Energy Mandates or Energy Taxes?

Congress thinks you should pay more for power

On its way out of town for summer vacation, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an energy bill that would require, among other things, that electric utility companies produce 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. In addition, the House energy bill directs the Department of Energy to set new energy efficiency appliance standards, outlaws 100-watt incandescent light bulbs after 2012, and requires that all bulbs be 300 times more efficient than ordinary bulbs are today by 2020.

The measure also provides $3.5 billion in subsidies to install E-85 (fuel that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) pumps at gasoline stations and expand production of cellulosic ethanol. The bill extends renewable energy production tax credits to 2012, costing around $6.6 billion over 10 years, and extends a 30% tax credit for solar energy and fuel cell investment for eight years to 2016, costing around $563 million. The legislation offers a new credit for plug-in hybrid vehicles of at least $4,000 per taxpayer, to a total of 60,000 vehicles a year, costing around $1.2 billion over a decade. The House also repealed $16 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry.

Why mandate things like energy efficient appliances? After all, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy already run a voluntary energy efficiency testing and labeling program called EnergyStar. Appliances that meet the EnergyStar standards carry a label letting consumers know how much energy they will use per year.

But even with this information consumers are not flocking to energy efficient appliances. Why? Because EnergyStar appliances often cost more than their conventional counterparts. For example, a GE EnergyStar 6000 BTU window air conditioner costs $209 and uses $41 of electricity annually. A conventional GE window unit costs $179 and uses $46 of electricity per year. It would take six years of energy savings to make up the difference between the two. Since air conditioners typically last longer than six years, many consumers will think that's a good deal.

Making direct comparisons between EnergyStar-rated appliances and conventional ones is difficult because they often differ slightly from one another in certain details. For example, a GE EnergyStar top-freezer refrigerator has 21.7 cubic feet capacity and the closest conventional one offers 21.9 cubic feet. In this case, the EnergyStar fridge costs $1329 and uses $41 of electricity per year while the conventional one costs $1029 and uses $48 per year. It would take about 43 years of energy savings to make up for the difference in cost between these two refrigerators. Many consumers might not think that's such a good deal.

In any case, a voluntary energy efficiency testing and labeling program is pretty benign. So why go on about the costs of EnergyStar appliances? The point is to show that by making such appliance standards mandatory, they could result in higher consumer prices—essentially a backdoor energy "tax" on consumers.

Interestingly, the House, unlike the Senate, failed to impose higher mileage standards on automobiles. Why? House Democrats from automobile manufacturing districts had enough clout to derail those proposals. In contrast, the Senate passed energy legislation in June that would require that cars and light trucks to get 35 miles per gallon by 2020, up from 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 22 miles per gallon for SUVs and light trucks today. When the House and Senate return from their summer break, this provision might be included in a joint energy bill. Of course, automakers already offer a number of models that get this kind of mileage, but many members of Congress evidently think that an insufficient number of Americans want to buy them.

Is all this meddling with energy standards and markets really necessary to achieve substantial increases in energy efficiency? Not at all. If Congress actually wants to increase energy efficiency there is a simple, elegant and cost-effective way to how to go about it. Just make energy more expensive. The easiest way to do that is a carbon tax. Such a tax would make fossil fuels which are contributing to man-made global warming more expensive, making low-carbon energy alternatives more relatively attractive.

In fact, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) who heads up the House Energy and Commerce Committee threatened to propose a carbon tax last month. Dingell's proposal is an attempt to call the Democratic leaders bluff on energy policy. He hopes that such a tax will fail. As he told C-Span, "I sincerely doubt that the American people will be willing to pay what this is really going to cost them." The Democrats on Capitol Hill evidently agree with Dingell. So in an attempt to fool the public about their real goal—boosting energy prices—Congressional Democrats cobbled together 786 pages of energy mandates and subsidies.

Requiring utilities to produce 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources will likely boost consumers' energy bills. So will banning incandescent bulbs, imposing appliance standards, subsidizing hybrid automobiles, ethanol production, and so forth. All these mandates add up to the equivalent of an inefficient energy tax.

Assuming that energy conservation is really the policy that our Representatives and Senators believe that our country ought to pursue, it would be far better to tax energy rather than attempt to clumsily micromanage its production and use. Such a tax would encourage consumers to conserve and entrepreneurs to develop new energy efficient technologies, completely obviating any need for a surfeit of mandates and subsidies. But advocating such a tax takes political courage. It turns out that courage conservation is even more popular than energy conservation on Capitol Hill.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  • ||

    Let me see.Our economy runs on energy.Coal plentiful,nuclear,could be pleniful,oil,still a fair amount around,then there's the minors,solar,wind ect.We're not runnig out any time soon.If we raise the cost of energy it will hurt the economy for no good reason.This will leave less resources for ressearch and exploration.If you want less of something tax it heavily.I fear that is what some want.

