Give Bush Credit for Curbing CO2 Emissions?

U.S. emissions of CO2 fell 1.9% in 2005/6 according to newly released figures, even though the U.S. economy grew by 2.9%. From 2000-2005 our emission grew, but by less than the Europeans who theoretically have more enlightened policies. Give Bush credit?

You need not to give Bush credit because he doesn’t deserve it. On the other hand, it is hard for you to “blame” him for an achievement (reducing emission in a time of rapid economic growth) that nobody else has managed. Actual truth does take the edge off some of the attacks.

Who or what deserves the credit? Prices. What a surprise, but it must be true because if we cannot credit President Bush’s great environmental policies higher energy prices must have done the trick. The Dems were not in power yet, so they could have contributed nothing but hot air. The price of energy is the only significant variable that changed significantly. Prices went up and the market responded rapidly and appropriately. Short of a recession, can anybody think of any policy the government could enact that would have such a quick result? I can: carbon taxes.

A carbon tax would take advantage of exactly these market forces that have so recently and decisively proven their value. Those who wish to can still play with their mileage standards. They can still hold concerts against global warming. These things will not hurt anything if we put into place the real deal that affects energy consumption: prices.

So let the dogs of Kyoto howl and the morose state regulating environmentalist scowl. The market once again is proving that it can do the job that they cannot. Just put in the proper incentives, let it work and stay out of the way. It can do better w/o the bureaucratic meddling. Maybe we can sell Al Gore an offset.

Posted by Jack at December 4, 2007 11:51 AM
Comment #239950

Attention all global warming “enthusiasts”; try taking this little quiz.

Posted by: rahdigly at December 4, 2007 1:00 PM
Comment #239955


Interesting news, indeed. But I doubt that the alphabet media outlets will lead with this story.

I have a question: You advocate a carbon tax to take advantage of these market forces. In the article you use in your post it specifically says cap and trade mandates are not the answer.

Is there a difference in a carbon tax and the referenced cap and trade mandates?

Posted by: Beirut Vet at December 4, 2007 1:20 PM
Comment #239956

Certainly high prices had a role. Another factor is voluntary conservation. Some is incentivized,for example hybrid rebates, rebates on CFLs etc. We are pushing in the right direction on many fronts.Do not underestimate Americans to do the right thing just because it is the right thing.
You are correct about a carbon tax but it needs to go along with some mechanizism for oil price control ie a flexible tariff.
I understand your need to belittle Al Gores contribution to increasing public awareness of a looming problem for partisan reasons but have little respect for it. Give it a rest. He’s not running for anything.
We did start out at a high level of use. That makes improvement a bit easier. I wonder how the per capita numbers,etc. come out?

PS I did contact watchblog editor re: email addresses. No cigar.

Posted by: BillS at December 4, 2007 1:28 PM
Comment #239958


Exelent contribution, thank you. I wish every person in the world were required to take this quiz. Most would fail.


“Certainly high prices had a role. Another factor is voluntary conservation.” of course people started to conserve, the reason is because THE PRICE WAS HIGH!!! Your view that this was for the “right reasons” has no basis in fact. It is merely wishfull thinking.

Posted by: Beirut Vet at December 4, 2007 1:49 PM
Comment #239960

During the last decade, the Green Movement has grown significantly as more and more individuals, families, and business’ have opted for alternative energy sources; especially solar and wind power. This movement is starting to make a small but positive impact on CO2 emissions.

I am sure that conservation measures because of higher oil prices have contributed but, I have seen no evidence that the higher prices have had a significant impact on such common ailments as leadfootism or red light to red light drag racing.

Posted by: jlw at December 4, 2007 1:54 PM
Comment #239963


Cap & Trade is a diluted and indirect version of a carbon tax. It works well in a single country with an industry controlled by a few players. It was very effective in addressing the problem of acid rain. But in a complicated international environment, there will be too much cheating and political corruption.

It is better than nothing, but it will likely be abused.

BillS Leave a comment so I know you are there. It is not primarily a comment forum, however.

I have to make fun of Gore. It is too much fun not to. There is nothing wrong with voluntary conservation. I just do not believe it has the staying power.

