I live in London, a city with excessively bad air pollution levels. A lot of that is due to car and bus diesel engines. London is also currently in negotiations with Uber, a ride share app/company, on how to structure its business offerings. Many people also claim that Britain needs a development bank, such as the German KfW.
What about picking up all these strands and coming up with an innovative solution for London?
City A.M. reports that “Jeremy Corbyn has said the next Labour government could push for so-called gig economy firms like Uber to be run as co-operatives …”
Sounds like an interesting idea to tackle the problem of new monopolies arising from network effects, such as in the cases of Google, Facebook, and, of course, Uber. How would one incentivize the emergence of such cooperatives? There is certainly a range of options; here I only want to focus on one:
A new green investment bank could offer subsidised loans for the purchase of electric vehicles to people living in London, on the condition that they are going to let ride-share cooperatives use them for a certain number of hours per month. This would bring a number of advantages:
- Increased availability of a transport option that contributes less to local air pollution,
- subsidies would not benefit a taxi oligopoly but individual purchasers to the extent that they confer a large part of these advantages to taxi drivers in co-ops,
- private capital from non-cabbie purchasers of electric vehicles could be crowded in so that cabbies who cannot afford cab acquisition can also take part,
- boost for electric vehicle infrastructure in general,
- more efficient approach than subsidising individual electric vehicle purchases (let’s not forget that electric vehicles are also resource intensive, so it’s best to only promote them when they are actually used much, rather than being parked all day)
One could calculate the costs to health from local air pollution in monetary terms and then argue that some of that may be saved by the roll-out of electric vehicles.
To recap: we can weave the ideas of green investment banks, co-ops and the tackling of local air pollution together into a powerful new policy approach.
This is, of course, only a really rough sketch and I’m looking forward to hearing more detailed proposals.