  • Grotius||

    Michael Pack,

    Natural gas is also quite important.

  • ||

    That's true,I meant to add that.There's quite alot of gas too.I think people call it a crisis because they don't like many of the exporters in the middle east and they want cheap gasoline.Most of our imports come from this hemisphere.They also don't relise folks like the Saudis and Russia can't quit selling.With out constant cash flow from oil and gas they have no economy at all.Try as they might,they can't stop the market.

  • ||

    I believe you mean that E-85 is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, not the other way around.

  • ||

    how can anyone be against greater energy efficiency!? it'll save money and emit fewer greenhouse gasses. you libertarians just want to give more subsidies to oil companies, and we want to give them to clean energy sources.

  • ||

    Naughty moose.

  • SIV||

    outlaws 100-watt incandescent light bulbs after 2012

    Light bulb bans, right here in the USA.

  • ||

    When has goverment taxes brought efficiency?Capital always flows to the most efficient avenue.Goverments have a lousy record of picking winners.The other problem with a carbon tax is it feeds the beast,out of control goverment spending.If you want to see what choices pols make with your money look no further than the bridge in Minn.They spent 300 million on a stadium for a private buisness and let the roads crumble.

  • ||

    Reinmoose: Doh! It's fixed. Thanks.

  • ||

    Michael Pack: You are absolutely correct that the gov't is terrible at picking winners. But given that the Feds will be doing something to address man-made global warming, a carbon tax is a far fairer and more efficient way to go about it than a hodge podge of standards, subsidies and so forth. If emitting CO2 is a significant externality (and I think the evidence supports this) then setting a price through a tax will help internalize the environmental costs of burning fossil fuels. It is very unlikely that the government will set the price (the tax) at precisely the right level to balance the costs and benefits of burning fossil fuels, but that's always going to be a problem in an unprivatized commons like the atmosphere. In any case, once the price of carbon (fossil fuels) is set, let the market pick winners and losers, not politicians.

    For more on carbon taxes see my article here.

  • ||

    Michael Pack: I think the idea of an energy tax is to get enviros to put up or shut up. The idea is that, yes capital flows to the most efficient avenue, and an energy tax would allow that with greater accuracy relative to mandates and subsidies.

    By the way, the free market wouldn't work to expand use of renewables because there are no free markets in electricity. Even the spot and wholesale markets are regulated heavily. Accordingly, even if there was a demand for renewable energy (as opposed to coal/oil, not sure if nuke is in there) there is no market to react to that demand (not saying it exists). Also, renewables generally trade one environmental problem for another. I'm not saying that's bad, but people need to be clear on their priorities. Right now I think people hear "renewables" and think it's a cure-all.

  • ||

    Ron Bailey, you quick postin' sun of a gun.

  • ||

    Ron,you see I still do not buy in to global warming.Plus you must remember how,once a new tax is instituted the rate countinues to rise for other than the stated purpose.Examples are income,phone,tabacco,gas ,S.S. and sales tax.There's always a use for money and giving these people a new revenue stream to tweak when needed can only do harm.If there truly is a problem I trust people making millions of transactions a day to sort this out.
    -

  • Russ 2000||

    The problem with a carbon tax is that it won't reduce consumption by much of anything which means global warming won't be affected at all. But the government will have lots more money to burn.

  • ||

    The problems with the carbon tax are also:

    1) China
    2) India
    3) The IPCC stating that GW is inevitable.

    No one has yet to show what impact a US only emissions reduction will have on GW.

  • ||

    Lamar,the free market fais to expand renewable because they are expensive and unreliable.Power production from the atom is by far the cleanest and cheapest and could cut use of fossil fuels dramaticly.As for a carbon tax we see what has happened in the corn market due to ethanol mandates and subsidies.Food prices rising across the board .Now ad a carbon taxand prices rise in all sectors.I also do not believe a tax will be 'set'.No tax ever is they always irse.

  • Dan||

    Michael, A revenue-neutral carbon tax, such as the one we propose on the Carbon Tax Center web site, will not "feed the beast." Carbon tax revenues will be returned to all Americans through offsetting reductions in other taxes or monthly rebates.

    Russ, A carbon tax will result in significantly reduced carbon emissions, both from reduced energy consumption and substitution of less carbon intensive sources of energy. Please take a look at our analyses on the Carbon Tax Center web site.

    MP, We can't wait for China and India to act. The United States has a disproportionate responsibility for the CO2 that's already in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. We should be both me a model and make every effort to encourage other countries to also adopt carbon taxes, perhaps through border tax adjustments or similar mechanisms. You are correct that global warming is inevitable, but actions we take now will determine how severe climate change will be. If we act promptly, we can mitigate the impacts of climate change and avoid the worst-case scenarios.

