Demand Carbon Taxes & Higher Gas Prices

Our society is built around cheap carbon-based energy. This was a smart choice when we first made it, but we now understand that carbon-based fuels have costs not reflected in the prices we pay. If we are serious about freeing ourselves from our oil addiction, addressing global warming, and improving our environment we need a carbon tax.

Nothing else will work as well or as fast.

I have long advocated a carbon tax. I believe it is the most elegant, fair and effective way to reduce CO2 emissions. I do not believe you can call yourself an environmentalist unless you support some kind of carbon tax. I was preparing to write a post with some of the arguments, but I found this article and this web page that do a better job. Prices matter. "The Economist" magazine explained it even better. Please read the article, but in case you do not, it notes that "investment in renewable power-generation, biofuels and low-carbon technologies rose from $28 billion in 2004 to $71 billion in 2006," but warns that "these investments will flourish only if governments are prepared to put a price on carbon." Besides, I have written on it before (This article is only one example.) Nevertheless, it bears repeating.

A carbon tax is essential. It does not create a government mandate for or against any particular technologies. We will not have another synfuels debacle or a qwerty situation. Rather, it allows the people the flexibility to use their innovation and intelligence to come up with the best solutions for our diverse society. We have a great variety of fuels in the mix. The common denominator to the problem is carbon. The only way to address such a complex problem is to go to the common denominator.

Gas prices are high now. I can only hope they go a lot higher. A carbon tax would help insure higher prices. The higher prices will encourage conservation and alternatives. A higher price amounts to a subsidy for these good things.

We can address the problem of global warming but only by using less carbon-based fuel. Many so called environmentalists overlook this simple truth. Any "environmentalist" who is against higher fuel costs is just environmentalist lite.

The idea of a carbon tax is gaining support. Let's all of us on this blog - red, blue & green - get behind this solution. Let's make sure politicians know that not only will we NOT oppose anyone who supports a carbon tax, but we will postively demand that they do. And let's stop complaining about high gas prices, but let's do high prices right. If not now, when? If not us, who?

Posted by Jack at June 1, 2007 11:06 PM
Comments
Comment #221950

While I admire your determination to help the environment, it seems to me that this will greatly contribute to the growing income gap in America.

Of course, you can claim that it is worth the trouble, but I think you could argue it either way.

Posted by: Zeek at June 1, 2007 11:21 PM
Comment #221951

Zeek

Earned income tax credit or reduction in the payroll taxes can offset the cost to the poor. This carbon tax should be offset by other tax reductions.

In the final analysis, it depends on which you consider the most urgent problem. If income distribution worries you more than global warming or environmental protection, you will make one set of choices. If you consider the environment a more urgent problem, you will make another. But as I said above, the problem of the poor can be addressed in other ways.

Posted by: Jack at June 1, 2007 11:28 PM
Comment #221953

Jack,

Your second and third links appear to be the same.

I encourage everyone not to skip the last link.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 2, 2007 12:03 AM
Comment #221956
Demand Carbon Taxes & Higher Gas Prices

I demand an alternative to oil.

Why should we suffer through high gasoline prices and fund terrorism at the pump just to artificially manipulate the market into eventually coming up with an alternative?

If you’re going to artificially manipulate the market anyway, Jack, why not just demand an alternative to oil right now? An “Apollo Plan” for energy, so to speak.

Why go through all the hardship that 90% of Americans will have to endure just to artificially inflate gas prices and then arrive at the exact same goal as a much less painful national mandate?

Let me put it this way, Jack. The market didn’t build our highway system. Eisenhower did. I think you’ll agree the government-mandated highway system was vital for America’s economic growth.

In the same way, implementation of alternative fuels right now will spur economic growth AND avoid the economic catastrophe you’re advocating.

Posted by: American Pundit at June 2, 2007 12:23 AM
Comment #221959

Jack, with gas prices nearing $3.50 a gallon I would have thought the free market would have started to work. However it seems that the memorial day weekend has shown us that people will give up other things but not the travel and gas powered sport such as racing boating and 4 wheeling.
With this huge increase already in gas prices this past year it also seems the costs of some of lifes necessities has risen over 10 per cent.
With this in mind how does giving the oil companies more profits help the cause of the conservationist? Im just not sure the additional profits are giving us the return we are hoping for. What say you?

Posted by: j2t2 at June 2, 2007 12:32 AM
Comment #221965

Jack,
While the carbon tax idea has merits, especially when adjustments are made for its regressive nature, nevertheless it is a fundamentally passive approach to a problem which is not just national, but global in nature.

The United States needs to take a leading role, an active role. We need to address fundamental problems through a global approach: including China & India in the G8 (which the Bush administration recommends doing someday- but why wait?); developing and implementing a ten year plan to change transporation through CAFE standareds; investing heavily in alternative fuel R & D as well as the possibilities of obtaining power through nuclear fusion technologies, and so on.

In addition, population control through birth control needs to become a global policy. Pressure must be brought to bear upon major religions which advocate large families. A US policy of abstinence is absurd, when the medical technology can be made available to slow population growth much more effectively.

In a nutshell, this is an issue which takes real leadership. It will require planning, deployment, and implementation on an international level. Unfortunately, the Bush administration will need to get out of the way before anything can really be accomplished.

Posted by: phx8 at June 2, 2007 1:03 AM
Comment #221966

What a bunch of crap! Pretending that somehow carbon emissions is the root of global warming is completely foolish. Made a nice movie, but can’t answer some very simple questions. Like how come the earth warmed and cooled before we appeared? And how come Mars is warming up even though we’re not there spewing carbon?

Tax shoelaces if you want, but don’t pretend it’s because you are interested in saving the planet. Puny little humans do not have the ability to save or kill a planet.

Posted by: EdB at June 2, 2007 1:47 AM
Comment #221969

EdB,
In answer to simple questions:
Most of the past episodes of warming and coolling can be attributed to predictable astronomical cycles, such as changes in the shape of the orbit of the earth and changes in its tilt- Malinkovich cycles. Duh. A few of the past changes seem likely to have been caused by natural catastrophes, such as meteor strikes and massive episodes of vulcanism. Duh.

Observations of the melting of the southern Martian polar cap are based upon three years of observation. In addition, Mars is influenced by its tilt and atmospheric composition in ways no way related to Earth. Duh.

Since the Industrial Revolution, humanity has introduced an additional 500 gigatonnes of C02 to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, an introduction which has not occurred through natural processes. This amount is enough to substantially add to the total amount of this greenhouse gas, putting it at the highest levels in 650,000 years. Duh.

Get informed. Do some reading.

Posted by: phx8 at June 2, 2007 2:17 AM
Comment #221974

phx8, the facts are in on man-made climate change. Arguing with a guy like EdB at this point is like arguing with the Flat Earthers. It’s pointless. There’s always going to be a fringe to whom facts are irrelevant.

Posted by: American Pundit at June 2, 2007 2:37 AM
Comment #221975

Which fuel, AP? There are a number of alternatives. My own state, Tennessee, is preparing to invest heavily in switchgrass. It’s a bet, and a reasonable one, but it won’t pay off for many years.

We don’t have many years.

There are already a number of good alternative fuels, and they are making inroads. And there is good R&D being done on the federal, state, and private level on adding new ones and improving old. The problem isn’t really technological at this point; it’s economic. As long as fossil fuels are cheaper they will be used. If we allow things to run their natural course, I have no doubt that many alternatives will be cheaper than fossil fuels, but we don’t have much time. One way or another we have to pay the price IF we accept that we have a small window to avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. I favor continuing and increasing R&D, but I also believe that rapid transformation requires raising the price of carbon fuels. You could argue that the government should subsidize on a truly massive scale one or two of the various alternatives, but that’s betting the farm on something that might not pay off. And of course it will still cost us in taxes. Right now we have lots of possibilities, and no one really knows which possibilities are going to be the best. It’s better imo to keep our options open. We can ease the burden on some via tax credits, but we need to raise the price of energy. This is not just about getting alternatives into the market; it’s also about efficiency and conservation. The scope of the problem is mindbogglingly enormous; I encourage everyone to learn the numbers at the Energy Information Administration site.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 2, 2007 2:49 AM
Comment #221976

Gerrold

Sorry about the link. This is the one I meant. I will fix the original too.

J2t2

The long history of prices shows that they do work. Our growth in energy efficiency was high from the mid 1970s to the late 1980s, when prices were relatively higher. We declined in the 1990s and improved again recently.

As with most things, there is a lag time. You invest in cars, houses, plant and equipment based on your assessment of the future. You may own a car for several years and a home for even longer. You do not immediately change in response to what looks like temporary rises. But we saw last year that when the price went up dealers could not keep hybrids on the lots, while they practically had to give away SUVs.

People will try to maintain their previous habits temporarily. But over the medium and long run, they change. I saw that just last year. When the price of gas rose, many of my coworkers asked for a day of telecommuting. Many started taking the train or metro instead of driving and one of my friends, who was looking at houses in the exurbs, bought much closer. In fact real estate agents noticed the trend of a steeper drop off in property values farther out.

