Carbon Taxes

So many (like California) favor carbon taxes, as primarily driven by the climate-change debate (click here, here, and here, too) that it's worth collecting the most useful sources I come across here.

Here's a comment to a wind-subsidy opinion piece that nicely sums up my feelings in this area:

All federal tax, insurance, and loan subsidies to energy resources should be killed including insurance guarantees for nuclear power plants, limits on the liability of offshore oil and gas producers, ethanol blending mandates, alternative energy tax credits, etc. Washington should focus its resources on high risk R&D investment, and let the private sector and state utility commissions make cost effective choices between competing energy resources. A Carbon tax that is fully offset by a reduction in federal corporate and individual tax rates, and incorporated into tariffs on imported goods would be the most economically efficient means of promoting higher energy efficiency, energy independence, and a cleaner environment.

January, 2014:  A call for tax credit simplification.  Here's a piece more to my liking.

August, 2013: The Chinese wade in.

Check out this guy’s cogent reasoning:

[F]fossil fuels enjoy a subsidy that dwarfs all others: unpriced carbon emissions.

At its core, a subsidy is when the government allows a business to shift a portion of your production costs onto the rest of the country by cutting you a check and taxing everyone else. What happens today with pollution is essentially the same thing. Coal-fired power plants, for example, are able to shift their production costs onto American families by spewing toxic pollutants into the air, which we then inhale, costing us over $50 billion in damages each year (this cost rises to just under $70 billion if climate change impacts are taken into account).

These companies are essentially taxing us — without representation — in the form of higher mortality and morbidity to pay for their subsidized production.

(Source).  Here's a counterpoint column.  This, too.  And here's some historical perspective (Clinton backed it, maybe now Obama, too).

Of course, taxing carbon-based energy could always be used to pay down  “[o]ur national debt, at $15.8 [trillion], [which] would form a stack of $100 bills 10,712 miles high.” (Source).  As David Frum writes in his "Let's Tax Carbon" column:

A tax of $20 a ton, rising at a rate of 4% per year, would over the next decade raise $1.5 trillion, according to an important new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That $1.5 trillion is almost twice as much as would be recouped to the Treasury by allowing the expiration of all Bush-era tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers.

And "[a]ccording to a September 2012 study by the Congressional Research Service, a small carbon tax of $20 per ton — escalating by 5.6 percent annually — could cut the projected 10-year deficit by roughly 50 percent (from $2.3 trillion down to $1.1 trillion)."  (Source).

Other carbon-tax articles here.

An explanation of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

August, 2012:  Net drop in USA carbon emissions -- a 20 year low, in fact.  See also this article.

7/22/12 -- Interesting NYT piece dealing with carbon taxes versus direct gov't investment in green power.   1/27/13: NYT piece on Air travel and carbon emissions.

7/12:  "George Shultz was an economist in the Eisenhower administration, as well as secretary of the Treasury and Labor, and director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Nixon administration. Under President Ronald Reagan, he was secretary of state for almost seven years. Despite the reluctance of his fellow Republicans to embrace action on global warming, Shultz is confident that when the time is right conservatives will support a carbon tax, for a number of reasons."  Here's the rest of that article.

Here's part of a comment I left at this fellow's site (we were debating the economic sense of Solar PV and thus the use of tax policy):

1. The government can, must and will tax us based on income and consumption. But it’s crazy to punish industriousness and thrift, so taxing corporations, productivity, investment income, etc. is like driving a car with the brakes on.

2. Tax policy can quickly alter mass behavior, especially the self-destructive kind that costs us all (e.g., jack up tobacco taxes, reduce consumption, impose guzzler taxes, reduce air pollution and watching wealth go up in smoke).

3. If we must tax, we should do so in a way that constrains higher and higher efficiency and thus less pollution. Hence, tax pollution-causing consumption (coal, gas, oil, nukes) and don’t tax (reward) efficiency (millions of Joe’s making their own electricity and back-feeding excess into the grid).

All that is pretty basic stuff, and common-sense driven.

Here lies the rub:

You say that you “don’t think it’s appropriate to force people to buy expensive electricity, which everyone, except possibly those who install the cheap PV solar panels, will have to do.”

I think you do. Once you agree that we must tax something, and that it might as well be negative-effects-causing consumption (cigarettes, junk food, gas guzzlers), then why wouldn’t you want to tax Brown Power, which admittedly will raise electricity rates, but ALSO price-encourage (rather than bureaucratically jawbone) conservation and thus higher efficiencies? At the same time, consumption tax gains can pay for the elimination of corporate, investment-income and other productivity-hampering taxes. Ditto for the tax-collection bureaucratic savings with narrowing taxes to the vastly simpler source consumption (tax coal coming out of the mines, oil and the well-head and ship terminal).

