Democrats & Liberals Archives

Energy Savings Accounts

Republicans have promoted all sorts of savings accounts, accounts that would save individuals taxes if they did something Republicans approve of, such as phasing out Social Security or preventing approval of a universal healthcare system. A new idea, energy savings accounts, is not a way to save taxes but a method of encouraging all citizens to participate in saving the planet from the future horrors of global warming.

Except for a few diehards who believe global warming is a hoax, the scientific world is convinced and the vast majority of the American public is convinced that global warming is real, that it will do great damage to our environment and our health, and that it is caused primarily by human use of fossil fuels: coal, oil and gasoline.

Garrett Gruener and Daniel M. Kammen write an editorial on what to do about global warming that is an eye opener and deserves careful consideration. Yes, they favor a tax on the use of carbon energy - a "global cooling tax". Here's what they say about it:

Our carbon tax proposal is based on the principle that every consumer of fossil-fuel energy should have to pay the price of getting rid of the carbon generated by burning it. So the owner of a gasoline-powered Hummer who drives it 10,000 miles a year would pay $200 a year, and a Prius driver would pay $50.

So far, this tax is similar to many other taxes. However, the second half of the plan, how to use the "global cooling tax," is unique. The authors express it well:

But instead of going to the Treasury, the tax money would be credited into individual "energy savings accounts." Each taxpayer could decide how best to spend it to reduce carbon emissions, to benefit himself and the planet. You could use your $555 [the "global cooling tax" cost for the average American] toward installing solar panels on your roof, cutting your electricity bill to zero. Or you could direct your tax money to a charity that plants fast-growing trees at the equator, or to a private company that would suck up the carbon in the atmosphere and sequester it under the ocean floor. You could pool your "cooling tax" money with your neighbors and build a windmill to supply your town with electricity or a plant to supply you with a non-carbon alternative to gasoline.

I don't see this as a tax, but as an investment each of us would make toward achieving a better environment and a healthier world. Imagine the power you, as an individual, would have. You would be able to exercise your ideas and see them come alive. You would do your part towards development of sustainable energy sources. As a country we would have hundreds, maybe thousands of ideas in play. What a laboratory!

For those individuals who would not want to bother, their taxes would go to Treasury to use in a similar way.

Energy savings accounts should be aggreeable to liberals, to conservatives and to independents. It is a sound path toward the development of new sustainable energy sources.

Posted by Paul Siegel at January 31, 2007 5:26 PM
Comments
Comment #206056

Paul

The carbon tax is a very good idea. I would be with you on this one, although some of the modalities of collecting it are a problem.

I do not think that everybody who advocates this sort of tax really understands it, however. The Hummer owner who drives a little will pay less than the Prius owner who drives a lot. The great thing about a carbon tax is that it does NOT have a moral component. That is why it works.

Teh second half of the proposition sounds good but makes little sense. This is an attempt to add a moral component. We still are not sure about many of these ways to limit global warming and you would distort incentives. I grow little trees because I like to grow little trees and I hope to harvest them, but this harvest may not happen until after I myself am composted. Do I get a credit for growing these trees?

You also should take into account the complicated nature of some of these activities. You could probably reduce net carbon by felling old growth forests and planting fast growing genetically modified trees. Do we really want that subsidized?

Posted by: Jack at January 31, 2007 10:15 PM
Comment #206076

Paul,

The motivation is good but in reality it’s like shifting Social Security funds to private accounts via Wall Street and making up the difference with the GENERAL fund. The fact is we’re almost broke and we must get our financial “ducks in a row”.

We must pursue energy independence and lowered emissions but we must pass the cost along somewhere along the line. As they say you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, so someone must make the tough call to assess the cost in an equitable manner.

No one will like it. They’ll like it much less if most of the money is spent on more bureaucracy. The government has gotten used to defying gravity and building things from the top down. We need a mason that knows you build from the ground up and just as importantly placing the keystone properly so things don’t fall like a house built of cards.

“Smell my breath, no new taxes”!

Posted by: KansasDem at February 1, 2007 12:32 AM
Comment #206077

Jack, for once I agree with you completely on this.

Posted by: gergle at February 1, 2007 12:36 AM
Comment #206109

Paul
So private Social Security accounts are bad, and private health care accounts are bad because folks would be able to control the money in them. But global cooling accounts are good. Even though folks can control the money in them.
Who would set up these accounts the government or the individuals that have them?
Will folks be able to choose the bank they have these accounts in?
Or would the government hold the money like it’s supposed to (but aint)for SS?
How often can folks withdraw from them to make approved purchases?
Will the government have to approve each withdrawal?