Per capita numbers are misleading. Better to go with unit of GDP because that actually measures energy use. Population growth is only an indirect actor. We do produce more CO2 per unit of both GDP and per capita. But these was a REAL reduction, not a relative one. AND it was done when GDP was growing robustly. Nobody has done that before. The only other time we actually reduced CO2 was in 2001-2 but that was because of the recession.

Posted by: Jack at December 4, 2007 2:04 PM
Comment #239964

A cooler summer and a much warmer winter were the likely reasons for a 1.3% CO2 reduction, not the market or any imaginary Bush program.

The quiz is ridiculous. For example, it asks a question about water vapour as a greenhouse gas, and pretends if you answered CO2, you were wrong. Water vapour is the most common one, but it is not the only one, and it exists in relatively stable amounts. Warming atmosphere does carry more water vapour, but that does not explain the warming in the first place.

Another question says Malenkovitch cycles explain past episodes of warming. That is true, at least in part. However, those astronomical cycles most certainly do NOT explain the current one.

Another quiz answer suggests that, because earth has had higher CO2 concentrations millions of years ago, the current high concentration is somehow ok.

What total BS! Tropical forests at the north pole would NOT be ok, because rapid climate change today threatens human beings, not dinosaurs.

The person who put that quiz together was a nitwit.

Posted by: phx8 at December 4, 2007 2:15 PM
Comment #239966

You may wish to belittle the American capacity to do the right thing. I do not. Given the chance many people will conserve. I was in CA during the engineered energy crunch.Most of the severe measures that were expected,rolling blackouts etc. never came to pass because of voluntary conservation. People turned out lights and computers etc. It worked and we were spared the worst. Everyone was astounded at the level of conservation.

Posted by: BillS at December 4, 2007 2:28 PM
Comment #239971


“You need not to give Bush credit because he doesn’t deserve it.”

I whole heartedly agree with this statement. The good news comes to us DESPITE the wrong actions of Bush. Other Republicans - Gov Schwarzenneger, for instance - have done their part. Ordinary individuals, encouraged by Al Gore, have begun to conserve and to buy hybrid cars, etc.

Sure, price is a factor. The higher the price of gas goes the less will people drive. But this does not mean we must increase the carbon tax to the point where ordinary people can’t go to work to make a living.

The problem facing us - by us I mean the 6.6 billion people on Earth - cannot be solved by simply fooling around with market forces. Our government MUST be involved. Our government MUST lead. Our government MUST show the world how to do it by example.

Posted by: Paul Siegel at December 4, 2007 3:19 PM
Comment #239972

Jack you’ve often cited your support for a “carbon tax”, so it’s time for some details.

I’m VERY middle class and right now energy costs are about 7% of our monthly take home (gas and electricity). To get that to 10% you would need to increase the pump price of gas by over a $1/gal coupled with combination of a sizable increase in kWh prices plus inflation.

Just considering the retail gasoline tax at a buck a gallon equates to a $130B tax increase to government (somewhere around there). That’s a lot of cash for Republicans to trust Hillary with, Democrats to trust Rudy with, or Libertarians to trust any politician with.

And truthfully, to get me to curb any of my current energy use habits you’re going to have to hit me harder than 3%. At $6/gal I might trade in my gas guzzling American sedan (it gets 27mpg) for something that gets me 35mpg. That would save me 10 gals/mo X $3/gal tax = $30 bucks. Wait, nope, I’m allergic to car payments so I can’t afford to replace the old tank.

Sorry for all of the rambling math but I hope you get my point. It would take unprecedented tax increases to have any economic impact on a fairly inelastic commodity like gasoline, those types of tax increases are politically unsupportable, and if they did occur would you really trust anyone in Washington to do the right thing with the money?

Posted by: George in SC at December 4, 2007 3:23 PM
Comment #239985

George in SC
This link might help.

The carbon tax IS the government getting involved.IMO along with it we need the Government to imposed a flexible tariff on imported oil to prevent the cartels from killing alternate developement by dumping. They have done this in the past and will do it again if allowed.

