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Over on a long TribeNet thread : http://alt-money.tribe.net/thread/5340f40d-8ac7-45e4-a9a5-10ae16d69790?r=10275

I suggested a pollution-right backed currency. Which would be distributed equally to everyone on earth.

The idea has grown on me.

Here's my original post to Tribe about AltMoney. It's a response to this : Although I am a part of the CreativeCommons philosophy in principle and in practice, when it comes to service based issues, the practical side of me doesn't see how this works on daily "hardware" issues of our life like eating, housing, and transportation. Unless there is a system in place that allows for trade among the producers of services and the producers of hard goods. Which seems to equate to an intermediate trade based system–something that we already have in place in many countries.


Yep. I think "hardware" issues (being scarce) need some kind of exchange (or at least a ReciprocalGifting more tightly controlled by reputation)

I'd suggest that local / complementary currencies are great for food and some housing. Not so good for (long distance) transport. That would be better done in a global currency.

My suggestion for this is an "energy backed" travel currency, possibly derived from AirMiles. What I'm thinking of is a combined energy / travel / pollution permit system. Rights to pollute would be distributed equally among the population. And airlines would need these pollution rights to burn the fuel that flies their aircraft. In the simplest case, people would trade their pollution rights for air-miles.

Alternatively, members of the population would choose whether to sell their pollution / travel rights to other members of their local community (in the local currency).

They should also be able to earn pollution rights for things like growing trees (ie. creating carbon sinks) and producing their own energy from alternative sources : wind-power, solar, deep cold water, geothermal, biodiesel, etc. depending on locality.

In essence, everyone is incentivated to produce their own power. If they can directly run their vehicles on this, they'll still be able to travel in the neighbourhood. If they produce a surplus, they'll also be able to trade this to other players, such as factories, who can cut their own emissions and use the difference to pay the pollution costs of sourcing raw materials and components from far away.

The point is, we are hitting PeakOil, and either we're going to find new ways of generating power, or we're going to stop travelling. I suggest we can take advantage of the shift to also recalibrate the economics of travel.

We want more, and more varied, alternative energy generation, and the right to travel to be more equally spread around the world's population (as opposed to being concentrated in the rich West). Eventually, we're going to need the amount of energy consumed by air travel to be balanced by the energy that's produced.

Markets are good at balancing supply and demand. The problem, at present, is that oil is a huge cache of supply that just turned up under some people's land, and has normally been aquired by force (Western powers sponsoring and arming the middle-eastern despots most likely to give it to them on the most favourable terms.) The cost of oil doesn't represent the cost of producing it (it isn't produced at all), just the bottle-neck of how fast we can consume it, and the cost of defending it from other people.

An energy / travel / pollution currency isn't the whole story. I still hope for FreeCulture and something like time-based or PersonalCredit backed local currencies for food and local produce / services. But it will allow some kind of continuing market for industrial production and international travel. However, it's grounded in a new kind of property which is initially, and continually, distributed equally among the population. (Note this is an egalitarian move that doesn't require taking anyone's existing property. It's a new kind of property created by society)

Tom then asked the following

An energy / travel / pollution currency

So for discussion's sake we have a new currency based on an energy/travel/pollution model. Example: I live next to a lake, snake a pipe down to the cold levels of the lake and generate electricity between the thermocline. I generate more electricity than I need to run my house and car and so I can now trade my accumulated currency to a food manufacturer which then allows me to feed my family.

The food manufacturer in turn trades their accumulated currency to an airline so that they can fly from Detroit to LA to see their friends during a vacation.

How is this new currency philosophically different than the monetary system that we presently have? There seems to be a few ancillary differences, namely, that the middleman is removed from the equation so that the full value of my currency is transferred to the person or organization that I'm buying from. However, efficiency of transactions will fall without a "broker of stuff" until we have some sort of simple trading system (online perhaps) that is easily available to people throughout the world.

If the intent is to build a system that fundamentally balances energy intake and pollution output, then ok, the system you've outlined has that built into its core.

On the other hand accumulation (banking if you will) is still part of the equation.

My reply

"So for discussion's sake "

It's all for discussion's sake :-)

"I generate more electricity than I need to run my house and car and so I can now trade my accumulated currency to a food manufacturer which then allows me to feed my family."

I wouldn't suggest using energy currency for food. Everyone needs to eat, but not everyone will generate energy. My recommendation is that you use a personal-credit based currency and exchange other services for food. OTOH I don't think there should be any mechanism to stop people who do want to make that kind of deal.

"How is this new currency philosophically different than the monetary system that we presently have? "

There are several differences. The money is "backed" by rights to pollute. These rights are allocated equally (ie. everyone in the population gets the same number, every month or year) If you like, it's an egalitarian, flat, regular income.

Unlike FiatMoney, the number of units shouldn't otherwise be increased by government whim.

Unlike money lent into existence via FractionalReserveBanking, it doesn't create extra debt and incur further interest repayments. In FRB the existence of 10 dollars in the economy implies a debt of 10+x dollars that someone owes to someone else. Debt money of this sort is taken to drive fiercer competition between people than is necessary (or good for us).

Unlike gold or other currency backed by a commodity which is already considered property, the ownership isn't, currently, very unequally distributed around the world's population.

The "value" of the money is driven by two factors : the amount of non-polluting energy that's produced, and the amount of industrial production and travel that takes place.

The more non-polluting alt.energy that gets generated, the less this kind of currency is worth. (That's why it can't be the whole solution. If some kind of desktop-fusion turns out to be possible, we can't have people starving.)

However, the more industrial manufacturing there is (which will always cause some pollution), the more the currency is worth.

The way to get rich, in this economy, is to produce more, with less pollution. To the extent that middle-men help that process, they're welcome, even taking their cut.

On the other hand, you won't be able to get rich by finding poor people who'll do almost anything for money, and offering them a bad deal they can't refuse. Every year they get their regular income.

Nor can you get rich by trying to game the system ie. cornering the market on pollution units and then selling them high. When the next year comes, and the new units are allocated, your current units will be a smaller proportion of the total. It's better to trade your units this year than wait for next year.

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