Saturday, February 13, 2010

How do we sleep while our bats are burning?

One of the uses for the Internet is to answer odd questions. As an example has anyone done the obvious parody of the Minister for Environment's difficulties with roof insulation: "How do we sleep while our batts are burning"? It turns out there are variations: "How Can He Sleep ...", "HOW CAN YOU SLEEP...", "How do you sleep... ". These are all parodies of "Beds Are Burning" sung by the Minister when with the band Midnight Oil, on the album Diesel & Dust (1987).

More seriously, there are problems with government policies to deal with climate change which select specific technologies. This is both a political problem for the government and a problem of efficient allocation of resources for the community. Due to the need to provide a quick economic stimulus, the Australian Government decided to subsidise the installation of insulation in domestic dwellings with its Home Insulation Program. This seemed a sensible policy. However, this resulted in a very large demand for insulation and a tendency for less well trained installers. Even if there were no more than the usual number of problems with insulation, because this is being done under a specific government program, their is a political cost of the government.

An alternative strategy would be to require a level of energy efficiency for new buildings. Another strategy would be a carbon tax or trading scheme. These would have the effect of influencing householders decision making. But it would be up to the householder to decide how to achieve the needed energy efficiency or deal with the cost of energy. It would not be up to the government to have to have policies and guidelines for every detailed decision by a householder, nor risk the political consequences of each decision. However, these schemes would not have an immediate effect, as was needed by the stimulus package.

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