Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

April 28, 2006

How to “solve” the “energy crisis”

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:40 am

It seems everybody is asking what President Bush is going to do about the energy crises. For example, is he going to develop alternative fuels? Now Bush is not a scientist or an engineer, so they don’t really expect him to develop anything. What they really mean is, is he going to put your tax dollars into research on alternative fuels?

Perhaps it never occurs to anyone that it’s not the President’s job to finance alternative fuels with other people’s money, any more than it’s his job to develop the fuels himself in a lab in the basement of the White House.

But Don Boudreaux reports on whose job it really is — and they’re doing it:

This story ran yesterday on NPR’s Morning Edition. It reports on Andrew Perlman, a young entrepreneur in Illinois who is working feverishly to find ways to convert coal into clean natural gas.

My favorite line in this story is the one in which Perlman says that just a few years ago there were only three venture-capital firms focused on energy companies; today there are 76 such VC firms. So much money seeking ways to find new sources of energy!

Those entrepreneurs and investors who succeed will become fabulously rich; those who fail will be poorer than they would have been had they not entered the quest.

And those of us who do nothing but freely choose which fuels to purchase will benefit enormously.

I love this market process. People such as me — people who lack even a whiff of creativity, people who are terribly risk-averse, people who lazily prefer to read novels and work at secure jobs and spend our evenings at home dining and drinking with family and friends — just sit back and wait for profit-hungry hard-working anxiety-ridden creative entrepreneurs, each in competition with others, to find new ways to improve our lives. And we don’t even have to accept what they devise. If we like it, we buy it. If not, we don’t buy it.

I almost feel like a free-rider, a lazy bum, a poacher. I do nothing entrepreneurial, and yet my daily life is filled with the marvelous fruits of entrepreneurial creativity and effort. It’s an incredibly good deal.

I suppose this sould be a good time to point out, as Julian Simon did, that when there are more people around, there are more creative people, so it’s more likely that someone, somewhere, will be able to solve any given problem.

The question is, is our population big enough to generate a solution to the energy crises?

Boycott “Big Water”!

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:27 am

If you think the “price gouging” of gasoline is bad, compare it to this:

A gallon of gas is $2.82 down the street. A bottle of water at my local movie theater is $3.50 — a half-liter bottle. If a gallon is approximately four liters (3.78, according to Google), then water is $14/gallon at the movies.

People still pay $1 for a half-liter bottle of water at soda machines. They still pick up the 79-cent half-liter at Publix or Kroger. And they’d rather spend $3.50 for a half-liter of soda than $4.50 for a massive cup of Coke or Pepsi — which usually holds about 3/4 liters, and free refills usually are a part of largest-size options.

Yet there’s no outrage at Coke (Dasani), Pepsi (Aquafina), ZephyrHills, Dannon/Nestle, or any of the other companies. In fact, we gladly purchase bottled water at jacked-up retail prices.

And water doesn’t even need to be refined!

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