In the pink

Like Mr. McGuire to Benjamin, Adam Minter has “just one word” for China, and that word is insulation?

But in all seriousness, it’s a very good word, both for China and even us.

Most American homes are leaky and under insulated and according to Adam, Chinese domiciles are even worse:

What do the 95 percent of Chinese buildings that are energy inefficient look like? Much like the apartments I rented in Shanghai over the last decade: uninsulated concrete boxes with single-pane windows and blustery drafts (that no amount of weather-proofing ever seemed to plug completely). When temperatures dipped (sometimes below freezing), the walls went ice-cold and stayed that way until spring, even if I ran my space heaters and heat-blowing air conditioner non-stop, for days at a time (as I sometimes did).

While American homes are better than this, Adam reports that in 2009 China devoted 29% of its energy use to building, while the US fraction in 2008 was 41%.

People, insulation is cheaper than electricity all over the world.

Badges? You don’t get no pinche badges!

Robin and I honeymooned on Margarita Island (and Caracas). Now 19 years later the island is back in the news hosting an international climate conference.

According to the WSJ, it’s being run with typical Bolivarian efficiency,

“When we say 9 a.m., we usually mean 9 a.m.,” said one Saudi delegate, stunned—at around 11 a.m.—as he waited for the conference proceedings to open on Tuesday. He had just spent an hour looking for an English translator who could help him get ID tags printed for his country’s delegation.

He wasn’t comforted when an attendant told him that his oil minister Ali al-Naimi, probably the single most powerful figure in global oil markets, would need to get in the queue and receive his name tag in person.

But the conference itself sounded fantastic as participants,

were treated to periodic presentations by mid-level Venezuelan government officials discussing the virtues of socialism and the evils of capitalism, not to mention its effect on the environment.

“Venezuela’s position on climate change is that the capitalist system is unsustainable for the life of the planet,” Mr. Ramirez told delegates this week.

Ummm, doesn’t Venezuela screw mightily with the climate by only charging something on the order of $0.03 (that’s right, 3 cents) per gallon of gasoline sold in the country?

Let me end with this awesome photo of Venezuelan oil minister Ramirez on the left posing with the Saudi oil minister on the right:

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It’s kind of a Manute / Muggsy situation, innit?

“Pay us or we’ll shoot the trees”

NPR had an interesting piece on Monday called Ecuador To World: Pay Up To Save The Rainforest. World To Ecuador: Meh. 

In an offer that sounds a bit like blackmail, the Ecuadorian government offered to keep the Amazon free of oil drilling as long as others paid them $3.6 billion, or half of the estimated oil in the region.

Ivonne A-Baki, a government official, traveled the world asking for help.  As she put it, “Even the sound of the motor will destroy the fragility of this place.”  And as NPR put it, “pay us or we’ll shoot the trees.”

The government did manage to raise $6.5 million, but this was obviously far short of the amount they wanted.  While I wouldn’t have expected this to work, it is an interesting idea to find out who values the resources the most.  President Correa recently put an end to the idea, calling it “one of the hardest decisions of his presidency.” (I wonder what happens to the $6.5 million)

Correa is a Ph.D. economist and has a good idea of the costs and benefits of environmental protection in a poor country.  In a recent TV address, he asked the country:  “Do we protect 100 percent of the Yasuní and have no resources to meet the urgent needs of our people, or do we save 99 percent of it and have $18 billion to fight poverty?”

Kicking away the ladder

The World Bank recently announced that it would no longer provide funding for coal plants, except under extraordinary circumstances (basically for very poor countries with no other options).  This comes after the announcement last month by the US government that it would no longer be funding coal plants internationally.  I’m surprised first that the WB would time their decision so close to the Obama administration’s.  That should certainly (and correctly) provide more evidence for the argument that the US essentially runs the bank.

I don’t have any problem if the bank no longer wants to fund coal plants, but what concerns me is that the reason they give.  They will instead finance “will focus on scaling up cleaner natural gas and hydroelectric dams in order to deliver electricity to hundreds of millions of people around the world who still don’t have it.”  I’m all for reducing carbon emissions and helping the environment, but I wonder if the developing countries see this in the same light.

Amazingly, the new World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, stated that the “world’s top priority must be to get finance flowing and get prices right on all aspects of energy costs to support low-carbon growth.”  I’m surprised that as WB president that is what he thinks the world’s “top priority” is.

He does back off some though when discussing the possibility of funding a coal plant in Kosovo: “Climate change and the coal issue is one thing,” he said in April, “but the humanitarian issue is another, and we cannot turn our backs on the people of Kosovo who face freezing to death if we don’t move in.”