  • ||

    The problem with a carbon tax is that it won't reduce consumption by much of anything which means global warming won't be affected at all. But the government will have lots more money to burn.

    Is energy demand really totally inelastic? Besides, the idea is that a carbon tax shifts consumption from high carbon energies to low carbon energies, so even if energy consumption remained the same (unlikely), total CO2 output would be reduced as compared to a no-tax system.

    As far as government revenue is concerned, a carbon tax could be made revenue neutral by reducing income tax. In fact, I seriously doubt that an energy tax would be politically feasible without an accompanying reduction in other taxes.

    Ron's point - I think - and my point is that this is vastly preferable and more efficient than a cap or subsidy system.

  • ||

    Ah, I think Dan's post has made mine obsolete.

  • ||

    Dan,name me one neutral tax congress has passed or one that did not raise due to events.In concept I agree with you ,in practice it will expand past it's purpose much as S.S has.Plus it will go in to the general fund.Thats why gas taxes have no meaning to what is spent on roads.Money is fungible and goes in on pot to be dole out later.

  • ||

    You contradicted yourself, Mr. Pack.

    If captial always - always? - flows to the most efficient source, then how can a carbon tax NOT lead to a change in how capital is spent?

    A carbon tax makes it more economically efficient (on the individual level) to spend your money on the more energy-efficient (or at least the most carbon-efficient) option.

    Of course, on the macro level, the more carbon efficient choice is already the more economically efficient choice, but with the harm of greenhouse gasses being externalized, that hasn't translated to the individual level.

  • ||

    "The free market fails to expand renewable because they are expensive and unreliable."

    And they are expensive and unreliable(?) because they aren't in widespread use. Keep in mind that hydro has been around for awhile, and it very successful in many circumstances, though with environmental tradeoffs. Taken as a whole, I guess, renewables could be seen as unreliable, but there are reliable technologies for some renewables. Ya can't just paint with that broad a brush.

  • x,y||

    By the way, the free market wouldn't work to expand use of renewables because there are no free markets in electricity. Even the spot and wholesale markets are regulated heavily.

    I don't see how the fact that an ares is regulated heavily has any bearing on whether the free market would work. A regulated market is by definition not free.

    But perhaps you meant something else and I'm just not getting it.

  • ||

    If we act promptly, we can mitigate the impacts of climate change and avoid the worst-case scenarios.

    Are there any studies that show what the mitigation potential is? i.e. if we cut X in emissions then we'll mitigate Y?

  • ||

    What about the poor people who are already just getting by? They'll be even less able to afford to heat their houses, or use air conditioning in oppressive heat! If there's a carbon tax, it should be a progressive tax, with no tax charged for those making below $50,000 a year.

  • x,y||

    Ron Bailey -

    You acknowledge that the Feds are going to do something about man-made global warming, so you propose a policy proposal that you consider to be superior to any others. But what makes you think "the Feds" are going to listen to you (or other libertarians) anyway? How many times do we have to be snubbed or ignored before we stop playing a game we can't win. We need to change the rules, not play the game.

  • ||

    "I don't see how the fact that an ares is regulated heavily has any bearing on whether the free market would work."

    That's the point. People who say the "free market" will encourage (or discourage) renewables aren't correct because there are no free markets exist in that industry. No free markets means that supply and demand don't factor into whether renewables become more prevalent.

  • ||

    "We need to change the rules, not play the game."

    We need to create a machine that will one day destroy its creator.....oops, wrong thread.

  • ||

    I didn't contadict myself.A carbon tax would effect everyone at all levels taking the market out of the loop.As for hydro,most places that can be dammed have been.If your talking wind or sun they take massive amount of space and have long down times and large upkeep costs.Power is needed 24-7 not just during the day or when the wind blows.Massive amounts of power can't be stored,it must be produce as needed.As for monthly rebates.You really want a gov. agency set up to send money back?That would cost what$1.30 for every $1.00 returned?Millions looking for a check each month and thinking their being taken care of at no cost?Remember,many are looking to fund health care and don't think they wouldn't dip into a new tax fo the cost.

  • x,y||

    Got it.

    As an aside, it's frustrating to hear people (generally politicians and talking heads) say "free market" when they mean "market." Free markets are a subset of markets, but they are not the same.

  • x,y||

    Regarding changing the rules, not playing the game, I think of it this way:

    What's the difference between (1) holding your nose and voting for the lesser of a douche and turd sandwich, and (2) advocating for a tax because the Feds are going to do something about it, so they might as well adopt my preferred policy.

  • ||

    Michael Pack,

    You don't seem to understand markets taxes or energy very well.

    Just an observation.

    Continue.