Posted by: BillS at December 4, 2007 6:52 PM
Comment #239986


Ummm, if market forces are working, why a non market based tax?

The ideas seem incompatible to me.

Posted by: googlumpugus at December 4, 2007 7:19 PM
Comment #239987
We refer back to 2000 instead of 1990 because the real agenda of those who blame America’s role in global warming seems to be to blame President Bush for not signing Kyoto. It’s true that U.S. emissions have grown more than Europe’s since 1990, but how can this Administration be held responsible for what happened on Al Gore’s watch?

An Inconvenient Reduction
December 3, 2007; Page A20
Wall Street Journal

This is from Jack’s link. No wonder Jack always likes to take pop shots at Gore. I’m assuming this is more of an op-ed piece than article, but it ignores the fact that we didn’t begin to recognize the dangers of Global Warming until the late 90’s. Even though intelligent opinion recognizes and identifies Global Warming as a danger, this administration has failed to take action to address this problem. What makes this administration inaction even more egregious is that prior to the 2000 presidential election, Bush policy stance was that Global warming was a problem that needed to be addressed. But instead of addressing it, the federal government took steps to impede California from addressing this problem when it failed to do so.

But this is not a State problem or a Federal problem it is a worldwide problem. Until we take steps at that scale this problem will continue to exist. While a carbon tax may be part of the solution, I don’t believe it is the whole solution.

I took the Quiz to see what it was about. I scored 9/10, I would argue against the question I got wrong. Where The Heartland Institute tries to argue that Global Warming is the result of variations in Sunspot activity or changes in the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit. Eccentricity at this point in time is a non-factor, since the eccentricity factor is so low. While Sunspot activity can be a factor in the temperatures around the earth, even the article that Heartland cites indicates that Sunspot activity isn’t the sole contributor to Global Warming. I probably should go back and retake the test and intentionally miss some questions to see how they distort the reasons for their answers. Certainly the questions were presented in a way to try to minimize the appearance of how we humans affect our climate. This is similar in technique as a push/pull poll.

Posted by: Cube at December 4, 2007 7:25 PM
Comment #239990

Good thinking about higher prices helping to curb fuel consumption. That’s the market at work, albeit that the increases are primarily decided by foreign suppliers.
But I do not understand the logic behind your support for a carbon tax. That can only be imposed by governmental fiat and bypasses the normal pricing mechanism and thus syphons more money to Washington, which I don’t think is a good idea.
What’s more, I remain unconvinced that humanity is the primary cause of our planet’s warming and I consider all draconian ideas to force people and our economy into very costly actions that nobody can predict the results of, as lunacy.
The global warming phenomenon has become a high pressure political football benefitting only those who are hungry for subsidies with which to try alternative energy schemes, none of which show any serious promise. We are in a “you say—I say” Mexican standoff since studying what we really know about this phenomenon is time consuming. The information supporting the opposite of humanity being the source of this natural change, is very substantial but apparently of no interest to many politicians and media types. It makes little sense to me but then “chicken little” didn’t make much sense either.

Posted by: frederik engel at December 4, 2007 9:20 PM
Comment #239992
The quiz is ridiculous. For example, it asks a question about water vapour as a greenhouse gas, and pretends if you answered CO2, you were wrong. Water vapour is the most common one, but it is not the only one, and it exists in relatively stable amounts…Another question says Malenkovitch cycles explain past episodes of warming. That is true, at least in part…The person who put that quiz together was a nitwit.

So, how did you score on it?!! Sounds like you agreed with some of the answers. What’s your debate?! The question to the “Water Vapor” question was: “The Greenhouse Effect is caused primarily by” Water vapor. “Primarily” doesn’t mean that the others are “wrong”; and it surely doesn’t “pretend” to be the answer.

By the way, that “nitwit” is a professional engineer with expertise in mining and geology. What’s your background?!! Added to which, there were plenty of sources that were cited; do you dispute them, as well?! Do you have more experience and background than those sources?!! :-)

Posted by: rahdigly at December 4, 2007 9:56 PM
Comment #239994

Jack from your website link:

While carbon taxes will need to be very high to create the required price incentives, they will need to be phased in to give individuals and businesses the opportunity to adjust.