You know, of course, that the price of gas is still too low. Adjusted for inflation, it is about what it was in 1980. BUT the amount of work a person has to put in to buy a gallon of gas is much lower. You work fewer hours to fill your tank than your grandfather did.

Re profits - I am happy when firms make profits, but I would like to push the price up with carbon taxes. Democrats like taxes, so you guys should be on board. Republicans like incentives, so that should bring along my guys. We will all be on the same side on this by the election of 2008. The differences will be in details.

Phx8

The beauty of a carbon tax is that it harnesses the price mechanism. Price factors in incentives, scarcity, market information and much more. The price IS leadership. If you make it too complicated and if the government gets involved you get synfuels and qwerty. Think of the big screw up we are beginning to see because of government subsides of corn ethanol.

Population growth is a whole different story. The population is declining in much of the developed world. Our problem is age, not youth. The places where it is growing are largely outside our direct influence, but economic growth tends to reduce population pressures. The poorest countries tend to produce the most babies, so we do not want to take any drastic steps to cripple free markets growth.

EdB

You are right that CO2 emissions alone are not causing the warming. The world was warmer 1000 years ago than it is today and it has been very much warmer. Temperate forest once grew above the arctic circle. But the evidence indicates that human activity is contributing to the change.

The good thing about the carbon tax is that it hits several priorities at the same time. We have an undeniable problem with oil coming from the more dishonest and volatile countries. Certainly, we would seek to lessen our dependence. Carbon fuels tend also to pollute in other ways. A carbon tax is a reasonable step to take. It is minimally disruptive and have advantages even if you do not believe global warming is a problem.

Posted by: Jack at June 2, 2007 9:00 AM
Comment #221981

2 problems with this article’s position Jack.

First, is a perceptual problem. You are asking modest income families to vote against their pocketbook in the near term. Politically, that is not sound request.

Second, your premise is hypocritical. You argue for carbon and gas taxes because the true price is not reflected at the pump which consumers pay. Yet, in previous articles, you advocate for nuclear power energy in which the costs of nuclear waste storage and management are not reflected in the electric bills consumers pay.

I do not see how you can reconcile these different opposing positions without some extended use of psychological defense mechanisms like denial or cognitive dissonance rationalization.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 2, 2007 10:19 AM
Comment #221986

Jack,

Here I thought you were for conservative values. What is the first thing out of your mouth? Tax. Tax. Tax.

Why are you so afraid of the market?

When fuel and energy becomes expensive enough, the market will find the correct way to deal with it.

That doesn’t mean I don’t support energy independence or pollution standards. Without energy independence, we will be drawn into a war for oil. Without pollution standards we will ruin our enviroment for everyone. Our government needs to focus on these two issues, not burdening our taxpayers.

We don’t need another tax.

Posted by: barneygoogle at June 2, 2007 11:24 AM
Comment #221987

David

I understand the problem with people voting against what they consider their economic interest. However, if we cannot get this kind of thing in our democracy, we clearly cannot address the problem of climate change. I hope that people in a democracy will be smart and consequent enough to do the right thing. There are no effective alternatives.

So many liberals have spent so much ink complaining that global warming is a real problem. It is time they put their money where their mouths have been.

Nuclear power is a separate issue. I would not object to some consideration also being made for the costs of nuclear power. It is very hard to figure this out, however. Nuclear power in the U.S. for its entire history has killed nobody. Coal, oil etc are much more dangerous day to day.

In general, energy WILL cost more in the future than it does today. Our choice is not between expensive and cheap energy. It is between doing higher costs the smart way or the stupid way.

The question is whether or not you consider global warming a serious problem. There is no solution that will not require changes in habits, sources of fuels and how we relate to our environment. This is just a tautology.

I reconcile my postition, BTW, by understanding that we face a series of choices. None of the choices are perfect. All have costs. Failure to make choice is chosing to fail.

Posted by: Jack at June 2, 2007 11:28 AM
Comment #221990

Jack
Nice link and good approach. I do think that you may be underestimating the burden on working poor and middle class though they certainly must be part of the solution.Purhaps some assistance in purchaseing more efficient vehicles,improved mass transit and zoneing etc.The tax could help fund these.Any purchase assistance could be tempoary,say 5 years or so. A prius is beyond the reach of many but that old Dodge is not.It will pass anything on the road but a gas station. Getting these old gass gizzlers off the road is in the national interest and should not take long to do.Tax cedits do not provide help to those whose income is below the tax threshold.
Although the link does mention an improvement in price stability I still feel that a carbon tax is not enough to provide enough. Thoughts on an imported oil tariff? Seems to me that would not only add stability but encourage domestic production as well as alternate capitalization.I noticed that the bonehead push by the coal industry ask for increased subsidies if the price of oil goes below $40 a barrel. They are quite aware that OPEC et al are quite capable of dropping prices to curtail alternate developement. They have before and will again if they choose to.A flexible tariff,well within the provence of the federal government, should be part of any plan. This could also take the place of any and all tax subsidies to the oil companies.
Speaking of oil companies,although the high prices we are forced to pay now are helping reduce consumption, I and many others resent the hell out of being gouged. The obcene amounts of profits oil companies are getting are like the profits the railroad trust once extracted. They are a calculated theft. As a friend of mine put it,”I dont mind being ripped off a little but I hate being sh** on.”What they are doing is not sustainable and must end.
Another question.When the inflationary effects of high energy prices,whether through a carbon tax or our current high price/high profit regime,take hold,will the federal reserve do what they do and simply raise interest rates to put people out of work? The answer is most likely yes and working people will again be on the frontline in the battle against inflation. This is fundementally unfair.
Back to politics. We cannot expect any of these changes from this administration. Lip service,yes. Procrastination and agreeing to talk someday with the large interest with a vested interest in preserving the status quo,yes.Increasing energy efficiecy standards,also called for in the link you provided,no. Real commitment to reductions in fossile fuel use? Not a chance.I wish you luck in selecting a Rep presidential candidate NOT subservient to the oil industry. It is important for us Dems to do the same.This issue trumps all others. The first one of either party to propose a carbon tax deserves support. I’ll bet it comes from the Dem side.

Posted by: BillS at June 2, 2007 11:54 AM
Comment #221991

Hi Jack,

This is an emotional issue for me. I am a conservative in more libertarian sense, so giving our money to the government as tax and hoping that they will do something good with it is tough to swallow.

My perspective, from California is that raising energy prices will kill our economy. I don’t know how familiar you are with the layout out here Jack. We are spread all over the place. And with just the greater Los Angeles area representing over 10% of the country’s population, anything that hits our economy, an economy larger than that of the rest of the nation combined, can be expected to wreak havoc all accross the country. For good or bad we have no real workable system of transport in place other than the automobile. So, IF we were to do this, I think we need to look at some things that need to be in place first. Things like mandatory telecommuting for those that have jobs that can be done from home. The office is an outdated concept. You know, as I think about that one thing, I think that if we instituted that one change alone, we could resolve this whole issue. Imagine what it would look like if everyone that could work from home did. I bet the roads would be empty…

JT

Posted by: JayTea at June 2, 2007 12:11 PM
Comment #221995

barneygoogle, Jack is right, the conservatice ideology you speak of doesn’t always work. Perhaps it should be a general rule instead of a cast in stone ideology for the conservatives.
The market has had decades to solve energy dependence, it hasnt. The Limbaugh and Hannity’s of the world deny there is a problem and their audience swallows it up with out a second thought. The obscene profits of the oil industry are not going to energy independence and will lead to backlash once the Repubs have lost control of the white house. The Market works for mosts things however, much like health care, it fails in the fight for energy independence.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 2, 2007 1:09 PM
Comment #221999

BillS

Anybody who does not qualify for a tax credit does not pay taxes and so is not working or even collecting a taxable annuity. In other words, this is a public assistance recipient. We could adjust public assistance as we could EIC, however it is hard to understand how someone who doesn’t work anyway would have to drive to work.

Addressing climate change will require lifestyle changes. We cannot continue doing as we have. This includes the poor. Some people will be better off after the changes, but inevitably, some will also do poorly.

I wrote an article re imported oil tariff. My thinking on this subject has expanded since I wrote that. I think a carbon tax encompasses most of the benefits of the tariff. The benefit of the tariff idea is that it is relatively easier to sell to the public. You can always get people to support a tax they think somebody else will pay or one that will hit foreigners. It is a bit of a deception to let them believe these things, but that’s life.

I do not think a carbon tax is possible this year or next. It is not only “this administration”. Dems are busy trying to push the gas prices down as we speak. BTW – you are not being gouged. Nobody has ever found any evidence of this. Here is a good analysis of what is driving gas prices today.

Higher prices stimulate conservation and alternatives. This is sufficient stimulus. In the last couple of years, investment in alternative power has shot up. The U.S. investment is now almost three times as big as those of the EU, where some of the stimulus you advocate have been in place. High price is an excellent subsidy.

Jay

LA once had a decent public transport system. I have been to your great state on many occasions. The sprawl of LA is a direct response to cheap oil. It took years to get that way and it will take years to correct, but it must be done.

I do advocate prices higher than today, but it would be acceptable to keep them as high, by phasing in taxes as the price drops (which it will do if we take the 1980s experience into account).

