Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Love Unintended Consequences Oil And there always are unintended consequences for every decision. But when you insist that the problems are simple - and the solutions are simple - the unintended consequences tend to be enormous. Why spend time researching the obvious answer to the obvious question?
The U.S. Postal Service purchased more than 30,000 ethanol-capable trucks and minivans from 1999 to 2005, making it the biggest American buyer of alternative-fuel vehicles. Gasoline consumption jumped by more than 1.5 million gallons as a result.
They used ethanol in 1000 of those 30,000 trucks. They had bigger, less efficient engines than the trucks they replaced.

So a move to save money cost money, and move to conserve oil, burned more oil. Wonderful.

They also mention the 40% rise in food prices which can be tied - in small part - to the use of food for fuel.
The experience shows how the U.S. push for crop-based fuels, already contributing to the highest rate of food inflation in 17 years, may not be achieving its goal of reducing gasoline consumption.
Unintended consequences indeed.

The world is not a simple place, and the answers to what problems we face are not simple. Indeed, the problems themselves are difficult to quantify in many instances. But if you insist that the issues are simple and the solutions to complex problems must be simple, you will end up shooting yourself in the foot, the way the USPS has done in its effort to be green. (Wanna bet the guy who bought those gas-guzzling trucks got a raise or a bonus for a promotion for innovative thinking?) [via Kate]

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