My point….

Posted by: George in SC at December 4, 2007 10:18 PM
Comment #240003

Your quiz is wrong.

The problem is that the quiz was probably put together around 1996. That is why some of the questions are so obviously, jarringly wrong. They are working without the benefit of over a decade worth of accumulated data.

The third question suggests the “modern warming trend” is caused by “Orbital eccentricities of Earth and variations in the Sun’s output.” Orbital eccentricities have been decisively ruled out. Variations such as the 11 year sunspot cycle have been ruled out. Longer term trends in the Sun’s output are not impossible, but highly unlikely. There is no evidence to support it.

But this is the question that clued me in to why the quiz seemed so messed up:

“Which most accurately describes the effects of Global Warming in the United States over the last 100 years?

The “correct” answer cites a chart which stops in 1995! Yet 11/12 of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1995 (for the world- why anyone would limit a question about Global Warming to only US temperatures is anybody’s guess- perhaps the guy is just a nitwit, and doesn’t know the US only constitutes 3% of the total landmass!).

Read “The Facts” after this question:
“The consensus of scientists is that the problem warrants drastic action.”

“The Facts” are hilariously out of date. Thanks for the laugh. And for wasting my time with crappy, severely outdated information.

Posted by: phx8 at December 5, 2007 2:20 AM
Comment #240004

The problem with carbon based fuels is that they contain external costs not reflected in the price.

Let me count the ways a carbon tax is the best and most elegant solution.
1. Market forces work. This takes advantage of market forces.
2. A carbon tax requires no direct government management of the economy
3. Existing bureaucracies and methods can be adapted to collect it
4. It is simple so that it does not encourage corruption or cheating
5. It can be effectively implemented in one country or group of counties and adapted to particular conditions w/o the need for detailed international agreements.

I have advocated a carbon tax and explained why on the link. This drop in CO2 emissions is just another piece of evidence on the efficacy of prices to curb CO2. This happened thanks to higher prices. I do not like it that corrupt despots got a lot of the money from the higher prices. Hugo Chavez and the Iranian mullahs would be a lot better behaved if they were making less off their unearned wealth. A carbon tax would keep the price high, but would help reduce the cut taken by these guys.

The carbon tax could be revenue neutral. It could be used to reduce other taxes. A good offset could be payroll taxes or we could increase the earned income tax credit. The key is the price effect on demand & innovation, not the raising of revenue.

As I said, the high prices work, but I would prefer to deprive SOBs like Hugo and the Mullahs of the extra income to the extent possible.

Posted by: Jack at December 5, 2007 4:18 AM
Comment #240010

Beirut Vet,

I wish every person in the world were required to take this quiz. Most would fail.

Yep. I also wish every person in the world were required to check this quiz author and host background too: a coal mining geological expert and a well-known corporate lobbying conservative think tank.

Sadly, most wont, as expected/hoped by their promoters.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at December 5, 2007 5:47 AM
Comment #240011


… the real deal that affects energy consumption: prices.

Nope, that the need. Remember basic free market law: offer and need. Price is just the medium between the two.

What drive energy consumption is need. Until they can’t afford it anymore, people needing energy will consume it.

I’ve since few month a neutral thermal house. Energy high price play no role in my energy consumption, as my warming bill is so low I don’t care one bit about its price.

While energy high price *force* people to reduce their consumption, stop wasting energy *allow* them to do the same in larger scale.

But the mythical free market have a visceral hate for people consuming *less* or, oh god, *nothing*.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at December 5, 2007 5:57 AM
Comment #240013


I was all sold on your carbon tax, until rahdigly’s engineer friend convinced me this global warming thing is BS. Who am I to question a professional engineer? :)

But seriously, it continues to puzzle me why you trash Al Gore and “environmentalists”. Objectively, you are an environmentalist yourself. Your protestations to the contrary are about as convincing as Larry Craig saying he is isn’t gay. You’ve been caught red-handed trying to solicit a carbon tax. We all know that “carbon tax” is code for “I am extremely concerned about man-made global warming”. Just plead guilty and get it over with.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 5, 2007 7:56 AM
Comment #240016


Nice comment!
Love it.

