be able to do as soon as they emerge from tremendous poverty and become first world nations through economic development. Let's not prevent that.

Anyway, on Ethanol policy, that's right. It has little to do with the environment and everything to do with agricultural subsidies, jobs and votes. (Surprise!) That's the government for ya. And people keep asking for more...

October 9th, 2006, 2:45 pm

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Robert Kirby
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So does this not then lead onto a scheme such as the tradable permits coming into its own, to limit these negative externalities such as pollution levels? But what can also be done to things like noise pollution etc. how is a price put on these that can be issued back to the manufacturer to account for everything that has resulted from production?

After looking into the automotive production process and the supply chain as a whole, how close are we to coming to a near harmonized process with minimal effects on the environment - or is this just a holy grail that will never actually be realised?

The motor industry has been heavily publicised that more and more investment and effort is going into making it more 'sustainably-minded' do you think once (or if sorry) this is achieved this will be transferable to other industries, i.e. product design, industrial design, etc.?

I also agree that profit just for profit's sake and not caring about any other consequences such as externalities is very wrong, it was in this way that I was referring to the fuel companies as "profit run organisations". There's no denying that we as designers do need profit run companies in order to better develop products in terms of cost so it can be past onto the consumer, and also for it to be a realistic product and/or solution.

Going back to the point on who was going to come out on top for bio-fuels, I'm not sure whether I added it, but after further deliberation I think it's going to be a relatively unknown company that will come through and 'crack' that market so to speak with the introduction of bio-fuels and a new engine system, such as a research facility/company that has been in industry but not competing with the likes of BP, Shell... Basically, are we looking to the wrong people for an answer on this subject? Or is the temptation of tapping into this waiting market going to be enough to drive BP, Shell etc. to strive to be the first in this field...? I guess time will tell!
Impossible is nothing...
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