I am not sure that the government will use the tax for good. Like you, I do not trust the government. However, what I am interested in more than how the tax is used is simply to raise the prices on carbon based fuel. That is why I am not upset about the higher prices now.

Returning to LA – a great deal of progress could be made if people just bought more energy efficient cars or even if they just kept their tires properly inflated. There are things that are available NOW that could be done by individuals w/o significant changes in their lives. They just do not currently have sufficient incentive.

RE the obsolete office - I let my staff telecommute 2 days a week and we have flexible schedules. It works well for some things, less well for others. We find we still need to be in the office together sometimes. I think we can have flexible work, but human interaction is still something we cannot do over the internet. Over internet you can do most things you plan to do. But real human interaction often yields insights you were NOT looking for and did not know you even cared about.

Posted by: Jack at June 2, 2007 1:31 PM
Comment #222008

Jack
A family where the wage earners get close to minimum wage with children already pay nearly no taxes with the child credit already. Tax credits do not help much if at all beyond what they already recieve. A buyback program for those with low income with vouchers good for a down payment on an efficient vehicle would go a long way in fuel use conservation,not too hard to administer and sunset.I can buy a gas guzzler for under a thousand. I can buy a prius for 25,000. The poor do not have that option.The tax you are suggesting would easily cover it as well as ,say, matching grants to cities to replace streetlights with diodes,improve mass transit etc. You are right. Us Dems like to tax,also spend,especially where we get value for the cost.

Posted by: BillS at June 2, 2007 3:06 PM
Comment #222009

BillS

The buyback of junkers is a good idea. An old car makes maybe 20-30x as much pollution as a new one. We would do well by getting every car more than 10 years old off the roads. The question is how much to pay for it. It is like those gun buy backs. People find all sorts of old ones that they never could use or would have junked anyway.

re tax credits, I would advocate raising them and lowering payroll tax. It should even things out for the poor and benefit the smart ones. They still may be poor, BTW. Environment and redistribution do not mix well. Stick to the one you are trying to accomplish. If the average poor person spends $100 on the tax, we should make a credit of no more than $100 for anybody.

I do worry about taxes and them filling too many “needs”. You are also talking about mandates and earmarks. These are always dangerous. Politicians are good with definitions - i.e. expanding them to include whatever their contibutors have the most of.

This new tax should offset other taxes, not fund new programs.

Posted by: Jack at June 2, 2007 3:18 PM
Comment #222010

Jack
The analysis you linked is typical AEI claptrap. High prices are the result of us not wanting to breath poison so obviously it is our fault,much like the healthcare industry blaming sick people for high prices.The only solution is to get rid of air pollution laws and drill in the Actic Refuge. hard to believe you actually take anything AEI says as a credible source. The obcene profit margins of Exxon and company put the lie to this pretty quickly. Time to bring back the windfall profits tax.

Posted by: BillS at June 2, 2007 3:26 PM
Comment #222019

BillS

It is an explanation, not an excuse. I agree that we should use the less polluting forms of gas. I also recognize that there are costs. I do not agree with the conclusions that we should lower pollution standards to lower the cost of gas, but I do agree with the analysis as to WHY the price of gas is higher.

The profit margins of the big oil firms are not particularly high. Their volume of sales is large, but what they make per unit is not. At $3 a gallon, the oil company makes about a dime on every gallon of gas, so even if they made no profit at all, you still would not have cheap gas. Refining is not a great business. That is why nobody is rushing to build more, that and the regulations.

So I think we need to look at this from all sides. Anything that adds to the cost of doing business will add to the price you pay. Do you think the added costs are worth it? I say yes. You do too. the AEI analyst says no. The value he places on the components of cost are different from mine or yours, but his analysis is sound re why prices are higher.

Posted by: Jack at June 2, 2007 5:02 PM
Comment #222020

BTW - you may also want to the at the FTC report on price gouging post Katrina. Lots of smoke, no fire.

Posted by: Jack at June 2, 2007 5:10 PM
Comment #222021
Second, your premise is hypocritical. You argue for carbon and gas taxes because the true price is not reflected at the pump which consumers pay. Yet, in previous articles…

Ahh… The good old days. I remember last summer when Jack was saying we’ll never have to worry about high gas prices because there’s plenty of oil and prices are far, far below historical highs…

So many liberals have spent so much ink complaining that global warming is a real problem. It is time they put their money where their mouths have been.

Mmm hmmm. I figured that’s what this was about: Let’s propose a carbon tax and make liberals look like hypocrites.

Well, Jack, there’s a third way. There’s a better way to short circuit the market than the one you describe: Mandate higher CAFE standards, lower CO2 emission targets, and switch government subsidies from alternative fuel research to alternative fuel commercialization and usage.

In other words, an “Apllo Project” for alternative fuels — a crash course to transition from petroleum. If Brazil can do it, then why can’t America?

And that’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans. You guys say America can’t do things — that we’re not capable of energy independence. Democrats say, Yes, America can do that.

Posted by: American Pundit at June 2, 2007 5:15 PM
Comment #222022

Jack
Your priceing logic falls apart quickly. So the reason Exxon turns in record profits is because they are selling record amounts of fuel? Hardly,they are just chargeing more. Your ten cents a gallon number is nebulious at best. Oil companies operate as monopolies. Chevron international sells crude to Chevron refineing at whatever price they choose. The refining margins are kept small while the parent company rakes it in. Regulation and cost are not the reason new refineries are not being built here. The oil trust make more money by creating regional shortages. An accident at a large refinery anywhere in the country is an excuse for a price rise everywhere and older plants have more accidents. Personally I think we should have nationalized the bastards in the thirties when we had the chance.At the least we should charge them for the cost of the military protection they use. Patrolling the sea lanes is not cheap.Protecting their interest abroad has led us into more than a few conflicts and will continue to do so.

Posted by: BillS at June 2, 2007 5:44 PM
Comment #222026

BillS

There is a bottom line to all this and it is about 10 cents. Oil firms make more when the price of oil is higher. That is true. Just like a bank makes more if you borrow $100,000 than if you borrow $10,000. But big oil profits are not a big part of what you are paying at the pump. If you eliminate all their profits, you will still be paying a lot.

If we had nationalized oil firms in the 1930 we probably would not have some of the problems we have today because the inefficiencies would have made the growth of private vehicles impossible. Government ownership is good at ensuring not very much wealth is created. If that is your goal, go socialist.

AP

I do not worry about running out of oil. The market will supply that fuel. I have never worried about high prices. In fact, I have been worried about lower prices and I still am. It has been the pattern for oil prices to rise high enough to encourage alternatives and then to crash bankrupting the alternative investors. It happened in the 1990s.

CAFE standards are an indirect and not an optimal way to attack the problem. People have a “gas budget” in mind, a kind of an energy “set point.” When they get better mileage or cheaper gas, they drive more and next time they move, they live farther from town.

That is what has been happening since the 1970s. You can buy a car today that will easily yield you 40+ miles in the city, but if you drive twice as much, it will not make any difference. We need to get better mileage AND drive less (or at least not more).

The problem with finding a fix to energy is that there is none. We have a particular mix of energy that we use today because it is cheapest and most convenient. We could change that mix and yield very different results. Our settlement pattern also encourages the use of automobiles. That is an important reason why we burn so much fuel and why we are so fat. There is no energy source currently conceivable that will be cheaper than oil at around $40 a barrel. That is because of labor and capital costs. Even if biofuels were free to make, we would have the land and labor needed to get the materials. Even if we all used wind power, we would have to install and maintain them and then turn something else into liquid fuel or electricity.

The Apollo program had a complicated task but a simple goal. Energy is a complicated task with an uncertain goal AND a lot of special interest groups pushing their own agendas. Big government programs can do things with simple goals like wars and moon landings. They have less success at things where most citizens cannot agree on the nature of the problem or the desired results.

I am certain that America can solve this particular energy problem (but energy problems are never solved. It is like eating a big meal and believing you will never need to eat again) But my confidence lies with the American people and not with the Federal bureaucracy. That is the difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Posted by: Jack at June 2, 2007 6:39 PM
Comment #222027

American Pundit,

You do realize that Brazil artificially increased the price of gasoline to make ethanol and other renewables more attractive? You do realize that it’s taken Brazil 30 years to eliminate oil imports, and that it took exploitation of its own oil to do that? And that, while gasoline consumption has declined in Brazil some since the 70s, that it still uses a ton? Ethanol accounts for about 20 percent of the transportation fuel used in Brazil.

We need to jettison the idea that dramatically curtailing fossil fuel use can be done painlessly. This isn’t magic wand stuff.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 2, 2007 6:54 PM
Comment #222029

Jack
So the reason Exxon’s profits are up…what 300% percent in the last ten years is because they are selling 300% more gas. Hardly.
I guess it is perpective. I submit that government ownership of the oil companies would be less destructive than oil companies ownership of the government like we have now.


