Monday, October 18, 2010

I guess one size doesn't fit all, but it doesn't matter.

In an incredibly ironic day in green motivation. The conservative Wall Street Journal has an articleon the Secret to Turning Consumers Green, an in this stalwart of capitalism they say it's not saving money or charging people that motivates people to be green but guilt. Or more importantly what they believe others are doing. So the WSJ talks about motivators other than the market.

On the flip side, the supposedly liberal bastion New York Times has an article about how to motivate red staters to become more ecological. Secret, don't talk about climate change or being ecological. Instead, appeal to religion and being stewards of the planet. More importantly,

But they were very eager to hear about saving money, Mr. Lahn said. “That’s what really motivated them.”

In the end does it matter, whether you become more efficient because of god, green or just to save some dough. It's different strokes for different folks. Just like some people choose to stay in shape running, others by tennis. In the end it's all good.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What motivates a cheapskate?

The Washington Post has an article on the new book The Cheapskate Next Door. And one of the not so surprising finding is that many supposed "cheapskates" are driven by environmental motivations. The common thread is that people live within their means, and this doesn't mean just economically, it means ecologically as well.

One of the difficulties that we have to deal with an economy is that it is driven by acquisition beyond what we can live with. It is easy to buy ten pair of shoes in an outing, but its really difficult to wear ten pairs of shoes. One of the things mentioned in the article is that many cheapskates eschew yard sales because you often buy things you don't need. But I still do, because if you show with intent it can be a great way to shop, just like the thrift stores they actually do shop at. Disclosure, I do both. It is amazing how many electronics you can find that are still usable. Case in point, today I was looking for replacement router since I "bricked" mine trying to do some funky hacking. While looking I found two brand new motherboards, the main system board of a computer. Unfortunately these were from 2001 so I'm not sure they have a lot of utility. So what motivated that person to buy those two motherboards in the first place. My guess was an ambition to do a special project. And that's what motivates so much of our buying, potential, ambition, intention.

My favorite example of good intentions when I go thrifting are all the pieces of exercise equipment that one can find. And that is so much of our economy, we have so many options, so much space we buy not what we need but what we think we need. The irony is that our supply chains are so much better today, is it possible to lead a life of just in time instead of just in case?

The irony is that we buy so much and hold it so we feel that we can be in control, but the debt we take on means we aren't. In the end cheapskates do splurge (well most of us) the question is we do it consciously.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's all about balance...

David Lenhardt of the New York Times has a really great article (HT to Marginal Revolution) that explores alternatives to cap and trade. What makes this article really good in that it is incredibly balanced and nuanced in the different ideologies present in the discussion. Leonhardt is clearly a fan of markets, but there is a grudging acceptance that government funding in directed efforts can lead to breakthroughs citing the internet, radar and microchips.

What I find interesting is that the conventional wisdom is that you should make the externalities pay to encourage competitors to come in at the same or less price. What government directed investment does is create solutions that are actually less than the price of current market leaders. In effect what it does it changes the time horizon of investment. Most technology innovation investment operates on some functionally defined time horizon, most private parties can only stay solvent for so long. The government can make continuous investment over a longer period of time. And if a breakthrough does happen, it can afford a longer recoup time.

The real winner for technology investment proposed is that it changes the conversation universally. Cap and trade in effect is a universal taxation system, suspect to cheating by parties. There are temptations to undercut. A new technology that is cheaper and created by public investment gets distributed globally. Think the microchip under the Bell System or the internet. This makes cheating irrelevant. As the old saying goes, the stone age didn't end because of a lack of stone. The same will be true of the age of oil.

Lest we get too depressed, Andrew Revkin of the Dot Earth Blog has a nice post taking elation in the rescue of the Chilean miners. As a species when tested, we unite and can do amazing things. But it has to be identifiable and believably tractable problems that unite us, but really the argument in the end is that this is just a matter of perspective.

Monday, October 04, 2010

If it's good enough for the military, good enough for the rest of us.

The New York Times has this great article on how the military, yes the military (this is not a misprint) is moving toward renewable energy because it increases the security of our troops. Apparently in Afghanistan the number one import is oil based fuels and protecting them is incredibly challenging and places our troops in jeopardy. The beauty of the decision by the military is that it escapes the political rhetoric. This quote says it all:

“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.

The thing I don't understand from all the debate about those who are against increasing efficiency such as raising the average miles per gallon, is that those against these efforts are against the driving force of capitalism. Increased productivity.

It's my hope that this gets a lot of coverage, because those who call people people looking to move away from fossil fuels "tree huggers" are about to get a dose of cognitive dissonance. Let's go back to looking at what's a good thing, increasing our independence and increasing our security. What could be more patriotic?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

WSJ say Folding Bikes Trendy!!!

Really. I kid you not.

Check it out here (hopefully the pay wall won't catch you). It's a pretty good overview of the different styles of folding bikes that are out there and the trade offs. These include the low end populist Citizen Bike of which has been seen often on Caltrain. The high end, aficionado Brompton. To the ever present Dahon.

Looking beyond these traditional folders, the article introduces the Freeman Transport and the Montague Crosstown and I'm looking for the corresponding Capulet option.

It's good to see bicycles getting their due, and the practical aspects of folding bicycles. I am looking at other alternatives for my mass transit connection mode. Of particular interest are longboards. I was in NYC at Joe's Art of Coffee (very good coffee, though Jack's is dang good too). And there was a man on crutches who broke his ankle. My friend asked him what happen and he said he fell off of his longboard. Whoops. Debating on whether I will reconsider? Inline skates perhaps?