Jack is indeed an environmentalist. But while he love trees, he don’t want to be called a tree-huger.

That’s his personal freedom.
Who cares about names anymore?

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at December 5, 2007 8:46 AM
Comment #240017


I have made the same observations as Woody in regards to your concern for the environment and have come to the same conclusion. I can only assume that you continue to trash Gore as a means of devious poking and prodding. If so I can understand the desire, especially when it emanates from a conservative viewpoint.

Posted by: RickIL at December 5, 2007 8:57 AM
Comment #240043
The third question suggests the “modern warming trend” is caused by “Orbital eccentricities of Earth and variations in the Sun’s output.” Orbital eccentricities have been decisively ruled out. Variations such as the 11 year sunspot cycle have been ruled out. Longer term trends in the Sun’s output are not impossible, but highly unlikely. There is no evidence to support it.

Then provide me the evidence of the dispute. Show me where the “Variations such as the 11 year sunspot cycle have been ruled out”. The quiz cited a few sources; one was the Milankovitch Cycles.

Taken in unison, variations in these three cycles creates alterations in the seasonality of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. These times of increased or decreased solar radiation directly influence the Earth’s climate system, thus impacting the advance and retreat of Earth’s glaciers.

Your quiz is wrong. The problem is that the quiz was probably put together around 1996. That is why some of the questions are so obviously, jarringly wrong. They are working without the benefit of over a decade worth of accumulated data.

Here’s some recent temperature readings that (actually) disputed that 1998 wasn’t the hottest year in the US; 1934 was hotter. And, this was done by a blogger to NASA.

Posted by: rahdigly at December 5, 2007 2:03 PM
Comment #240050


It doesn’t come only from giving up consumption but also from making different choices. A person might say, or even believe, that he has no choices. But when there is incentive, he finds that he does.

This has shown to be true with prices of energy for the last 30 years.

Why do we use oil as a primary energy source? Because it has been cheap and easy to get. Why don’t many people use already available technologies such as solar, wind or hybrid vehicles? Because they cost more and are harder to do?

Where I live when I am living in the U.S. is near the metro. It takes me seven minutes to walk from my front door to the platform. Yet most of my neighbors drive to work. When I ask them about this, they have some logical reasons. Some say it is more expensive to take the Metro. Others tell me that taking the Metro takes ten or fifteen minutes longer. They all tell me that they are staunch environmentalists, but they just cannot afford the time/money/trouble. I do not know how much it would take to induce the most craven of them to change their minds, but I ridership increases with gas prices.

There is also a clear cost-benefit analysis re hybrids or other gas saving vehicles. They cost more. If gas is cheap, they will never pay back the price. If gas is expensive, they do. People who sell solar panels make a very explicit payoff analysis.

Woody, Philippe, RickIL et al

I believe in a clean environment. I do not disagree with Al Gore about goals, but our methods are often different. I do not like to call myself environmentalist because I do not like many of those people who call themselves environmentalists. I just recently got my TV attached. I am watching CNN International. There is a lot of pseudo green on CNN and in the movement in general. All those sanctimonious celebrities and general BS featured in the adverts and many of the stories make me want to throw up. Besides they won’t let me in the environmental clubhouse anymore because I believe in killing wildlife & cutting trees where appropriate.

And I like to make fun of Al Gore because it is fun to make fun of Al Gore.

And (2) a carbon tax makes perfect sense.

Posted by: Jack at December 5, 2007 3:05 PM
Comment #240061

Sorry. The 11 year sunspot cycle has been ruled out too. Here is a nice chart:

And here is the wikipedia article on Global Warming and solar variation:

If you prefer something much more technical, see the article starting on page 188 for the technical summary in the IPCC report.

A more easily accessible way to see the IPCC material is in the “Summary for Policymakers.” Scroll down to see the chart on page 4. For me, that is easier to take in than a technical summary.