  • ||

    A carbon tax would effect everyone at all levels taking the market out of the loop.

    Huh? People stop responding to economic incentives if part of the cost is from taxes? I don't think you're correct.

  • Mike Laursen||

    how can anyone be against greater energy efficiency!?

    Nobody here is against energy efficiency. We're against enforced energy efficiency.

    If there's a carbon tax, it should be a progressive tax

    Guess it depends on whether you care more about helping the poor or about saving the planet. Don't worry. Our Congressional representatives are very smart and honest; they'll figure out how to do both!

  • ||

    And just to interject my pet peeve.

    A properly (read minimally) regulated market beats a totally free market every time. Markets perform best within a stable framework of law and order.

  • ||

    We can't reduce energy consumption by any significant amount, without a significant drop in the standard of living for most people. Less energy = lower standard of living.

    Since most Americans aren't going to willingly vote for a drop to Calcutta style living standards (which is what it would take to stop global warming), and since the enviornmentalists aren't ever going to agree to allow a shift to nuclear power (at least not while Greenpeace continues to be funded by the big oil companies)... it is pointless to fight global warming with a carbon tax.

    If there is an alternative to fossil fuels (such as nuclear power), then it makes sense to tax carbon because there is a non-CO2 emmiting alternative that people can switch to. But right now, since people either must continue to burn fossil fuels or suffer a lower standard of living, it means that a CO2 tax is just another government money grab.

    Socialists are, of course, going to love a CO2 tax, because they imagine all the "good things" the U.S. government will do when it gets the money. And enviornmentalists are too dumb to realize that a tax on something pretty much garantees that the government will fight any alternatives to keep making that money (for example, the Sex Industry in Nevada is lobbying *FOR* a huge prostitution tax - knowing that a huge tax on prostitution will mean that Nevada will expand the legality of prostitution).

  • ||

    Some reading on carbon taxes...

    http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/glotax/carbon/index.htm

    Information on efficiency...market-based solutions to global warming.

    http://www.rmi.org/

  • SIV||

    Taxes should be solely for raising revenue-not coercing behavior.

  • ||

    joe,your right,prices will rise across the board making American products less desirable.Plus what about the almost 2 billion Chinese and Indians?If this is a global problem any action without their input would be futile.

  • ||

    Rex Rhino

    We can't reduce energy consumption by any significant amount, without a significant drop in the standard of living for most people. Less energy = lower standard of living.

    The United States has doubled energy efficiency since 1975.

  • brian||

    Micheal Pack

    When has goverment taxes brought efficiency?Capital always flows to the most efficient avenue.Goverments have a lousy record of picking winners.The other problem with a carbon tax is it feeds the beast,out of control goverment spending


    1) A Pigouvian tax in the presence of an externality increases efficiency.
    2) The carbon tax does not pick winners. It simply prices the carbon externality and creates incentives, leading the market, not government, to find the winners.
    3) The law can be written such that the revenue from the tax is directly and permanently linked to a reduction in other taxes. Done this way, it would not only price carbon, but it would also enhance labor market efficiency by cutting distortionary taxes.

    Replacing distortionary taxes with a Pigouvian tax that corrects a distortion is a good thing. That is, unless you like distortions in the market (*snark*).

  • brian||

    Michael Pack |
    joe,your right,prices will rise across the board making American products less desirable.Plus what about the almost 2 billion Chinese and Indians?If this is a global problem any action without their input would be futile.


    True, but I'm willing to bet that China and India won't get on board unless the U.S. does. Their argument is the same--if the U.S. doesn't do it, why should we? But if we do it, then their argument loses any firm footing.

  • ||

    Nobody here is against energy efficiency. We're against enforced energy efficiency.



    Well, I think the biggest problem we have is that the government is simultaniously trying to enforce energy efficiency, and at the same time legislating AGAINST energy efficiency.

    For example, the government has pretty much made nuclear power on any significant scale illegal. The government has pretty much legislated tiny fuel efficient cars (such as this: http://www.theaircar.com/ )off the road with auto safety regulations. There are very few urban places where it is legal to attach a wing turbine or solar panels to your home. The government has discouraged mass transit by only allowing government monopolies to run mass transit.

    People don't understand that there is a trade off to energy efficency (more energy efficienct cars mean that maybe you can't build cars like tanks... cheaper mass transit means that mass transit must be competitive, not a dole for transit union workers)... So the government is trying to have its cake and eat it too... it is doing everything it can to encourage energy efficency, and doing everything it can to discourage energy efficency.

  • ||

    Rex Rhino,

    People don't understand that there is a trade off to energy efficency

    That trade of being...?

  • ||

    Damned fingers...

    That trade OFF being?

    Let me guess... more work for less fuel?