I’m betting you’ll agree with me that taxing consumption and un-taxing productive effort can be more than a tax-wash, it can be a net gain for everyone.

All right, now let’s try some more grayish areas:

First, you are correct that Solar PV (my “infatuation”) won’t work everywhere. But you know what? You’re not sure, and neither am I, given the ever escalating, compensating efficiencies in Solar PV — just in the last 36 months alone.

What is certain, however, is that the Northern area Joe can figure out for himself whether it works for him. I say let him decide. He can Google up insolation maps and have his roof or yard or farm field “pyrometered” and then, with that read-out (my solar vendor’s engineer did it for me for free) calculate net electricity yield by inputting Solar PV panel specs into simple equations available to all. Note: My vendor calculated the return on my array and I have continuously EXCEEDED it.

All of what I just described (Joe figuring out and deciding to invest on his own) is The Free Market at work. Something you no doubt would applaud.

Second, Canada and Germany are one and two gradations below my (Georgia, USA) insolation region and yet people there are heavily investing. But yes, you’re right, those markets — like NY, CA and NJ — are “subsidy distorted” and thus aren’t the best examples to cite — subsidies distort and thus pollute free market data, and thus scare away venture capital.

So we’ll agree that all of that is a distortion of, as caused by pernicious government entanglement in, The Free Market.

But focus here a minute: UN-subsidized Solar PV prices have fallen so far that Joe may (by 2015, I project) soon stand a good chance of erecting what I’ve got (my array produces over 12,000/KWH of electricity a year) and feeling good about it (because it’s a money-maker) based on his self-consumption savings alone (a family of four, according to Georgia Power, consumes 12,000 KWH/year), let alone the $.08/KWH reverse-meter credit which, you must concede is NOT an outrageous subsidy if at all (again, much of Solar PV power’s generated during the peak load phase).

And if that happens, all of that would be a virtually 100% Free Market result. And Joe will jump on it because for $10,000 ($1/watt) he gets a 30-year system that covers 100% of his power bill if not makes him a few dollars (the reverse-credit, “meter gold” will induce him to optimize his output and minimize his consumption — a double efficiency gain).

I’m asking you to re-examine some of your premises. It was all theoretical to me until I erected my array. Now I’ve got documented, real time data to show, plus a reasonable market projection to help develop a new investment channel — a free market for Solar PV as a mass consumer (like PCs) product.

And by the way, there is nothing “unreliable” about Solar PV, unless you mean hey, no sun, no power. But that, as you know, is a specious argument, for with a grid-tied system the issue is NOT whether one enjoys 100% sun all day long, but what the system produces over a month, as levelized out by the net-meter standing between the erected array and the grid.

My system’s producing over 1000 KWH a month, even though on dark rainy days it produces very little. But it’s the 1000 KWH that constitutes the bottom line, and it would be silly to say my system’s “unreliable” merely because on a rainy day it’s output is maybe 18 KWH instead of 50 KWH or 60 KWH.

Listen, I’m with you on gutting government, its stifling bureaucracy and its outrageous tax burden. And I’m also a drill, baby, drill advocate.

But even the most minimalist libertarians like me recognize that some taxation must occur for the basic protections and infrastructure that a minimum government requires.

You and I also recognize that the business of America is business. We want to see thriving, productive activity that produces net new wealth, not “government-printed” wealth. I’m saying that millions of Joe’s will, on their own, research and figure out that hey, grid-tied Solar PV (“A chicken in every pot”) makes sense. And all of their “home-grown” electricity will become net new wealth — times millions of Joe-owned arrays.

And again, you may be right — in some areas (Canada reaps pretty low irradiance) Solar PV may not make economic sense. But Joe will figure that out on his own and won’t need you or I or Nanny Governmenteers to “guide” him. More importantly, what I’m advocating is PRIVATE investment by tens of millions of Joe’s, and not a DOE bureaucrat tossing $500 million bundles of OUR cash at political favorites dialed in by their bribologists (lobbyists).

Finally, let’s you and I touch the Third Rail of Environmental Politics, shall we?

Do you agree with my premise that if we must tax why not tax “bad consumption” (anything producing ill environmental and health effects) first, and good consumption (productive activity, thrift) second?