Back to the carbon tax. It is not clear to me how this would provide the stability optimum for alternate capitalization unless it was automatically increased when the price of crude fell. That might be possible but a political non starter. I am not talking either /or here. I think we need both. The tariff to prevent OPEC and company from dumping crude to destroy the alternate market. They have done this before and have already hinted at doing so again. Outside of minimum processing they have zero investment in product.They make money at $12 a barrel and could maintain that pricing for a long time.
Another reason for a tariff and other price stability measures is the ,oh free market guy,simple. If the carbon tax works and we use less fossil fuel the prices for that fuel will naturally go down as supply increases making its use more attractive again in relative terms even with a carbon tax. The only way to get out of that cycle is government intervention and a tariff would have the added effect of incentivizing domestic production without subsidies either in tax subsidies or cheap lease pricing.

Posted by: BillS at June 2, 2007 7:35 PM
Comment #222031

BillS

We could use both.

The Economist magazine has a good article re. A carbon tax would keep the price high enough. The price of oil cannot drop to zero. There is some point at which we can use carbon based fuels and stablize CO2 levels.

Posted by: Jack at June 2, 2007 8:09 PM
Comment #222044

j2t2,

You either believe in free markets or not. If you believe government can do better, fine.

I don’t disagree we need energy independence and oil is not a free market as long as OPEC exists.

Why are oil profits obscene?

If OPEC were to flood the market with oil and drop the price, then I would agree with market intervention. I doubt that is going to happen in the near future. A revenue neutral tax would be best, though. Creating a floor makes sense. Artificially raising fuel prices and damaging the economy helps no one, but foreign powers.

I have no problem with creating a N.A.S.A. type agency to find the most cost effective, pollution free ways to become energy independent in 10 years. I would have no problem with creating a war time effort propaganda campaign to achieve this goal. I have no problem with expediting refinery building and perhaps anti-trust activity to stabilize gas prices. Anti trust in oil activity would only cripple the U.S. oil comapanies. We also need to develop Alaska’s, California’s and Florida’s Oil. Oil development doesn’t destroy wildlife, it may harm it from time to time, but unless we are willing to return to the 1800’s that is the cost of expanding population. Care has been taken and can continue to protect the environment. Nuclear energy must be developed as well. Environmentalism CAN coexist with these methods. The most important goal is avoiding a mid-east oil war.

Let’s create jobs and economic activity in the name of energy independence, not become a socialist regime that kills the economy.

Posted by: barneygoogle at June 2, 2007 11:29 PM
Comment #222045

Jack, the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Republicans believe America’s strength lies with industry and financial institutions, and so they do everything possible to protect and nurture them.

Your Economist article makes it clear that carbon taxes are industry’s way of shifting the price of their transition to the consumer.

Posted by: American Pundit at June 2, 2007 11:32 PM
Comment #222046

Jack,

What do you have against driving? Why should people drive less? This is socialist nonsense. If the real cost is higher they will, and then they’ll invent a cheaper or more price stable way to do it.

Price floors make sense to avoid manipulation by OPEC. A War on energy dependence campaign makes sense. An understanding of the consequence of millions of lives lost in an oil war makes sense.

Unnecessary government interference makes no sense.

Posted by: barneygoogle at June 2, 2007 11:38 PM
Comment #222050

AP

The consumer WILL pay the price. There is no other way this can happen.

I really do not understand your point of view here. I know you are a smart guy, so I must be misunderstanding what you are saying. How can be change the basic relationship our society has with energy w/o creating changes in societies habits and w/o costs?

Changing our energy mix involves changing our habits. We now use carbon based fuels. We will need to use something else and/or use less energy overall. Firms can change what they do, but firms are not final consumers. They are a pass through.

What if I am drinking a can of coke. Assume it has 10 calories per oz. What if I become convinced that I am getting too fat and should drink only 10 oz, but I still want to drink all 12 so I insist that the can absorb the extra cost? The government makes a law aout it. What will change? You cannot put this on the firms any more than I can get the can to let me drink 12 oz and only get the calories from 10.

Liberals claim to be concerned about the environment, but they reject real solutions in favor of growing government programs. Don’t you remember the synfuels debacle? The only good think about that was that it failed. Had we succeeded in making liquid fuel from coal in 1980, imagine the ecological disaster we would face today.

It will cost society money to go from carbon based fuels to something else. That is just true.

Barney

My carbon tax advocacy wins few friends. Big government folks do not like it because it leaves too much free market choice intact. Anti tax folks do not like the tax part. But I believe it is the most effective way to address the problems of global warming, urban sprawl, and uncertain politics of oil with the least disruption.

I am trying to minimize government interference and let the market and free choice provide the most solutions. That is what AP finds so unpleasant. I propose the carbon tax because it compensates for the external costs, but all allows people the choice of how to respond. Some people might choose to change their lifestyles; others might get a more fuel efficient vehicle; some may just pay the higher prices.

I personally do not like what I consider overuse of cars because they tend to destroy communities, discourage walking (and make people fatter) and cause much more of the world to be paved. It is inefficient. HOWEVER, that is only my opinion and I would not make a law against it. I just want those who drive a lot to pay the costs. The carbon tax helps with this.

Posted by: Jack at June 3, 2007 12:27 AM
Comment #222051

barney,

I think we should forget the dream that exploiting additional oil fields will help us achieve oil independence (let alone get us off carbon). Take ANWR, for instance — the estimate is that it contains about 6 billion gallons of oil. We consume 20 million gallons a day, so we’re talking about less than a year’s worth of oil. At best, full exploitation would reduce oil imports by a a very few percentage points over the life of the field. The Energy Information Administration’s 2007 Annual Report deals with the issue.

It’s a dead end.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 3, 2007 12:43 AM
Comment #222059

Jack: I think many people here would say out of Watchblog’s many writers I am probably the farthest left, and I basically never agree with you. However on this I think that you have something here and that this is a very intelligent, common sense argument. Of course I would insert some sort of motions so big business pays heavier than the consumer, in principal I agree with you.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at June 3, 2007 6:17 AM
Comment #222073

Why is it always someone else’s job to fix our problems? If you want to save money on fuel, drive less. If you want to reduce emissions, use less energy.
Stop taking laps around the parking lot, like a 747, just to find a parking spot. Stop using the drive-thru. You are idling your car for 20 minutes in line to get your McSandwich. Instead of driving a block to your 7-11, walk down there instead. Instead of driving to the ballgame, walk your family to the park and play some whiffle-ball. Use public transportation.
The oil companies will try to entice you to buy more gasoline. How? Lower prices. That’s the free market system. Duh!

Posted by: JoeRWC at June 3, 2007 9:42 AM
Comment #222089

JoeRWC,

It isn’t up to someone else. It is up to us, but Jack has a point that it IS a national issue of Commerce, and in my opinion, National Security.

We have a problem with solid waste. We haven’t passed national legislation on that. We do have national standards that allow local government to have laws about waste disposal. Your waste disposal effects me, as does your carbon profile.

MY issue with Jack’s idea, is that artificially raising fuel prices will only cripple us. Oil prices are going to rise without taxes. We need to focus nationally on solving this issue. I think it is less about pollution as it is about National Security. Revenue neutral taxes may work. I think a floor price to prevent an oil industry from manipulating the market when they feel threatened.
Taxing gas and giving government another revenue stream is bad policy, period. Using research to sort out the efficiency, from an independent agency for, the best path for energy independence is sensible. A national campaign to get the public behind this makes sense.

There has to be give and take from the eviromental radicals as well. ANWR won’t solve energy independence itself, but it moves us in the right direction. Nuclear energy does as well. Everyone has to get on board, or loose their grandchildren in the looming world Oil wars.

Ron Paul is someone, I think, that is looking at this reasonably. I don’t know that is his position, but he is looking ahead, instead of being tied to manipulation by oil interests, which is why we are in Iraq.

Posted by: barneygoogle at June 3, 2007 11:56 AM
Comment #222093

barneygoogle, Free Markets work in some cases, mostly they work for the few not the many. That being said I dont think we need to jump to the other end of the spectrum and allow socialism to become the economic system we use. Managed capitalism has worked since the days of the new deal and would continue to work. The less government intervention in all things the better is the ideal situation however when intervention is needed then we should move forward with intervention as opposed to calling it socialism/communism and dismissing it for no other reason.
As we stand today we cannot as a country decide if any change to energy independence is necessary. Any move towards energy indeopendence is looked at as a socialist/communist threat by the righties. There isnt a political consensus that global warming exists nor that non carbon based alternative energy sources are needed.
Excessive oil profits are obscene IMHO because they are not earned by the oil companies. Oil is basically a monopoly and this kind of monopoly is a threat to our market economic system. Oil companies have closed refineries and have refused to build more refineries. Yet they state the reason for the rising costs is due to lack of refinery capacity. This perverts the market system and hold the country at ransom IMHO and I consider that to be obscene.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 3, 2007 12:47 PM
Comment #222096

barneygoogle,

I agree with much of what you say though I would say the environmental concerns should be at least as strong as traditional national security — I choose my words carefully because I believe climate change is a national (and obviously worldwide) threat.

