bridge over the Doghide

On Worrying about worrying about the economy and going green

Tisdale., Wednesday, October 15, 2008, by : Murray McEwan
I have given some thought to your recent articles on the turmoil facing the entire world economy. While some may advise us to stick our head in the sand and unplug from the world for a while, I do not think that that is a real long term solution. That is more akin to burying a bad memory in the subconscious, where it continues to gnaw away quietly. In slight jest, I would say to write down what you were doing during the crash of 2008 so that you can tell your grandkids all about it. I suspect that there was plenty of lag in information to be had back in the 30’s, but that didn’t make the recession go away.

I exercised my right to vote today, as I hope that all eligible voters did likewise. I had no presumption that any party had the secret key to solve our economic woes. But we don’t need hysterical party leaders promising to blow billions of dollars on what they think will work to fix Canada. I have my doubts that there is any instant fix possible. Any party that gets into power, can easily change course to blow billions as required, we don’t need promises before election to do so, thank you very much.

The fact is that we need a government that is reluctant to spend. Out of control spending, even for a good cause, is a non-sustainable course of action for any government. Our accumulated national deficit has not yet been erased.

It is pure foolishness to demand that the government take responsibility for the loss of the manufacturing jobs. I read the media every day, I gather the trends, I can project my future travel costs to be getting spendy in relation to what I earn, and environmentally harmful, why cannot the engineers at the big car companies do this?

How much government interference do we want? I happen to think that manufacturing has hit hard times because of the pig-headedness of big car manufacturers who failed to achieve ‘just in time’ manufacturing of the vehicle systems that are needed in the immediate future. This is totally the fault of the manufacturers, IMO. They need to take responsibility for their lack of planning that should have been aligning with the increasing green attitudes of the world. They should not be resurrected in their existing form by government bailouts.

However, the US needed to finally feel the pinch, because there is no way that advanced ‘green cars’ will succeed on the world stage until the economics for them are quite uniform across the spectrum of the consuming world. Canadian manufacturers could not gear up alone to produce the car made in heaven with a matching price tag. Some of us know that we’ve had it too good for much longer than we dared to have hoped. But we had our eggs all gathered in the American basket, and we, as consumers, were complicit in lusting for the wrong thing for too long. I can barely believe the ridiculous car advertisements that I still see broadcast, appealing to the immature buyer with ridiculous promises of personal satisfaction and status achieved by buying a ton or two of plastic, steel and rubber. “This shape is where it’s at, look at the SHAPE, its sooooo coooool.” Says who?

Travel needs to be less considered a right and more like the luxury and extreme convenience that it truly is. The old economy depended on cheap transportation, in fact, it was a given. But that is over.

If I were to consider keeping a horse or two, feeding it, sheltering it, riding it to town every day, finding a spot in the local ‘livery’ to park the animal(s) all day, the cost of that would be horrendous. Our cars are still cheap to operate in comparison to that. So I’ll continue to operate my old environmentally unfriendly vehicle (until it wears out) but on a reduced basis where possible, because its cheaper than running a horse. I’m not sure if the…ahem… horse exhaust is environmentally friendlier than an engine which operates intermittently.

I have already synchronized much of my work schedule with my wife’s schedule so that two vehicles are not being operated on a daily basis. Reduced consumption is the green thing to do, whether your vehicle is green shifted or not. No government tax incentive is required, but a little willpower and planning is. Write lists, shop with lists, reduce trips with lists.

Provincial governments need to think about a new ‘dealer plate’ based on mileage per vehicle for individuals, so that we are not penalized for owning several vehicles, but only using the big gas guzzler (truck, motorhome, etc) when necessary. If there is only me operating two or three vehicles, I can only drive one at a time. The insurance risk per vehicle should be prorated according to the time the vehicle is in operation on the road. As it stands now, the cost of an extra vehicle insurance is often enough to kill the benefit (to the environment) because the economics of yesteryear’s outdated insurance schemes still don’t put a profit in the individual’s pocket as a result of reduced vehicle operation. No extra taxation is required, I would argue that reduced taxation is required to go green successfully in this instance.

Some might say that if you own two or three vehicles, then you deserve to pay extra. Well maybe, but if I decide not to buy that truck or motorhome or small green car because I don’t like the unfair load of tax (via insurance), the effects are being felt somewhere else in manufacturing and tourism. We do not live in a vacuum.

Local merchants should be doing what they can to encourage cost saving measures for their employees. Longer shifts would be a start, as less travel would be required. Short shifts also prevent employees from obtaining second jobs, if they need them, as juggling two schedules becomes complex and unworkable very quickly.

Murray McEwan


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