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Carbon Tax NOT Enough

Carbon emissionsCarbon Tax Failure: NOT Enough

There is a failure of the press to cover urgency of carbon tax. Carbon should not flow unpriced into the atmosphere, any more than you should be allowed to toss your garbage in the street. It makes no sense that the fossil fuel industry is allowed to put out their waste for free, using the atmosphere as an open sewer.

Nearly all of those decisions share a common, crucial element: they are shaped, by the relative prices of available energy choices. The only way to get enough change is to send a price signal so that everyone from investors to car buyers will change their behavior automatically:  a kind of perpetual motion machine. 

A straightforward plan is simply to tax carbon directly. Canada has introduced the gradual approach of a $10/ton of carbon emissions to finally get the ball rolling, while some of the provinces have elected to increase this tax to $30/ton.  In the meantime, Exxon has been planning for $50 a ton to make sure it won’t put a crimp in their business.  

Yes, carbon tax is inevitable but one thing stands in the way: PRICE POINT.  If we want to move the needle, we have to move the market. We need a top down message. A steadily rising tax on fossil fuels will send a strong price signal. A proposed carbon tax pending in the New York state legislature (A.B. 8372:  proposes to increase the tax gradually from $35 to $185 per ton.) 

Is that the only thing that needs to be done?

To keep the pressure on carbon emissions, a “fee-and-dividend” approach sets a price on carbon, and then rebates all the revenue straight to citizens, perhaps even sending them a monthly check. Yes, the price we pay at the pump goes up but the check covers the increased cost.  It’s called revenue neutrality.

 It’s one arrow in a quiver full of other arrows we’re going to need. As we see temperatures shattering new records every month, we need to do everything:  not just a price on carbon, but dramatic subsidies for renewables to speed their spread.

We know what to do, but building a will to do it seems like an insuperable obstacle.

The definition of quixotic: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals especially marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action.  Our rash ideas are bringing us to the opposite direction with no change in sight.

The clock ticks and each month we lose ground and face a warmer future and a bigger challenge to reign in green house gas effects on our life support on this planet. Building such an effort requires an international cooperation far beyond anything accomplished thus far, with an effort comparable to, or greater than, World War II.

In the pre-industrial global carbon cycle before 1750, there was zero carbon change. It was not unlike a chemical equilibrium that automatically balances itself.


Carbon cycle for the 1990’s: in billions of tons of CO2

Our CO2 emission debt is still in the RED. This does not even consider the mounting debt load that has already accumulated in the global carbon cycle, as we witness temperatures shattering new records every month.

Fossil fuels emit only 3% of total CO2 emissions. 95% comes from rotting vegetation. The dead wood and weeds can’t simply be stored in air tight underground. Burying a biomass will eventually result is methane, which is 23 times more harmful to the climate: it will inevitably attract termites which would mess up the project by puncturing holes in the airtight burial chambers.

There is an easier solution. If you heat this wood properly, the resulting by product is charcoal. Charcoal applied to agricultural land increases the fertility of the soil. This has been used in the past by Indians in the pre-Columbian Amazon basin. Continue reading Carbon Tax NOT Enough