It’s not clear to me, though, that without government intervention, gasoline prices will rise dramatically in the next 25 years (remember that it is important to look at yearly averages, not spikes). Here’s a link to the section of the EIA’s 2007 Annual Report (look on the last page) that discusses gasoline price projections. In the short term (that is, the next several decades), supply is not a problem; therefore we can’t count on limited supply to get us off the oil teat. The EIA bases its projections on the assumption that policies in place now will continue for the next 25 years; it does not attempt to account for policies that may be in place later. Therefore, if we do summon the national will to switch radically to alternatives, it is likely that oil prices would drop. If we believe that for environmental and national security reasons that we need to curb on dependence on oil, then I see no alternative than to tweak the market by making oil artificially high. The carbon tax would do that. It would also help make more cost-effective alternatives to coal (our primary source of electricity).

At any rate, the goal of a carbon tax is to change behavior. As a leftie, I’d say use the revenues to help those hardest hit by it, but everyone still needs to feel the hit at the pump. We humans are strange critters — we can pay more and get it back later, but we will still hate paying more. To change our behavior, to encourage faster adoption of alternatives, we need to feel the pain at the pump.

I favor federal R&D of all of the renewables and alternatives, but that isn’t enough. It can help lay the groundwork, but for them to be widely adopted at the rate we need, we need a widespread, economywide disincentive to use carbon fuels.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 3, 2007 1:25 PM
Comment #222099

Gerrold et al

Re government supporting big science, take a look at this article. I think the tag lines would be: “Technology is about taking risks. Government bureaucracy is about avoiding mistakes.” and “Spending a few days with brilliant scientists such as these, it’s hard not to get excited about the possibilities for life-changing advances in technology. But listening to their tales of dealing with the government, you sense an America enfeebled by congressional meddling and overly cautious decisions by federal bureaucrats.”

The carbon tax will stimulate the ingenuity of the American people. There is a place for government sponsored research, but we should not expect a successful Apollo Project in energy.

Posted by: Jack at June 3, 2007 1:42 PM
Comment #222109

Jack,

I really don’t expect a successful Apollo Project on energy. I don’t think there is one magic bullet. What I favor is research of the kind we are already quietly doing. I think we should increase funding from the relatively miniscule amounts now, but not spend 10s of billions on any one approach. Right now the Fed spends between 1 and 2 billion on renewables and energy efficiency R&D; compare that on what we spend cleaning up nuclear waste. I’d like the folks at EERE to have more to work with.

Jack, I’ve avoided being too political on this topic because it truly is important for all Americans to work together. But R&D on renewables and energy efficiency was slashed early in the Bush Administration. My views on this come from working with the EERE for seven years. I learned much about the benefits and commercialization of rather obscure technologies that don’t make sexy headlines. These technologies have already helped lower energy intensity across the sectors; they helped improve a wide range of technologies we are already using and will use. But, no, I don’t think we are going to stumble across one renewable to handle all our energy needs. I see a future wherein a host of renewables are used, and wherein local production of energy is much more prevalent.

I favor a carbon tax because I believe we can’t afford to wait until all the necessary alternatives are cost competitive with fossil fuels.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 3, 2007 2:18 PM
Comment #222112

How can be change the basic relationship our society has with energy w/o creating changes in societies habits and w/o costs?

Of course there are costs, Jack. What we’ree arguing about is who pays for them.

You’re Coke analogy is flawed, as most analogy’s are. You’d have to include the fact that Coke also makes a Diet Coke (unfortunately, the oil industry doesn’t mass-market oil-lite) and the fact that the cans (the cars) in your analogy would have to accept only one type of Coke or the other like cars do… Anyhow, your analogy breaks down pretty quickly.

But like I said, the question is, who pays for it? You’re shifting the burden and responsibility for transitioning from oil away from industry and onto the middle class.

Not only would that wreck our economy, but it would take much longer than just mandating higher CAFE standards and renewable fuel usage.

Posted by: American Pundit at June 3, 2007 2:25 PM
Comment #222114

Jack, I read the article you linked to. It makes some good points — research is risky and political fear of risk can prevent important breakthroughs. Everything in life is a struggle, of course, but the article also points out the DARPA project that lead to the internet, which just by itself has transformed American life in incredibly dramatic ways. But I sense we don’t really disagree. You’ve already said that government research has its place and I’m not advocating truly massive government investment. Many of the technologies we need we already have; continued research will improve these and lead to new ones, and we should continue and increase this R&D, but fundamentally we also need to change the cost-competitive equation.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 3, 2007 2:32 PM
Comment #222117
we should continue and increase this R&D, but fundamentally we also need to change the cost-competitive equation.

Right. We should shift subsidies from research to commercialization.

Posted by: American Pundit at June 3, 2007 2:38 PM
Comment #222120

The reason people are paying high prices is that supplies are low. The reason supplies are low in this country is the lack of refining capacity to run things smoothly. The reason we lack refining capacity is that Companies shut them down. The reason they could shut them down was fewer companies in competition with one another. The reason fewer competitors existed was that the Bush administration okayed mergers of the top oil companies, which years ago were deliberately broken down as monopolies.

The market only works if people can punish companies that overcharge or underproduce. The Bush administration’s policies have created a situation where people have less power to do so.

Besides, even accounting for short-changed refinery capacity, part of our energy problem is the combination of low efficiency vehicles and energy traders who endlessly speculate the price of oil to suit their profits.

The Republican energy policy is a dismal failure, and I doubt the carbon tax will do more by itself than cripple the poor and middle class further. Some people don’t have much of a choice as to how far they commute, and much as Republicans like to speculate about collateral changes, they are unlikely to change where they live most of the time to do so. The technology is the key. I have found memories of taking our new fuel efficient car for miles at a time without needing a fill-up. A Carbon Tax without concomitant improvements in technology is of no use.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 3, 2007 3:04 PM
Comment #222124

AP, you want to shift the miniscule amount we spend on R&D to commercialization? (Much of that research is already devoted to commercialization, of course, in the form of getting costs down.) At any rate, eliminating research is incredibly shortsighted.

Look, what if all revenues from the carbon tax were returned to those who paid for them? What if we did as Gore recommends and impose a carbon tax but get rid of payroll taxes? We can devise a scheme whereby the carbon tax is revenue neutral. We can devise schemes whereby the revenue is used to help people buy renewables or energy efficient products.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 3, 2007 3:18 PM
Comment #222131

A carbon tax would cause great harm to our economy with people on the lower rungs of the ecomomic ladder being harmed the most, all for no good reason.
It’s been proven that CO2 doesn’t cause catastrophic global warming. Temperature change precedes CO2 change by as much as 800 years.

http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/07/carbon-dioxide-and-temperatures-ice.html

If you GW cultists want to be taken seriously by people who actually look at the science there are some questions you need to answer:

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/JohnHawkins/2007/03/30/10_questions_for_al_gore_and_the_global_warming_crowd

“There’s always going to be a fringe to whom facts are irrelevant.”

The GW cultists are that fringe. The science just doesn’t support the fear mongering. However, the fear mongering does advance the left’s authoritarian worldview.

Lemmings! If you weren’t so dangerous you’d be amusing.


Posted by: traveller at June 3, 2007 4:09 PM
Comment #222138

Traveller
And just where was the moon landing staged?

Posted by: BillS at June 3, 2007 5:14 PM
Comment #222142

traveller,Interesting websites, good questions. If you can take the “leftist will control the world conspiracy theory” and explain who and why in a little detail I would apreciate it. Right now it all sounds like a made up Limbaugh fantasy, so please give it some level of credibility.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 3, 2007 5:33 PM
Comment #222146
Look, what if all revenues from the carbon tax were returned to those who paid for them?

Ooh! Ooh! I know! It would be pointless.

As for Al Gore, I believe he supports a corporate carbon tax, not a general carbon tax. Which brings us back to the question of who pays for the transition.

Posted by: American Pundit at June 3, 2007 5:44 PM
Comment #222154

AP

Fine with me. Tax carbon used by firms in industrial processes Tax carbon used by firms in transport. Tax carbon used by firms in production of goods and services. Put a tax on the carbon produced by energy companies. You can put no additional taxes on consumers if you like. Maybe my analogies are incomplete, maybe not. I am willing to let those chips (and taxes) fall where they may. Tax those firms if you think you can.

You can mandate all the CAFE standards you want. If people get better mileage, they drive more. You have done nothing to change habits. Look at this chart of mile driven. We drive more than twice as many miles today as we did thirty years ago. If you look carefully at the numbers, you notice that the times we drive less are associated with price rises. If we had just driven miles in relation to our population growth, we would be using about 1/4 less fuel right now.

Gerrold

Read the Economist link. The U.S. is spending a lot more than the total EU (with a similar GDP and lots more talk of energy alternatives) on R&D in this area. More government R&D doesn’t always translate into more real results and sometimes it can even be destructive.

Stephen

People have choices, but if you believe that global warming is a problem, we have no choice as a group but to reduce CO2. That will mean, well … reducing CO2.

Government R&D has produced many good things, but it will not produce a solution to the energy problem even if we make the big assumption that it will work. Energy use is a as much a societal and cultural issue as a technical problem.

We spent billions on energy R&D. Our investment in R&D has grown fantastically in the last few years. Beyond that, the U.S. is not the only government in the world. The EU has a GDP as big as the U.S. We can use the technology they pioneer, or what the Japanese produce or Brazilians etc.