  • ||

    Energized Democrat: In my article on a carbon tax I noted one suggestion on how to handle the regressive nature of carbon taxes:

    The CBO calculated the income effects of a 15 percent cut in carbon emissions: the average household in the lowest one-fifth of income earners would pay about $560 per year more and households in the highest quintile would pay $1,800 per year; however, $560 represents 3.3 percent of the average income of households in the lowest fifth, while $1,800 is just 1.7 percent of income for households in the top fifth.

    If the federal government were to return all of the net auction revenues (equivalent to a tax in this case) as an equal lump sum rebate to every household, it would more than fully offset the burden that increased prices would impose on the lower two income quintiles. Their household incomes would rise by $310 and $140 respectively. However, none of the cap-and-trade proposals on Capitol Hill incorporate this kind of comprehensive compensation. Instead, any auction revenues would be dispensed by Congress in the form of R&D energy subsidies.

  • ||

    A carbon tax would effect everyone at all levels taking the market out of the loop.

    Your statement assumes that right now everyone in the USA is already conserving as much as possible (i.e. that the energy market is totally inelactic). That's not even close to accurate.

  • ||

    Brian,name me one tax congress has passed that stayed true to it's purpose.Any law passed by congress can be changed by same.Your conceps are good but will fail when implimented.Every tax on the book was set in law but changed with circumstances.Look at S.S.,,an example of good intent gone bad,and don't say we just need the right people.

  • ||

    At the risk of being tedious, I pointed out in my article on carbon taxes that enforcing them internationally is much simpler. One way to bring China and India on board might be to set a sliding scale of taxes tied to average per capita income growth in those countries. One might start imposing a low carbon tax at $10,000 per year and converging on the higher levels as incomes increase over the decades. In any case, carbon taxes would be far more transparent and easily administered across nations than a global cap and trade system.

  • ||

    "Rexus Rhinocerous| August 7, 1237, 11:16am | #

    We can't reduce acreage under cultivation by any significant amount, without a significant drop in the standard of living for most people. Less acreage under cultivation = lower standard of living.

    Since most Europeans aren't going to willingly vote for a drop to Calcutta style living standards...

    The difference being, our economic growth is much less tied to energy consumption in 2007 than Europe's economy was tied to tillable acres in 1237.

  • ||

    Carbon taxes would be somewhat regressive.

    On the other hand, as several millenia of human history demonstrate, the costs imposed by environmental damage are extremely regressive as well.

    It sure is easy to make a tax look bad if you only look at half the ledger.

  • ||

    Ron,first of all,who are we to decide tax rates in another country and what goverment agency would send out these rebate checks?

  • ||

    For those of you with access to Science

    Science 3 November 2006:
    Vol. 314. no. 5800, pp. 764 - 765
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1131558

    Policy Forum
    CLIMATE CHANGE:
    An Ambitious, Centrist Approach to Global Warming Legislation
    David D. Doniger Antonia V. Herzog, Daniel A. Lashof*

    A long-term declining cap on emissions, cost control, and strategic use of emission allowances to promote new technology would better curb global warming than current legislative proposals.

  • ||

    Michael Pack,

    Every tax on the book was set in law but changed with circumstances.

    You say that like it is a bad thing.
    The ability to react to a dynamic situation is a strength in our system, not a problem.

  • ||

    http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5660.html

    Harvard business school...

  • brian||

    Michael Pack

    I'm a libertarian to the extent that I am a utilitarian--I believe in policies that will achieve the most good. For the most part, that means both Capitalism and Freedom (also the title of a book by my favorite utilitarian libertarian).

    The reason I am a utilitarian libertarian is because I find the philosophical arguments for libertarianism lacking. Either they apply everywhere or they apply nowhere. The reason I'm saying this is because I find the argument about "government failure" to be a consistency problem for anyone who is not an anarhco-capitalist.

    If we shouldn't pass a carbon tax because of the potential for government failure, why should we pass any law? Shouldn't we repeal all laws because the government is doomed to enforce them badly and inefficiently? This argument necessarily leads to the conclusion that we should repeal all laws, including those prohibiting murder and those protecting property rights.

    There are two responses to what I just said. The first is agreement from anarcho-capitalists. While I applaud their consistency, I would not want to live in their world for a variety of reasons.
    The second response is that we must concede some rights to the government for the greater good, allowing the state to enforce property rights and the like, for even if government is inefficient, it is better to have it (at least in certain areas) than not to provide a widely valued service, such as police. This is the argument I favor, and I believe the commons problem falls under the realm of its proper powers (as did Milton Friedman I might add).

    Here's my philosophical view on the problem: the foundation of the capitalist system, the enclosure movement, started because of the problem of the commons. People shared a common resource, the land, and therefore had no personal incentive to take care of it. They didn't have to pay to use it. In other words, it wasn't priced. By privatizing and enclosing the land, people finally had a private incentive to take care of their newfound property, and that led to the widespread creation of wealth via capitalism.