I think it’s interesting that 1934 was the warmest year on record for the US (by a fraction). That was the Dust Bowl. By all means, faulty data should be corrected on the rare occasions it is discovered. Nevertheless, while US records are interesting, it is not US Warming, it is Global Warming- or more accurately, Climate Change.

Posted by: phx8 at December 5, 2007 6:09 PM
Comment #240062

Bush blew it as far as global warming is concerned, achieving nothing significant, and you want me to THANK him? Really? I’m still waiting on his apology to this country for selling it to China.

Posted by: Max at December 5, 2007 6:12 PM
Comment #240082

Hi phx8,

we’ve been over this terrain before but you are
right on the money, it’s climate change alright. The brouhaha by all those other people is only about the question whether humanity plays a significant role in it or whether on the other hand it is just an innocent bystander who doesn’t even understand what’s happening yet arrogates to itself the responsibility of creating a solar system upset.
It takes real hubris to go that far down the slope.
I still think we should be drilling a lot more oil wells in North America, develop all the tar sands there are, which will provide us with fuel for the next 100 years at least and also build 100 or so more nuclear power plants to electrify homes, factories, cities, railroads and some cars. We know how to do all that but we have got to get off this insane roadblock put up by those who just want to green us back to the 18th century.

Posted by: fred at December 5, 2007 9:23 PM
Comment #240093


If Bush had talked the talk re climate, there would have been no change in the air. A lot of this talk about climate is just hot air. The bottom line is that since Bush took office, U.S. CO2 emissions have grown slower than those in Europe or those during the Clinton Administration.

Since you are loath to give Bush credit (and I agree, BTW) you have to consider the situation where doing nothing, or not much, produces better results than the vigorous efforts at climate negotiations. Perhaps that is because the Kyoto path is a blind alley that will get us nowhere.

The simple fact is that is we want to emit less CO2 we have to … emit less CO2. This means we must burn less carbon based fuel. The best way, in fact the only consistent way, to get people to use less is through price based incentives.

Much of the climate lobbby dislikes this solution. It bothers them because it limits government intervention. Their phoney-baloney jobs depend on grants and rule making. If something as simple as price does the job, there is no job left for them.

The carbon tax will make it more expensive to use carbon based fuels. That automatically makes alternative fuels relatively less expensive. At $20 a barrel oil, it makes little practical sense to install solar on your house. At $90 a barrel, you get your payback from the solar investment in a short time.

The solution is carbon tax and prices. Everything else is a species of self indulgence. Some of this is of little value and much of it is acually harmful.

Posted by: Jack at December 6, 2007 12:38 AM
Comment #240101
I do not disagree with Al Gore about goals, but our methods are often different.

You agree about carbon taxes.

Former Vice President Al Gore has a novel approach for dealing with global warming: tax carbon dioxide emissions instead of employees’ pay. “Penalizing pollution instead of penalizing employment will work to reduce that pollution,” Gore said Monday in a speech at New York University School of Law. The carbon tax would replace all payroll taxes, including those for Social Security and unemployment compensation, Gore said. He said the overall level of taxation, would remain the same.


Posted by: Woody Mena at December 6, 2007 6:48 AM
Comment #240108

Guys -

Just to inject a bit more factual analysis into this discussion, check out the Dept. of Energy’s report from several months ago:

According to the preliminary data (which showed a decrease of less magnitude), CO2 emissions fell most steeply in residential use, because of the mild winter. However, it also fell in every other sector, including transportation, so it’s unqualified good news.

Posted by: Chops at December 6, 2007 10:45 AM
Comment #240123

Woody: I think it is extremely irresponsible for Al Gore to suggest that a carbon tax can replace other taxes. The purpose of the carbon tax is to discourage the use of carbon based fuels and to make alternatives more economical. We want a carbon tax to be successful at reducing carbon emisions and the more successful that it is, the less the revenue from the carbon tax will be.

Posted by: jlw at December 6, 2007 1:01 PM
Comment #240130


I don’t know the details of his proposal, but I agree that any estimate of the revenue from a carbon tax would have to assume a reduction in carbon output.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 6, 2007 1:49 PM
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