If you do (c’mon, I know you do!), then what exactly is so awful about taxing brown power, not to mention junk food, and other deleterious consumption? Donn, anyone can see the substantial net reduction in Joe’s consumption of gasoline. Step up the pain, Joe becomes more careful, lower the pain (price) and Joe goes back to buying slobmobiles. In our lifetimes did you ever believe MPG would become as prominent a selling feature in vehicle advertising? Well, it’s here! And America’s net, per capita gasoline consumption has declined.

Price. Pain. Conservation.

That core human operating system unit (seek pleasure, avoid pain), lies at the root of all government (hence, tax) policy, and undergirds all free markets.

So really, is it that hard to see the same effect with electricity? Folks who come to my home in the winter are handed “guest sweatshirts” to put on (I got a good, “Seasonal Close-out” deal on them at Sam’s Club). My all-electric, 2150 foot Savannah GA home’s power bill last winter never exceeded $46. Pleasure, pain (the ladies snuggle closer to me to stay warm, too).

And if coal and gas are taxed (Georgia Power’s prime sourcing) as I advocate (to make my $.08/KWH reverse-meter rate “market natural” and not a coerced subsidy), then I’m guessing my bill will go to $56, and sure, product prices will rise too (I don’t have that calculation), as offset if not washed by the elimination of corporate and other nutty taxes (sure, let’s vote for Mitt).

I’ll gladly pay that for seeing PV ride the same tidal wave of growth (and engender a similar tidal wave of prosperity) that I saw with PC’s. And you and I will be there, at the head of the huge new investment channel we together will now open by influencing the masses and policy makers toward a sound, rational policy that puts money in the little guy’s pocket, not just the fat cat’s. Doesn’t your gut tell you that the net positive result will more than wash if not greatly exceed the cost of taxing Brown Power?

I believe that you see, as I do, that markets and attendant government policies are highly dynamic and nuanced. Ergo, some give and take on the ideological front must necessarily occur. Again, I ask you to reconsider your premises.

The missing link takes you to an analysis about California’s Senate Bill 843, the Community-Based Renewable Energy Self-Generation Program. It’s designed to enable those without solar-radiated roofs and without capital to participate in larger solar arrays, just as farmers form cooperatives to levelize farm-equipment costs amongst their membership. I don’t know if that makes sense, it was just announced. I rely on smart guys like you to analyze these things.

More on the climate-change debate here and here.

Why I believe nothing will be done about the Greenhouse Effect:

Coal In China

Coal Demand continues to grow at steep pace in China defeating the efforts of Climate Change Activists in the Developed World. Building a Thermal Power Project in Europe and USA has become exceedingly difficult due to concerns of the detrimental health, air quality and pollution effects of Coal Derived Electricity and Heat. Coal is considered as the Dirtiest Form of Fossil Fuel Energy making it a prime target in Climate Change Fighting Efforts. However China with around 3 Billion Tons of Coal Consumption depend on King Coal for majority of their Energy Needs. China generates 80% of its Electricity from Coal. China has Huge Reserves and Production of Coal, the voracious demand is leading to surging imports. These Imports are being sourced from countries like Australia, Canada and USA which are going through Coal Mining Booms.

China which was a major coal exporter till a couple of years ago is importing 160 million tons. Increasing Coal Trade means further Global Warming as Sea Transport of Coal leads to further Carbon Emission from burning of Oil. There is little that can be done to change this Energy Trajectory as the Abundance and Cheapness of Coal makes it non-substitutable in the short term.

(Source).  You can read about the advantages & disadvantages of Coal here.  

January, 2013:  Air-capturing carbon dioxide for commercial re-use.


As for the Climate Warming Debate:

I don’t know enough to intelligently opine on the Climate Warming Debate.  But I caught this intriguing comment on a January 23, 2013 Bill Maher blog post:

Gary Berliner 4 minutes agoReport

Anthropogenic Global Warming 'true believers' are the products of psuedo-science and eco-socialism joining hands to defraud people of property rights and freedom. Their 'proofs' are based on lies, fudged data, and fraudulent reporting.

'Denier' is a pejorative term these "true believers" use that implies there is some truth to the anthropogenic causation groups theories, when in fact the man-made climate-change camp has been repeatedly shown to have fudged their data, taken other data out of context, committed egregious acts of scientific fraud, and violated scientific ethics, all in open collusion with funding sources, political groups, and academic colleagues.