Technology has been improving. You can buy a car today that will get you 40+ miles per gallon in the city. Last Wednesday I drove to a conference on biosolids. The round trip was 370 miles. I did it on less than one tank of gas; I think I used less than 9 gallons for the journey. Soon you will be able to buy a car with even better mileage.

Traveller

Weather or not you think global warming is man made, a carbon tax makes good sense as a way to curb our addiction to oil. Most exportable oil lies under land controlled by despots or unstable governments. Carbon based fuels are also contributors to ordinary pollution. Better if we use less.

A carbon tax is just a good sense measure that avoids more trouble later. Think of it as a good measure against the Iranians, Hugo etc today and an insurance policy against the possibility that humans are creating warming.

Posted by: Jack at June 3, 2007 6:51 PM
Comment #222161

American Pundit,

Explain to me how a corporate carbon tax wouldn’t be paid by consumers. At any rate, I believe you are wrong about Al Gore — he’s proposing a carbon tax paid at the point of purchase, and wants to offset that by eliminating payroll taxes.

Returning all revenues would not be pointless because the goal is to change behavior at the point of purchase, not to raise revenue. I say that knowing you’re being glib but in fear that someone might think your point is valid.

I know there is the fear that a carbon tax would be regressive. Let’s look at the numbers for gasoline (energy as a whole is similar, but I don’t have those numbers readily available — it’s gasoline that everyone seems to be most worried about, anyway.)

The top quintile in terms of income consumed 32 percent of gasoline, and the bottom quintile consumed 9 percent. It’s no surprise that the more affluent consume more energy and should pay more; the carbon tax sees to that. However, it is true that the upper quintiles spend less of a proporation of their income on gasoline (or energy), so to make this truly progressive, we can redistribute the revenue in various ways, including giving every citizen an equal rebate — that transfers money from the wealthy to the poor, and the middle class breaks even, roughly. (Though of course some revenue is lost in administration.) The two bottom quintiles would actually receive more money then they spent. The bottom quintile would receive double what it spent. To minimize the hit, rebates could be issued quarterly.

Again, the goal here is to make renewables and energy efficient products attractive at the point of consumer purchase. A carbon tax of $100 per ton of C02 emitted (Sweden’s carbon tax rate, btw) translates to about a $1 per gallon of gas. Few people, I think, will not wince at paying that even if they get that money back later — and renewables and energy efficient products become more attractive.


Posted by: Gerrold at June 3, 2007 7:46 PM
Comment #222171

Aren’t you the same folks who ran John Kerry….the man that promised if elected president of the United States he would make gas cheap again?

One minute you folks are telling us to vote for you….you can make our gas cheap and the next minute you are run congress and are telling us you must make gas more expensive for our own good.
You folks certainly didn’t run as the “expensive gas” party.

We don’t need a “carbon tax”. Look at Europe, Kyoto has failed. Canada will not meet Kyoto targets, Japan will not meet Kyoto targets, Europe will not meet Kyoto targets. No way German is going to pay those massive kyoto penalties when they come due. Kyoto is DEAD and so are those who brain-deads promote it for the US. Greenhouse gases going up in Kyoto nations….why? Because they will NOT sacrifice growth for Kyoto.

As gas becomes more expense naturally, we will gradually move to other fuels.

There is no reason to destroy the US economy to satisfy your politically correct friends in the EU who are now REFUSING TO DESTROY THEIR OWN ECONOMIES FOR KYOTO.

If you love Kyoto, ask your democrat buddies in congress to vote on it, they are in charge, they could vote on it….they refuse to because they know they can’t pass it, democrats would vote in down IN MASS because it stinks.

Stop pumping high taxes and socialism. Stop keeping us from nuclear power which could really help us massively cut greenhouse gases. Stop pumping a politically correct socialist, high tax, big brother agenda and get serious about what we can do to help the environment.

Posted by: Stephen at June 3, 2007 8:54 PM
Comment #222177

Stephen

Kyoto was a bad treaty for a variety of reasons. I am not defending Kyoto. The carbon tax is not the same as Kyoto. The Europeans have been experimenting with a cap and trade. That has some aspects of a carbon tax, but still is NOT a carbon tax.

The major flaws in Kyoto had to do with its redistributive nature and the fact that it left out the countries that will be the biggest emitters by 2020. It also requires elusive international cooperation. A carbon tax can be implemented by one country and if properly administered will have no overall effect on a country’s competitiveness.

I support more nukes and have for a long time.

Gerrold

Some good ideas.

Posted by: Jack at June 3, 2007 9:17 PM
Comment #222182

In my opinion taxes are a regressive and HARMFUL way to deal with this issue. You CANNOT ADD TAXES without having a negative effect on the economy that is simply reality….it’s simply not possible to extract taxes and push up the cost of driving, or restrict driving and not affect the economy. Except in some socialist dream world.

Also, I feel these “tax the people now solutions” are simply the effort of the left to do what they have wanted to do all along. Massively raise taxes and massively increase government spending. The ARTIFICIAL “DISASTER TO COME” gives libs the chance to create PANIC over global warming and then the idea is to direct the paniced population to demand higher taxes which somehow magically are going to resolve global warming and make them feel good when they go to sleep at night.

Global warming is a cycle of nature and pays very little notice to mankind, his cars, and his taxes. Every day we hear from more scientists coming out and standing up against the Politicaly Correct idea that Man is making this global warming much worse. A good number of UN scientist were outraged when they stood against this panic crap that UN is pushing. The UN LIED TO THE WHOLE WORLD and included their names as supporting (they opposed) a “man makes it a disaster” report. The UN lied and included their names so that liberal fools could claim that there is “consensus on the issue” and us it to silence the critics.

People are starting to stand up to the clubbing the politically correct on the left are attempting to give the rest of us on global warming. The left is seeking to impose socialism and high taxes on us in the name of “enlightened environmentalism”. They tell us they only can understand the true nature of global warming and that we must bow down to their wisdom and pay their taxes and put them in power and pass whatever bill they say they need to “save the environment”.

Good luck forcing China and India to pay your carbon tax….I’ll clue you in, they wont. So it’s time to climb off the high horse of dictating and taxing. The US is not going to hold it’s hands behind it’s back and let other economies take our lunch from us because we want to pay high taxes “for the good of the world”.

There’s a reason that Kyoto isn’t being voted on…democrat politicians in states not radicalized like Massachusetts (Kerry-Kennedy) don’t want to commit political suicide.

Posted by: Stephen at June 3, 2007 10:25 PM
Comment #222183

“And just where was the moon landing staged?”

On the moon.

j2t2,
You don’t really think the Socialist International and the Communists just threw up their hands and went home to sulk in a dark room when the Berlin Wall came down, do you? I don’t claim that the GW cult is a Communist plot, but there are plenty of fifth columnists and fellow travelers around the world, including in the US, that are happily working to see the socialist dream of world government come to fruition. Three internationalists in a row in the White House has helped their cause tremendously. The Stupid Party and the Evil Party are both dominated by them. The environmentalist movement has been rife with them since its inception. One thing you can count on with the left is their love for authoritarianism and their willlingness to embrace any cause that advances it. The desire to rule the world isn’t some ancient historical relic. It’s just as alive today as it was in Alexander’s time.

Jack,
I disagree about a carbon tax. It would be better to use our own oil, rather than importing it from countries that hate us. A carbon tax would hurt the people who can least afford it.
For example, a construction worker has to go where the work is. If fuel costs so much he can’t go to work, the carbon tax has literally taken the food from his children’s mouths, the project that would have fed them doesn’t get built, and if it does, the extra fuel costs fall on the shoulders of the people who buy the products and services made possible by the construction of the facilities the construction workers build.
A carbon tax would create more problems than it could possibly solve, especially since the problem it’s supposed to solve is imaginary.

Posted by: traveller at June 3, 2007 10:35 PM
Comment #222184

Stephen, If we cant keep our borders and ports secure is it wise to build Nuclear reactors in this country? I know they say the reactors are safe but before 9/11 who would have thought that an airplane would bring down a tower at the World Trade Center.
I think your right that no country wants to sacrifice economic growth(the Achilles heel of capitalism) for energy inpendence. That may be why there are so many in this country refusing to accept the possibility of global warming. I would think that within the fight for energy independence would come opportunities and growth.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 3, 2007 10:36 PM
Comment #222186

traveller-
We know for sure that temperature was the cause and concentration the consequence? That statement alone raises red flags. Global Warming or no, a modern understanding of climate does not approach things from such a simplistic stand point.

Look at El Nino, for crying out loud. Is it a wind change that causes a ocean current change, or is it an ocean current change that causes a wind change? We end up having to realize that we have an interlocked system where changes in both parts of the system cause other changes, a feedback loop. And it doesn’t end there, because we know that shifts in El Nino can cause consequent shifts in other systems, including that in the Alantic, and South Asia’s Monsoons.

There is little scientific doubt that Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It’s been measured as such, observed as such. Some people think of its effect only in terms of global warming, but a certain level of concentration over human and natural history has allowed this planet to be habitable, rather than a perpetual ball of ice.