    The problem of pollution is similar. We have a shared resource--the atmosphere--that we have no private incentive to keep clean. But if, like we did with land, we privatize it, we can give individuals a private incentive to keep it clean (or sell it if they choose). This is what a cap-and-trade system accomplishes. Finally, theoretically a carbon tax is actually economically equivalent to a cap-and-trade system, although in practice they each have pros and cons.

    This is a long post, but basically what I'm trying to say is this: you can't dump your waste on my lawn or in my window, so why can you dump your gaseous waste there?

  • ||

    On the other hand, as several millenia of human history demonstrate, the costs imposed by environmental damage are extremely regressive as well.

    I thought only rich people owned oceanfront property.

    Unless, of course, you're in Bangladesh.

  • ||

    Yes I see taht as a problem.When the IRS can not answer a tax question becasue of the sheer volume of law and it costs billons for average people to be in compliance that's a problem.When we have gas taxes to pay for roads yet there's no accounting for the money that's a problem.A carbon tax will disapear into a all ready massive federal budget.

  • brian||

    The short version of my previous post: I think the atmosphere should be privatized. That would solve the problem.

  • SIV||

    neu mejican,

    Let me guess... more work for less fuel?


    Try the refrigerator in Bailey's original post. The New York Times reported that energy efficency mandates for washing machines result in dirtier clothes-unless you spend $1000+ for a luxury model.
    CAFE standards for autos will result in some combination of less power, less safety, and aesthetically less appealing designs.

  • ||

    Michael Pack,

    When the IRS can not answer a tax question becasue of the sheer volume of law and it costs billons for average people to be in compliance that's a problem.

    Good thing the congress has the power (if not the will) to change that situation. Let's, just for fun, say that the congress listened to Al Gore on this issue. He is proposing that a carbon tax replace labor and income taxes. This would solve your problem with a complex tax regime and address the issue of carbon in the atmosphere.

    I would even go as far as a proposing that some variation of the Fair Tax plan coupled with a tax on material throughput would be easier to manage than the current system. Would be more fair, and would be more likely to allow the market to find efficient energy/production solutions.

    The ability of congress to change the laws that currently exist allows for the possibility that this change could occur. If you can come up with a proposal for how to run an organization with rules that never change and can't be changed to meet the needs of the current situation, then I will listen to how this feature of our government is more of a problem than a positive feature.

  • ||

    SIV,

    CAFE standards for autos will result in some combination of less power, less safety, and aesthetically less appealing designs.

    Like how those Japanese government imposed efficiency standards have resulted in Toyota/Honda having less powerful, less safe, less aesthetically appealing designs.

    Check.

  • ||

    MP-Can I ask why you don't "buy in" to man influenced global warming? It seems like the major consensus of peer reviewed articles as well as the measured proclamations on the subject from professional groups of experts whose expertise bears on the subject points is pretty clear on the subject. Do you think all those articles and all those proclamations are just a massive hoax? The work of a gaia entranced zealotic cabal? Most Phd.s in science are pretty political disinterested folks who dedicate themselves to getting to know the science behind something, and there are big rewards given for anyone who can crack a consensus. Also, the peer and blind reviewed nature of most the articles on the subject provide a great deal of protection from such scenarios.
    Certainly you have some experts on the other side, but certainly no more than there Phd economists who call for socialism.
    For my part I think I'm a highly educated person, but this is certainly not my field of study. And, like with plumbing or medecine, where I'm also not studied up on the subject, I tend to defer to the experts (and that means the consensus of the experts). What other experts are pulling the wool over all our eyes (economists on the minimum wage? biologists on evolution?) and how do you personally figure out which group of experts are telling the truth and which are not?

  • Ron Paris||

    Ron Bailey: Your article and the position expressed in it represents a disturbing trend these days in the Libertarian movement. That is, with the threat of global warming and it's possible consequences, we Libertarians should abandon our long-held pricipals regarding taxation as theft and join the masses looking for the government (which was complicit in many ways in creating the problem) to somehow save us through yet another social engineering redistribution of income. I've watched your progression from being a GW sceptic to totally caving in to Al Gore and his minions. While I agree that we must keep an open mind on these issues, your total capitulation has been disturbing, to say the least.

  • ||

    I'm just not sold.There are many int he field thet do not agree with there peers.Science is not based on concesus but fact.I remind you inthe 1970's it was cooling that was the danger.For years mst doctors thouth ulsurs were cause by stress.Now their treated by antibiotic and this is a fairly recent discovery.It seems to me if we had this much difficulty with a common aliment how can we conclusivly make blanket stament about something as complicated as the climate?I've seen to many Alar and breast implant scares not to take imformation with a grain of salt.