The anthropogenic global warming myth, is propounded by the fanatical & self-abnegating "TRUE-BELIEVERS" who with their fellow co-religionists in academia and the press both ignore, and falsify, the data on cyclic-geologic climate change, and also abrogate established scientific methods of determining causation, in order to expound a socialist agenda of resource sequestration, and restriction of personal freedoms.

Yes, the climate IS warming, for the immediate now, but the cyclic-geologic models and the historical record, when viewed in its entirety, and not cherry-picking a geologically miniscule time slot, indicate this is a small increase that is historically, completely in consonance with a much longer cooling cycle. To base any social and resource sequestration of the anthropogenic global warming myth is just as ridiculous as a judge jailing scientists for their 'failure' to predict a specific earthquake. As a "REFUTER" of the anthropogenic global warming myth, I will continue to disagree with your co-religionists, as that is exactly what I think the whole anthropogenic climate movement is, a faith based paradigm whose adherents often unethically shift their data, and hide contravening data, to fit their preconceived models, and keep their funding coming from political sources whose interests are even more questionable.

Carbon sequestration, buffering, in the oceans, and the accumulations of bound carbons in biomass, both in plant matter, and calcium carbonates - as shown in the geological record - more than illustrates the cyclic geologic model's causative index on climate variability, as being within the parameters we are currently experiencing, and further illustrates how negligible any human contribution is to that global change.

I see a vast attempt to sequester personal property and resources in the NAME of anthropogenic climate change, and a paternalistic attitude by the proponents to say, 'we know best', 'we're scientists, don't worry', when in fact dogmatic adherence to scientific theory and paradigms, have brought us some of the worst excesses in human suffering and misery, ie. Eugenics, and Zyclon-B 'gift-gas'.

I do not dispute that as conservators of a clean environment we do OURSELVES a favor by implementation of clean energy, and clean environmental policy, but not at the expense of basic comforts, like food, shelter, and heating, or extended comforts like medicine, vaccines, personal mobility, and transportation.

Nothing indicates that the cause of observed WARMING is anthropomorphic in nature. The central premise of anthropogenic global warming theory is that human carbon dioxide emissions are directly and indirectly trapping a certain amount of heat in the earth's atmosphere and preventing it from escaping into space. One major inference is that given rapid burning of fossil fuels (archaic or 'stored' biomass) the increased 'greenhouse' CO2 from rapidly converting this biomass, over time, might further increase atmospheric CO2, which might THEORETICALLY (according to anthropogenic computer models) increase a planetary greenhouse effect.

However, real-world measurements show far less heat is being trapped in the earth's atmosphere, than the anthropogenic adherent's computer models predict, far more heat is escaping into space, and a substantial amount of carbon is being naturally scrubbed out of the atmosphere.

Warming (regardless of cause) increases over-all planetary biomass. Thus alternatively, much of the new 'warming generated' biomass accumulates, does not rapidly decompose, and a substantial amount becomes oceanic calcium carbonate sinks, that further sequester and bind significant amounts of Carbon, thus concomitantly lowering atmospheric CO2 during its accumulation.

Additionally, the most recent stratospheric studies indicate that substantial amounts of CO2 escapes into space and does not became a "heat shield" for the planet. NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing, show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space, indicating far less global warming will occur from all sources of CO2, than United Nations computer models have predicted. This newer finding supports prior studies that also indicate any increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than the anthropomorphic adherents have claimed.

Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA's Aqua satellite, reports that real-world data from NASA's Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into the anthropogenic computer models, and that there exists an especially huge discrepancy seen over the oceans, between the actual data and the anthropogenic forecasts.

The NASA Terra satellite data are consistent with other long-term NOAA and NASA data indicating atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by anthropogenic computer models; and also support data collected by NASA's ERBS satellite showing far more long wave radiation (and thus, heat) escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than those same anthropogenic adherent's computer models had predicted.

Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than anthropogenic adherents believe.

Numerous recent studies indicate abrupt climate change appears to be the result of alterations in ocean circulation uniquely associated with ice ages, NOT from a build up of Carbon Dioxide or other greenhouse gases. Speculated mechanisms by which greenhouse gases may cause abrupt climate change, are NOT demonstrated in the geological record.

Although reef structure may suffer temporarily from CO2 induced increases in ocean acidity the subsequent increases in overall shell biomass from the concurrently increased littoral productivity during warming periods more than compensates for the transient increased carbonic acid, and ultimately precipitates out as calcium carbonate that lines the ocean floor and acts as a buffer against chemical change, much the same as an antacid works in the stomach. The ocean's overall role in atmospheric CO2 lowering, is thus buffered by the presence of calcium carbonate, so that any changes in the atmospheric carbon dioxide, or in ocean acidity, are NOT apparent over time.