The question is how sensitive the system is to the increase of CO2 concentrations. Your source treats it as a given that CO2 concentrations were caused by the warming. True enough, that’s what probably happened. However, he does not follow the feedback all the way through. Whether or not CO2 is the first cause, it is a cause of other things itself. It may have been kickstarted, in this case, by a change in temperature, but nothing prevents it from turning around and making things warming itself, anymore than CO2’s role in warming precludes the reduction of ice cover from having an additional effect. No one element takes turns doing everything by itself. The system interlocks.

As for that guy’s questions?

1)Because we have a good idea of how our climate’s behaved in recent times. Recent, say, in terms of the last few thousand years. Our current interglacial period has been fairly stable in terms of concentrations of greenhouse gases, and in terms of temperatures.

2)The answer lies in the complexity of the system. The assumption that natural variations and Global Warming are mutually exclusive is a bad one, a failure to see global warming in terms of our influence on the environment, and to see the problem in terms of a dynamic, changing situation. It’s like being in a windstorm, so to speak. When the winds work against you, it’s tough going. When they work with you, you might end up going somewhere a whole lot faster than you wanted too. Global warming hasn’t canceled spells and periods of cooling. It’s just pushed them in a direction they might not have taken had the influence not been there.

3)The difference between forecasting weather and modeling future climate is like the difference between killing somebody with a sniper’s rifle, and blowing them up with a thousand pound bomb.

In forecasting the weather, you have to be ultraprecise, and model at high resolution in both time and space. The sensitive nature of the system makes it very difficult to forecast too far ahead without your predictions becoming meaningless.

In forecasting the climate, you look at a generalized pattern of weather over the long term. That lowers the threshold of precision and resolution required to make decent predictions about the future.

Or put another way, the experiment that gave birth to the scientific shorthand known as the Butterfly effect also gave birth to the Lorenz attractor, The pattern never repeated or fell into periodic predictability, but it was anything but random. Within the complexity, there was higher level structure.

Climate is more concerned with the higher level structure, the more general timeframes and areas, than weather forecasting is. Climate researchers can make meaningful predictions because they are modest about what they ask. They don’t need to know what the specific temperature and weather are going to be in Phoenix on March the first, 2020.

4)The guy has it wrong: warming was observed locally on Mars, in one place, not overall. As for the Sun? Two things: Climate on Mars is far more reactive to changes. Our ocean has a tendency to dampen the effect of different forcings, including our own. Second, to recent studies:

…while the solar cycle still accounts for about half the temperature rise since 1900, it fails to explain a rise of 0.4 °C since 1980. “The curves diverge after 1980,” Thejll said, “and it’s a startlingly large deviation. Something else is acting on the climate…. It has the fingerprints of the greenhouse effect.”[31]
[…]
They found that “solar effects may have contributed significantly to the warming in the first half of the century although this result is dependent on the reconstruction of total solar irradiance that is used. In the latter half of the century, we find that anthropogenic increases in greenhouses gases are largely responsible for the observed warming, balanced by some cooling due to anthropogenic sulphate aerosols, with no evidence for significant solar effects.” Stott’s team found that combining all of these factors enabled them to closely simulate global temperature changes throughout the 20th century.

The big mental block for contrarians is the idea that multiple influences could work at once. They also don’t see that a large solar influence is not necessarily a good thing. If warming is bringing us near a tipping point, the higher we stand on the shoulders of natural variations, the less we have to do to push ourselves over that hill, and make the problem seriously worse. Very few processes in climate are either/or, mutually exclusive. Fact of the matter is, CO2 will intensify the consequences of solar variations by keeping more of the extra energy in our atmosphere.

5)As for global cooling? This is basically an exploitation of the Public’s misunderstanding of scientific uncertainty, not to mention a complete crock of s***.

Either possibility was laid out as possible. Science was becoming aware of the suddenness of ice-age onsets and of the onset of warming periods. CO2 and warming were concerns, as were pollutants with more of a cooling effect. As the article demonstrates, people were already recording that the temperature drop had bottomed out- hardly evidence that people were jumping on the cooling bandwagon.

6)Why do they keep on bring that petition up? Scientific American did an informal survey, the results of which lead them to believe that only about two hundred of these people were actual climate scientists.

To be a scientist takes years of discipline and study, and most scientists pick a field to gain that authoritative knowledge in. While there can be cross-disciplinary areas of mutual expertise, and often are, most scientists have their hands full keeping up with their own branch of science.

It is therefore important to ask what science a person has done that study in.

This petition is not a scientific document. It’s a public relations stunt that plays on people’s ignorance. Scientists are not necessarily interchangeable on a subject.

Even if they were, even if the numbers represented a significant chunk of climate researchers, they still run into their own argument, and fall on its blade, for unlike their opponents, they do not have scientific evidence to back what they call their consensus

7)Kyoto could be a disaster waiting to happen, or God’s will from up on high, but policy is a response to a reality, not an element of the underlying theory. Policy is a response to the facts, not necessarily the guage of them.

8)The short answer is: yes. It’s only small when you compare it to the time of the dinosaurs, a time where in many ways, Earth was like another planet entirely.

We’ve built much of our civilizations, much of our lives around a certain climate, a climate that’s been fairly stable over the last few thousand years, since the last ice age. We’re used to things the way they are, have set our cities, our ports, our riverine facilities and other elements of our trade, commerce, public health and safety plans according to the regular challenges of our climate. When those change, much of that can become irrelevant, obsolete to our needs.

A change of a few degrees is no small event, in terms of the global average. like all averages, these numbers hid highs and lows behind them. Those changes can have considerable effects on crops, communities, and the world in general.

9)To get an idea of how overgeneralized his implications here are, consider that the Period of the Cretaceous lasted about 80 million years, A longer period of time than what has transpired since the end of that period, longer than that which saw Earth’s temperatures fall. One thing to consider when dealing with Early Cretaceous and Paleozoic time periods was the fact that the sun was dimmer in those days. He also might be confusing the Early Cretaceous, whic is described as a “Mild Ice House World” with the Late Cretaceous, which can be judged to be hot by the fossils, the soils and the sediments left behind.

The question is not whether nature can change climate on its own, it’s whether our emissions can push change in a certain direction. The answer seems to be yes. The Hothouse Cretaceous, with the dimmer sun, argues for that. How else could things get so hot?

We’re really just agents of climate change by proxy. Once you clear up the question of whether we’re putting much of the CO2 up there, a question that’s been cleared up to a certain extent, then it’s all about climate’s sensitivity to CO2. The article Rahdigly brought up shows much greater sensitivity, despite the implications he was trying to get across.

10) See the article before: solar irradiance works up to a point as an explanation, but cannot explain the change well in recent times. Indications are that the information used to make this claim was improperly handled.

As for the Bonus question?
Al Gore signed up to get his power from a company that runs wind-driven generators, which generate power from the renewable resource. Gore lives in an old mansion, a house plenty of times bigger than one of our own. I think Colbert hit the nail on the head of this expectation, when his fictional persona basically said that Gore should live inside a dugout hovel, or a log.

Personally, I find it a very disingenous argument, especially in this day and age. By their standards all are guilty and none should reform. It’s a reason that doesn’t even say there’s not a problem; only that if Gore is hypocrite, we shouldn’t be concerned about global warming.

It’s just another of the menagerie of tactics the contrarian have used to avoid admitting to the problem and treating as one.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 3, 2007 10:53 PM
Comment #222198
The top quintile in terms of income consumed 32 percent of gasoline, and the bottom quintile consumed 9 percent.

Which means the middle class uses 59% — and so would bear the major burden of a general carbon tax on top of everything else. Bad idea.

Posted by: American Pundit at June 4, 2007 1:15 AM
Comment #222211

AP

Statistics are fun. The middle classes, as we defined them, make up 60% of the population. They use 59% of the oil. They create 60% of the CO2 from that fuel. What a surprise! They will pay almost exactly 60% of the tax. And you say it is a bad idea for 60% of the population to be responsible for 60% of solution to the global warming problem.

Stephen D

Most of us believe that humans contribute to global warming. Some still doubt and the science is very unclear about details. That is why the best solution is a carbon tax, which makes sense in a variety of contexts.

Posted by: Jack at June 4, 2007 8:04 AM
Comment #222219

AP,

That’s why I’ve been talking about ways to offset it for the middle class and to give the poor a break. I really don’t understand your blanket refusal to even consider the idea. If it’s because Jack is talking about it, you can take comfort in the fact that some leading Democrats are behind the idea as well. Hell, Gore’s been talking about it for 14 years. Clinton tried to get a BTU tax but failed. I find it very bizarre that one can accept climate change as a reality but reject out-of-hand any approach that might have any effect on the middle class. That seems to be the way of things, nowadays. I imagine opposition to the War would have coalesced quicker if Americans had actually been asked to sacrifice instead of just consume more.

Here’s an article that outlines the issue from a political point of view. Only one Democrat congressman is proposing a carbon tax; he wants $25 a ton of C02, which represents 25 cents per gallon of gas. It won’t pass obviously. Instead we’ll get efforts to lower the price of gasoline and make transforming the market even more difficult.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 4, 2007 10:32 AM
Comment #222220

Jack-
I tell you what: put the carbon tax on the corporations, and deal with the vast majority of the consumer side of the equation with an approach that favors energy efficiency and enables conservation.