  • SIV||


    Like how those Japanese government imposed efficiency standards have resulted in Toyota/Honda having less powerful, less safe, less aesthetically appealing designs.


    How familiar are you with the JDM?
    They aren't driving the same cars they make for us.

    The microcar category has weathered the sales slump well, partially because the Japanese government gives minivehicles tax incentives, and partially because Japanese consumers don't mind driving cars slightly larger than American lawnmowers.


    Check?

  • ||

    Point taken. It does seem like experts get it wrong sometimes, and you are right to think that if we follow the experts here it may mean great and not all comfortable changes for us all. However, I think experts are more often right than wrong. I mean, for all their mistakes, I'd rather see a MD than a witch doctor, or have my governments take the advice of a professional scientific organization over an ideological think tank. I think the majority of us are going to have to go with the experts and take global warming as a given. Now the debate is about how to most effectively fight it, and hopefully to choose among any effective alternatives for the ones which preserve liberty and propsperity for the most...

  • SIV||

    Taxes of some sort are necessary to raise revenue for a State to function. Using tax "policy" to wield power and coerce behavior is another thing altogether. Every time this carbon tax crap comes up I have to rub my eyes and check the address bar.

  • ||

    Siv,

    The car pictured in your woefully short and fact free article is a Honda Fit. Yes, Honda Fits are sold in the U.S. I own and drive one. It's not a muscle car, but it's fine for people not looking to waste tons of money on their vehicles.

  • ||

    Ron Paris: Trust me when I say that I very reluctantly (far too reluctantly for many) came to accept that the balance of scientific evidence indicates that man-made global warming is likely to be a significant problem. All that was explained in my column, "The Confessions of an Alleged ExxonMobil Whore."

    Global warming is a classic commons problem. In general, the libertarian solution (and correct solution) to a commons problem is to privatize the commons so that owners internalize both the benefits and, especially, costs of using a resource. It is my judgment that transactions costs make trying to privatize the atmosphere impractical. So if you can't privatize a commons, the only other way to internalize externalities is through regulation. In this case, I believe that a carbon tax is the least damaging way to do this.

    Finally, changing my mind on global warming has gained me no friends on either side of this issue. Skeptics think I've betrayed them and greens doubt my sincerity. Sigh.

  • ||

    Remember,the greatest scientists have proved the experts[and concensus]wrong.The one thing we know for sure is the climate has change for billions of years sometimes very quickly.Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstien due to the year with out a summer during the little iceage

  • ||

    SIV,

    See the HBS link above.

  • ||

    Why is changing one's mind about a scientific issued viewed as "capitulation"?

    I'll never understand the my team v. your team attitude that so many people hold on this issue.

  • ||

    "Remember,the greatest scientists have proved the experts[and concensus]wrong."

    Oh, praised be to Allah, I didn't realize you had the greatest scientists supporting your ideas.

  • ||

    I'm o.k. with a carbon tax, as long as it is instituted via a Constitutional Amendment which also gets rid of, or greatly reduces, FICA taxes. The amendment could state that tax rates could only be raised above the limits outlined in the amendment via a 75% majority in each house, and with the signature of the President. When's the last time a tax increase received the support of 75 Senators?

  • ||

    The relavant quote

    And should business be playing a larger or different role in the debate? For example, should the Big Three argue for much higher mileage goals, however difficult they may seem at the moment to meet? After all, Toyota may owe the Japanese government a debt for holding it to stricter mileage standards than the U.S.

    Not saying that one way to efficiency isn't reducing size/power... it just isn't the only way. And creative companies will come up with designs that are safe, powerful, and aesthetically pleasing when challenged. The Prius was designed to meet Japanese standards. It sells well in the US. No?

    Would it have been designed as early without the nudge from government regulation? Hard to say. I would guess no.

  • ||

    Michael Pack,

    The one thing we know for sure is the climate has change for billions of years sometimes very quickly.

    ...and those changes are the most likely cause of the many mass extinctions in our planets history. Given the consequences of very quick climate change on the living conditions of our planet, it would be considered prudent not to exacerbate the problem.

  • SIV||

    Chris,

    Sorry for the half-ass link. The Fit is a relatively big car in Japan. Japanese domestic market automobiles are about half mini-cars.
    These are not sold over here and do not meet US safety standards.Even if they were available Americans wouldn't buy them as they are too small and underpowered for what we use our cars for.
    example

  • Ron Paris||

    Ron Bailey: I understand your frustration and, to a point, your reasoning. I guess I'm still looking/hoping for a free market solution to whatever predicament we are in here. Throwing in with the "let's just impose a new tax and fine-tune the market" crowd goes against everything I've come to believe over the past 30 years!