The ocean traps carbon through two principal mechanisms: a biological pump and a physical pump linked to oceanic currents. Recalculations of carbon sequestration in the South Atlantic show that ability of the Oceans to rapidly absorb and sequester carbon has been greatly under estimated.

Again, human input into the equation is, at MOST, negligible. The cyclic-geologic research draws its conclusions using numerical climate models coupled with oxygen-isotope models to determine what caused climate shifts in computer-generated episodes that mimick Heinrich events which produced huge numbers of North Atlantic Ocean icebergs broken off from glaciers during the last ice age 110,000 to 10,000 years ago, and rapidly cooled the Northern Hemisphere. These cyclic-geologic models are checked against the actual geological record from ice core samples, extent of littoral shellfish latitudes, endemic agricultural growth, tree ring, and snail studies. They are found to be very regular, cyclic, and stable over time. 'Nature Geoscience'. Franceso Pausata of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Norway, and David Battisti, University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor, along with Kerim Nisancioglu of UNI Research in Norway and Cecilia Bitz of the UW.

US solar physicists & Scientists at the US National Solar Observatory (NSO) and US Air Force Research Laboratory in three different analyses of the Sun's recent behavior, all indicate that a lengthy period of unusually low solar activity may be about to begin. Instead of a global warming problem, the Earth could be headed into a mini Ice Age. ""

Under their model (which involves modulation of the 11.1 year Schwabe cycle by longer sub-cycles with periods of 22--420 years), a period of quiet solar activity is expected, lasting until 2030, followed by a recovery during the middle of the present century, then just after 2100 another period of significantly quieter solar conditions; the minima will be about the same size as the Dalton Minima in 1805, thus representing the quietest solar activity conditions for 300 years.

Really, not so simple.There is data which has been shown to be thoroughly manipulated to "hide the decline". East Anglia's Phil Jones wrote that he was using Michael Mann's "Nature trick" to "hide the decline" in actual temperature data. This was the same "trick" previously used by Mann to produce the infamous "hockey stick" temperature graphs which has since been totally discredited.

Ground-based temperature data sets such as those maintained by the Hadley Centre Climatic Research Unit, or even Antarctic ice core sampling, greatly exaggerate temperature rise when compared to the more reliable satellite-based readings taken of the lower troposphere.

When East Anglia scientists could no longer evade the FOIA requests to release their data, they then reported that all of the original global temperature data had been conveniently destroyed, insuring that no one would ever be able to check their results. However, in an email from Phil Jones to Michael Mann dated 02/02/05, Jones states:

"The two MMs [Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick] have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone."

New Zealand government's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) was also found to have been manipulating its own temperature data to manufacture a rising trend.

Like East Anglia, NASA had been stonewalling Freedom of Information requests for over two years. Once the information was released, it was discovered that they too had been manipulating the temperature data and issuing false findings.

Dr. Michael Mann professor of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science at Penn State University, is a principle in the Climate-gate e-mails with his like-minded colleagues at the University of East Anglia. Their communications exposed their fraudulent data manipulation.

Amazingly, the anthropogenic global warming 'true-believers' circled their wagons, launched ad-hominem attacks against legitimate proponents of the cyclic-geologic world view, and never addressed the data discrepancies and out-right scientific fraud committed by they and their anthropogenic colleagues, but instead started piling the faggots around the stakes in order to try and burn the anti-human-causality 'heretics' without ever once refuting the cyclic-geologic model of climate change.

These anthropogenic warming 'true believers' were evidently acting as "Mann's Best Friend". How else to explain their so slavishly defending the lies, data distortions, misrepresentations, suppression of opposing or frankly confounding viewpoints, and the outright scientific fraud, deliberate deceit, & cover-up; as evidenced by the e-mails between Dr. Mann and the University of East Anglia co-conspirators? Liars Lie.

No surprise the eco-socialists are defending their position by casting aspersions on the opponents of anthropogenic mediated climate change. Follow the grant money.

Mt. Pinatubo released more CO2 into the atmosphere in its one eruption June 15, 1991 (the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century, which ultimately permanently closed Clark Airbase), than the entire history of human activity since before the industrial revolution, through to the present. The planet cooled, instead of warmed, as ash fall particles reflected ambient sunlight away from the less.