BTW, Wouldn’t trapping carbons a sequestering them under the ocean make the ocean temperature raise and cause further problems? Y’all claim that they’re warming the air. Seems to me it’d do the same to the water.


KansasDem
“Smell my breath, no new taxes”!

Yuck, your mouth wash aint cutting it. How was that beer and pizza last night? Coors and pepperoni was it? HA!
Seriously, I agree we don’t need any new taxes.


Posted by: Ron Brown at February 1, 2007 11:03 AM
Comment #206126

So private Social Security accounts are bad, and private health care accounts are bad because folks would be able to control the money in them. But global cooling accounts are good.

We already have private Social Security accounts. They are called 401(k)’s. Private health care accounts are called private health insurance. So people are already using their pocketbooks to take care of their retirement and health. But there is next to nothing for the environment.

The great thing about a carbon tax is that it taxes something that is bad: pollution.

Posted by: Steve K at February 1, 2007 12:29 PM
Comment #206131

I agree with Jack on this. In addition, the savings accounts seem counterintuitive. The person who owns a Hummer ends up with a larger savings account than the Prius driver. The person already helping the environment gets penalized with a smaller savings account. All of a sudden, it looks more like an incentive to drive an SUV and offset costs with the larger savings accounts.

I like the premise of energy savings and environmental consciousness. But you might want to rethink this a bit.

Posted by: Chi Chi at February 1, 2007 1:08 PM
Comment #206149

I’m assuming this article was supposed to be satirical? Kind of hard to tell…

The great thing about a carbon tax is that it taxes something that is bad: pollution.

Of course… Why fix a problem when you can tax it? Congress will not pass actual anti-pollution laws because the government makes so much money by taxing business that pollute. In the same way that taxing cigarettes has little effect, taxing pollution will not cut down on pollution in a major way.

The correct course of action would be to outlaw certain forms of energy production (and other pollution sources) altogether, or at least drastically raise standards.

The politicians have nothing to gain and a lot to loose ($$$) from this, so they choose to focus on the red hearing of global warming. The debate over the existence of global warming is a ruse* being perpetuated by both sides as a way to pretend they are for the environment, while really doing nothing about it.
(Hmm… I guess this is my topic for this week.)

*Yes, I do believe climate change is happening. However, belief in cc does not make one pro-environment, as so many would have us think.

Posted by: TheTraveler at February 1, 2007 2:31 PM
Comment #206161

I’m assuming this article was supposed to be satirical?

No, think about it. We want people to make money, right? yet we tax it! According to standard conservative thinking, that suppresses wealth creation.

So if we tax something that is bad — like pollution (in this case, spewing CO2 into the atmosphere), won’t that suppress it?

Believe what you will about what Congress will or will not do. But a thinking conservative who agrees global warming is real will see taxing carbon pollution as both environmentally and economically sound.

Posted by: Steve K at February 1, 2007 3:25 PM
Comment #206166

So if we tax something that is bad — like pollution (in this case, spewing CO2 into the atmosphere), won’t that suppress it?

Interesting… Maybe we can tax poor people and eliminate poverty!

Posted by: TheTraveler at February 1, 2007 3:37 PM
Comment #206171

TheTraveler,

That will work too, but for the math to work in that case the tax rates have to be negative. Milton Friedman thought that one up.

Posted by: Steve K at February 1, 2007 3:58 PM
Comment #206218

Paul
I am with Jack on this one. Way too complicated. A very simple proposal is to impose a tariff on imported oil of about ten dollaes a barrel and other programs to stabilize the price. Alternate developement requires some measure of price stability to attract capital and a barrel tariff would promote domestic exploration without any subsidies.What made US agricultutre the powerhouse it is today was tariffs until it could get off the ground. Tariffs were at one time the chief revenue source for the federal government and an oil tariff would go a long way toward fiscal responsibility.

Posted by: BillS at February 1, 2007 8:35 PM
Comment #206833

In my opinion more trains and higher average MPG standards are the easiest way to cut back on our energy use/dependence on foreign oil. Taxing a Hummer owner won’t change his driving one bit.
As for pollution get real. No matter how much we cut back China, India, etc will spit out enough pollution to ensure there is more than enough for global warming. They could give a rats ass what the rest of the world thinks of their pollution so why is it some of you think that cutting way back American pollution will solve the problem?

Posted by: Carnak at February 6, 2007 5:28 PM
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