Lesson from US Biofuel Subsidies, similar problems in IT Chargeback models

WSJ has a post about how US Biofuel Subsidies are being exploited in a practice to game the system.

The U.S. taxpayer forks over a $1 subsidy for every gallon of biodiesel that is blended in the U.S. for export later. The idea was to give a nudge to the U.S. biofuel industry. But it is boomeranging, as the Guardian reports today in the latest installment on biodiesel “splash-and-dash.” (Other stories on this here, here, and here.)

Increasingly, traders ship biodiesel from Asia or Europe to U.S. ports, where it is blended with a “splash” of regular diesel, the paper reports. That qualifies the shipment for U.S. export subsidies. Then it is shipped back to Europe where it is also subsidized. European biofuels organizations talk about between $30 million and $300 million in U.S. subsidies being exported that way to Europe.

The result? Biofuel’s already-tarnished environmental reputation comes under more fire, because round trips across the Atlantic add unnecessary transport emissions to the mix. And Europe’s own biodiesel industry has been shutting plants, despite its own efforts to ramp up production to meet political mandates. Imports are undercutting local producers on price.

When reading this it reminds me of how IT chargeback systems can be gamed and are actually the cause of inefficiencies like the above example. When the business units are not charged for their power use, then they have no incentive to purchase energy efficiency features like energy efficient power supplies.

The hardest in going green in the data center are the pockets of self-optimizing behavior who only have their own self-interests in mind.