One way we do this is by encouraging more recycling of Aluminum. The standard means of extracting Aluminum from its ore uses electrical power very intensively. With recycling, you just have to melt it down.

We should definitely raise CAFE standards, cut down on the gas guzzlers. That, more than anything else, will likely reduce more emissions. There’s a lower limit to what a carbon tax can discourage by itself and still leave us with a functioning economy.

I don’t believe government is the only or even a sufficient solution to the problem, but it’s a necessary component of its solution, especially in its regulatory capacity. You have only to look at the Exxon-Mobil shareholder’s actions to recognize that. Government and private enterprise should attempt partnerships and compromises to make things work without such coercion, but at the end of the day, one way or another, this problem needs to be solved. I think aiming measures at the energy companies and mandating improvements in the electrical grid to increase energy efficiency would be a good start in that direction. I wouldn’t mind if we create a carbon sequestration carrot to match that stick, if we provide some support for moves into renewables, support we wouldn’t necessarily have to keep up forever to ensure its spread.

But as for the consumer carbon tax? As a person whose family has to deal with the problems imposed by high gas prices can attest, there’s a limit to how much you can squeeze out of some people. As it is, we hardly go anywhere we don’t have to, anymore. I favor a technological approach because I have personal experience with the freedom provided by greater fuel efficiency. I know some defend driving Hummers and other SUVs on the basis of being free to indulge as one pleases, but the fuel inefficiency of these vehicles make them bars in a prison of restricted range. More efficient vehicles will allow people to maintain their lifestyles at lower energy costs, with lower emissions.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 4, 2007 10:33 AM
Comment #222221

Jack,

I don’t know, I’m deeply disappointed with your responses. They lack vision and concede your free market ideals and pander to socialist values.

You want to change behavior by imposing draconian taxes, at least, that is how it sounds to me. What do you plan to do with the revenue? I suspect you’ll end up spending it on the recovery from the Depression you’ll create. Welcome to the new Smoot-Halley tarrifs.

As to climate change. It is a deeply contentious issue not easily understood or observed. I think the science behind anthropogenic global warming is sound, although it IS possible that the sources of causation are more complex than we understand.
The consequences of this event is less clear. The politics of getting India and China to comply are even more unclear. We should move forward on this issue. It is prudent, but I don’t see immediate threat or resolution.

What IS clear to Joe Q. Public, or at least easily demonstrable, is the threat of a global oil war in the near term that will threaten a possible nuclear event, and massive death and destruction.
There is no comparison, in my opinion, in the immediacy or severity of the threats.

National security is an issue easy to use to rally America. We’ve seen that. Bush may have lost his credibility, but the next President can restore credibility to the office. Not by pandering to eco-enthusiasts or the neo-con military industrial complex, but by making Americans aware of the serious economic and existential threat of oil dependence. A campaign to enlist corporate America and all Americans to make a concerted effort, putting factories and Rosie the Riveter to work in the effort to gain independence will change behavior without regressive taxes. It can achieve goals of shifting to cleaner and renewable technologies. It will give Americans the chance to become leaders and have pride. Everyone will have to make sacrifices. Conservation, sacred cows like ANWR, Nuclear Energy, Windfarms off Mass., sufficient refinery capacity and NIMBY will have to be scewered. A moon mission like goal will become a rallying call.

Ron Paul accepts the understanding that oil dependence is a threat. He, I believe, has the vision and honesty to lead such a campaign. I’ve not heard him propose this. Other leaders could make this their focus. That candidate will have my immediate attention.


Posted by: barneygoogle at June 4, 2007 10:37 AM
Comment #222233

Stephen D.,

I agree we should raise CAFE standards and that we should give incentives for adoption of renewable fuels and energy efficient products. We should continue and increase R&D; we should, and this is a big one, eliminate federal subsidies to fossil fuel industries that are not geared toward cleaner processes. A corporate carbon tax is far better than no carbon tax, though it would ultimately be more regressive. Costs would be passed along to consumers at the rate they use energy rather than redistributed somehow as under most consumer carbon tax proposals. However, I understand how that would be an easier sell.

When we look at countries that have reduced dependence on foreign oil, we see that they approached the problem in many different ways. Sweden, Finland, Norway, for example, used many of the approaches discussed on these boards in addition to a carbon tax.

I favor a carbon tax along with other approaches (here I differ from Jack’s position) because I believe we have to price fossil fuels out of the market. We can’t afford to wait 5 or 10 years for photovoltaics to become even more cost effective than they are now (and the progress in photovoltaics over the last couple of decades has been amazing). I don’t believe as many here do that oil prices are going to rise drastically, and I don’t believe they are high now. Yes, we have spikes as we do now, but they will fall again. Look at EIA projections for the next 25 years — assuming business as usual, oil prices will not increase dramatically. If we had time, we could just wait for alternatives with the help of subsidies to gradually replace fossil fuels. But I think the evidence is good that man-caused climate change is a reality, and that we have to take strong steps now. I don’t see how we can have a rapid transformation without experiencing some pain.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 4, 2007 11:24 AM
Comment #222277

Barney

A carbon tax is the least disruptive was to address the problem. It avoids other government regulation.

Posted by: Jack at June 4, 2007 8:55 PM
Comment #222383

Stephen Daugherty,

“We know for sure that temperature was the cause and concentration the consequence?”

That’s what the empirical evidence of the ice core data shows; not only CO2, but all of the greenhouse gases.
Ice core data goes back 650,000 years and temperature change always leads changes in the concentration of all of the greenhouse gases, often by as much as 800 years.

If there was a feedback mechanism whereby greenhouse gases amplified warming, cooling would not precede a drop in greenhouse gas concentrations. Greenhouse gas concentrations would have to decrease before the earth could experience a cooling trend. Unfortunately for your cult, this isn’t what happens, as the scientific evidence shows. Temperature and greenhouse gases always trend together and temperature always leads, whether rising or falling. The thing that follows cannot cause the thing that leads. CO2 is also self limiting in it’s effect on temperature.

Your cult’s doomsday predictions are based on computer models, not what actually happens in the real world. The real world has an annoying habit of contradicting computer models. The computer models can’t even predict the past. That doesn’t inspire confidence in their ability to predict the future.

“The big mental block for contrarians is the idea that multiple influences could work at once.”

Actually, the idea that multiple influences DO work at once is the core of our arguments.
There are many, many factors that determine climate, with extremely complex interactions, many of which we are not even aware of yet.
It is the GW cultists that have a simplistic argument that ignores the historical and geologic records and the empirical scientific evidence to push a quasi-religious dogma with authoritarian solutions to the supposed problems.

“5)As for global cooling? This is basically an exploitation of the Public’s misunderstanding of scientific uncertainty, not to mention a complete crock of s***.”

True, and the fear mongering was on the verge of reaching the shrill tone we see with the GW hoax when something inconvenient happened-the 30 year cooling trend ended. The earth has been in a warming trend for about 1800 years. There have been large extremes in climate change during that time, such as the Medievel Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, as well as smaller climatic variations such as the cooling trend the alarmists tried to exploit in the 70s.

As for the petition, it pretty much debunks your cult’s claim of consensus. How many of those claiming consensus that AGW is real are climate scientists? I’ll bet it’s a lot less than the 2660 who signed that petition.

“Al Gore signed up to get his power from a company that runs wind-driven generators, which generate power from the renewable resource.”

What is the basis for this claim? Where the Goracle’s house is located is supplied with power generated by TVA. TVA generates power from coal, diesel, natural gas, hydro and nuclear.

Gore is a hypocrite, but that isn’t why we shouldn’t be concerned about global warming. We shouldn’t be concerned about global warming because it isn’t happening. The climate is changing; it always changes. We have to adapt to the changes.
I (and others) have noticed that the GW alarmists are moving away from the term “global warming” and using the phrase “climate change” more.
That’s because reality is biting them on the butt.
The evidence shows that global warming isn’t global; some areas are warming, some more than others; some areas are cooling, like the interior of Antarctica and much of the southern hemisphere.

Posted by: traveller at June 5, 2007 10:31 PM
Comment #222525

Jack,

I am happy to see you working on solving this problem!!!
Your idea of having a carbon tax does make sense. We can apply your carbon tax to help solve the problem. Many other people have good ideas like your’s. We must use them all. There is no single solution to the problem. As long as the carbon tax is not so harsh that it causes economic problems for some of us. It will take a well balanced plan to be affective and fair to all. Your idea could force use to use conservation and develop other alternative energy sources. It seems that every time this problem comes up we just complain and then do nothing. It does no good to obstruct progress and attempts by others to solve the problem. We can all do something at home to help. Purchase energy efficient products etc. etc. Talk to people about energy efficiency. It makes sense to save your hard earned money. I do see progress and efforts being made by engineering, science and industry to help solve this problem. Help support the effort and keep them on the right track and this will work out. Good luck to all of you.

Posted by: Outraged at June 7, 2007 9:35 AM
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