spacer image
spacer image

Welcome! You're looking at an archived Snarkmarket entry. We've got a fresh look—and more new ideas every day—on the front page.

March 15, 2006

<< Infinite Storage? Here You Go | My Personal Supermap >>

Oil Standard

Anytime this Greasemonkey script sees a price written in U.S. dollars on a Web site, it adds the current equivalent value in barrels of crude oil. I’m going to enable it for a while and see if it heightens my awareness of what “the price of oil rose $4 a barrel” means in everyday terms, or if it just annoys me. (Greasemonkey? Infosthetic.)

mthompson-sig.gif
Posted March 15, 2006 at 1:47 | Comments (9) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Society/Culture

Comments

I have a better idea, for all you Amazonion greasemonkeys--every time the script sees a shipping and handling page on a purchase it pops up a window that informs you how much oil is being burned and how much carbon is being emitted to get that much weight from the retailer to your house in the specified amount of time.

Ohmygosh, that is SUCH a good idea.

Which idea? Saheli's or the actual "Oil Standard" plugin. I think Saheli's rocks... I think it would be cool to see a plugin that calculates a "tons of CO2 emitted into atmosphere display". The possibilities are endless... Hmmm. What about a converter that displays the price in "days a person in Ethiopia could live off of".

Posted by: Aaron on March 16, 2006 at 09:10 PM

Yeah, Saheli's idea specifically -- that (environmental/economic/whatever) awareness becomes a part of life -- not just some article you read & forget about.

I wonder... To what extent has e-commerce been enabled by/had its foundation in/been actively promoting the process of our forgetting the costs of transportation, acquisition, production? I mean, if I have to drive or take the train downtown to the antiquarian bookstore, or to the suburbs to get a new porch swing or whatever, I might not have a full realization of the total CO2 output associated with that purchase, but at least the acquisition comes with some effort. If Amazon's offering free shipping, that effort's gone -- it just shows up at my house in a few days, for free. The transaction becomes even less opaque.

Re: the environmental costs of shipping, I raised the same point (sorta) over at Worldchanging and got this in return:

Then maybe it could also pop up how much carbon you'd emit driving to a store to get the same thing.

Mail order is almost certainly more efficient than driving to go get it yourself, since the marginal fuel consumption of a given package in commercial shipping vehicles is minimal.

Seems like a fair point.

Yeah, after I ran this past some programming/climate types, it occurred to me that it would only be fair if you'd have the same thing on anything you bought at the store. What you really want is a LatLong+weight label on every single consumable item, and a program in your phone that constantly tallies how many weight miles (converted to pounds of carbon) (we'll have to assume auto/train shipping and forget about everything Made in China and all that air-shipped Sushi and those Amish preserves sent over by horse) you're consuming.

Though I do think it's easier for me to read labels at my local grocery store and figure out what was made nearby and what was made far away than on a website not designed with that kinda of data-retrieval in mind.

And of course this is all rooted in part in how our roads are effectively "subsidized" much more than our railways are, so we've got all these big rigs on our roads when trains would be more efficient. :P

I also like the shipping/ecological impact idea. It would be especially neat to see the increasing impact as you ask for more rapid shipment, and how choosing the slower rates often will decrease the impact. I suspect that if say Amazon were to implement something like this it would measurably impact the choices that people made. Forgetfulness and unawareness are still huge factors, even for those of us who are already somewhat educated on the subject.

spacer image
spacer image