14 January 2007

Burying vegetables

Millions of Thai root vegetables are used in the production of starch and then dumped in ponds where they emit methane, a gas 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. The [British] Government claims that by sealing the pulp in plastic containers, thus preventing the methane escaping, it will offset some of the harm caused by the 600 million miles flown by politicians and officials every year. Source: Sunday Telegraph.
At first sight this idea it seems far-fetched, but for all I know it might work. Of more concern to me is how these schemes are arrived at. Who decides that burying vegetables is a worthwhile way of compensating for aircraft emissions? Or, rather, of stabilising the climate, since that is the ultimate stated objective? And how do they decide? One thing is for sure, decisions like this aren’t reached impartially, by people highly motivated to achieve highest reduction in climate change for each taxpayer’s pound. That’s why, if the real objective is actually to stabilise the climate, rather than just to appear to be doing so, you need something like Climate Stability Bonds.

So what is the likely impact of this burying-vegetables scheme? In the short run it may well reduce net measured anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. But in the long run, it’s effectively a subsidy to factories that convert vegetables to starch. In common with the even more spectacularly futile idea of running cars on maize and soybean derivatives it sounds to me like yet another form of taxpayer-funded welfare to large agribusiness corporates.

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