Vele discusses investing in Macedonia, technology, digital photography, business and international affairs

Day: November 30, 2004

Pardon me, do you have any CO2?

Yes, I do, in fact, just look at my exhaust pipe! My SUV’s exhaust, that is, or my 2002 ML-500 exahust, which at best gets 18mpg, and apparently spews over 350g/km of CO2. Over the course of a year, I’m spewing couple of times the weight of the car in CO2. So, yes, our cars are one of the biggest CO2 polluters, and CO2 is the leading cause of global warming. Why do I care?

Because at Wharton, we can make even mundane, intangible and socially responsible ideas into a good business that makes a profit and does something good. Yes, a class in operations called: Problem solving, design and system improvement, by Prof. Karl Ulrich, is precisely a business in reducing CO2. I’m not talking about your run-o-da-mill b-plan types or cases. This is a real business and I have a few shares in my name. What’s the idea? We help individuals offset the CO2 emissions from their cars by buying carbon dioxide credits on the markets and helping finance energy projects that use renewable sources or reduce CO2 emissions. Simple and yet brilliant. Take it from me, who’s not terribly environmentally conscious, to tell you that yes, a market-based mechanism can reduce CO2, help the environment and have a bigger impact than waiting months in line and paying a premium for a new hybrid vehicle.

Before I go off, you should check out Terrapass.com and if you are a car owner buy yourself a pass and then tell your friends: “My car is a zero emissions vehicle. Look how I did it!” For about $50 per year you can offset the annual carbon dioxide emissions of your car with Terrapass and get the certificate and recognition to prove it. Terrapass turns around and buys CO2 offsets from energy companies that are forced to use renewable sources or reduce actual CO2 emissions in a verifiable way, or we buy them from the carbon offsets market, such as what’s happening on the Chicago Climate Exchange. The beauty here is we don’t have to finance everything, just enough to make the alternative energy projects economically viable for power companies to reduce their CO2 emissions. Since this works worldwide, your car’s impact is offset immediately. Take that you hybrid-lovers! (this in jest, of course, I think hybrids are great and would love to see a sporty suv hybrid that I can afford now)

Any questions?

US Recognizes Macedonia correcting historical injustice

Well, this happened few weeks ago, but it’s still quite important to note the significance of this event. In one of President Bush’s first foreign policy decision post re-election, he corrected an injustice that’s been done to Macedonians over the years by recognizing Macedonia under its consitutional name: Republic of Macedonia effectively legalizing a practice that’s been increasingly used by State of Department officials. For Macedonians around the world this was a vindication of a decade long pursuit to stamp out injust policies coming from official Greek resistance to us MAcedonians using the name that we have all used forever. The Greek argument basically boiled down to going to a DMV and someone refusing to give you a driver’s licence because their friend had the same name as yours. That’s all!

Greece was caught by total surprise and will continue to push for a reversal or reinforce weak hands. For Greece this will remain an endless battle to preserve something that is completely intangible and self-created only to maintain some sort of non-existent fear of armed Macedonian marching across the border to Greece, pillaging, killing and conquering lands. Oh, boy, the ridiculousness of that. A country with barely 30k draftees attacking Greece, whose entire military strategy has been to fend off an invasion by Turkey, the biggest European army, being part of NATO and posessing modern military hardware with 2.5 years of mandatory military service. Yeah, that’s gonna happen…

For Macedonians, this isn’t just a victory but rather a correction of a long-standing injustice to deny our identity. That’s the bottom line. Nobody in Macedonia cares about Greece or Greeks, much less Alexander the Great. We just want to be left alone and not denied for once. Perhaps other neighbours will get the message now…

The corollary to this is Macedonian-EU relations. Because of the consensus-based politics in Europe, Greece will continue to wield power and prevent any kind of Macedonian entry into EU and/or NATO, primarily because of the name. This is not so much of a problem. The EU hasn’t been kind to new members and it’s new policies will treat the eastern european countries as second class citizens. It’s appetite for new members has reduces drastically. NATO is another issue. The ability to defend ourselves from invastion or regional instability is paramount for Macedonia. NATO’s policy of cooperation has been to dicatate the growth, size and capability of the Macedonian Army even before there are any guarantees of defense, much less guarantees of membership. Now, with Greece a most definite veto on any membership, Macedonia will have to re-examine its relationship with Nato and especially its level of accepting military dicatums. It means Macedonia has to develop a strategy to defend itself through stronger bilateral alliances that maintain the Balkan balance of power. It is this balance, through support of foreign powers, that has held peace on the Balkans for a long time. US is one example. Turkey, which recognized us first as Macedonia, is another example. Being part of a US-based alliance system makes a lot of sense for Macedonia. It also gives Macedonia, a marginal resource on the Balkans, a lot of bargaining power in structuring its alliances and creating its defense and growth systems. IMHO, this is the right strategy to pursue before any EU/NATO accention talks. I doubt the Macedonian gov’t is thinking this far along, unfortunately.

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