  • brian||

    SIV

    Taxes of some sort are necessary to raise revenue for a State to function. Using tax "policy" to wield power and coerce behavior is another thing altogether. Every time this carbon tax crap comes up I have to rub my eyes and check the address bar.


    So is it better to use distortionary taxes that discourage work than to use a carbon tax that discourages pollution?

    As you say, taxes are necessary. So why don't we use them in a way that does the least damage? That way would be a (Pigouvian) carbon tax.

  • brian||

    Ron Paris

    Ron Bailey: I understand your frustration and, to a point, your reasoning. I guess I'm still looking/hoping for a free market solution to whatever predicament we are in here. Throwing in with the "let's just impose a new tax and fine-tune the market" crowd goes against everything I've come to believe over the past 30 years!


    Cap and trade is a free market solution. It simply privatizes the atmosphere and lets the market work.

  • brian||

    anyone seen an [/i]?

  • ||

    "Remember,the greatest scientists have proved the experts[and concensus]wrong."
    Well, by definition scientists that have revolutionary discoveries or findings will go against the field. Of course for every scientists that is right while the consensus of scientists is wrong I imagine there are many more on the other side of that equation. And also this: how do you know that global warming is not the revolutionary discovery of which you speak? I mean, as you admit, it was certainly not always the consensus.
    I guess my difficulty with a position like yours (or someone who says "I know most experts think evolution occurred or that free trade is good for an economy, etc, but I just don't buy it") is, do you discount all experts on everything? I'm betting you don't discount the consensus of economists on issues like free trade or the minimum wage. Not being an expert in economics or atmospheric science (or whatever), how can someone discern which experts at any given time are wrong and which are right? Does it worry you if you find that the experts whom you find to be wrong are those who have "found" facts troublesome for your ideological outlook and the ones you defer to have found facts that support it?

  • TrappedEastOfTheBigMuddy||

    Neu Mejican:


    Rex Rhino,


    People don't understand that there is a trade off to energy efficency


    That trade of being...?



    Well, I won't speak for Mr. Rhino, but in naive implementations you can trade reserve capacity or engine lifetime for increased efficiency. Whether this is worthwhile or not depends on the application.

    If we're talking about cars in particular, you can work hard at reducing mass, but you risk sacrificing collision saftey.

    'Course, more sophisitcated approaches may overcome those costs. Then you need one or more of better engineering, more sophisticated materials, more demanding manufacturing requirements, and so on ad nauseum.

    Looking around at the products availible during my lifetime, I conclude that you often end up paying more, but always get more for you dollar.

  • ||

    MP-Can I ask why you don't "buy in" to man influenced global warming?

    I'm not sure what gave you the impression that I didn't "buy in". What I said was that there's no research that shows how much X (carbon emissions) you need to cut to mitigate Y (whatever Y is). If we stop all CO2 production, what does that mitigate? If we stop half? 1/3rd? All US production? 1/2 US?

    What's being proposed is that we cut production so that things will be "better". But we've also heard from the IPCC that the current situation is irreversible. And what we don't know is how much worse the situation will get with additional CO2, because frankly we're unsure what the true consequences are of the state we're currently in.

    It doesn't make sense to impose inordinate costs on a populace when there's no reasonably accurate sense of what those benefits are.

  • ||

    I've been selfemployed all my life.I understand economics.I'm a soft sekptic on GW but as someone who writes he's own tax checks and pays for healthcare and retirment himself I have a problem with more gov. tax power.The amount of taxes and fees just to run a barber shop would suprise most people.

  • ||

    Michael, A revenue-neutral carbon tax, such as the one we propose on the Carbon Tax Center web site,

    Its touching to see someone involved in a public policy debate who is so naive.

    Show of hands, everyone who believes the Democratic Congress will pass a carbon tax that is paired with a big ol' income tax cut.

  • ||

    Cap and trade is a free market solution. It simply privatizes the atmosphere and lets the market work.

    It is not a free market solution, because it is grounded on arbitrary and artificial government diktats and licenses.

  • ||

    Given the consequences of very quick climate change on the living conditions of our planet, it would be considered prudent not to exacerbate the problem.

    Given the long history of climate change before man even existed, much less industrialized, it would be worse than foolish to assume that only man can cause climate change.

  • SIV||

    So is it better to use distortionary taxes that discourage work than to use a carbon tax that discourages pollution?


    Why do you ask? I'm advocating neither.
    Carbon dioxide is a natural part of our atmosphere not a pollutant.

  • ||

    CAFE standards for autos will result in some combination of less power, less safety, and aesthetically less appealing designs.

    Not to mention, if we ban leaded gasoline, there will be no automobile manufacturing industry in the United States by 1975.

    God, I love that quote.

  • ||

    Michael Pack,

    I've been selfemployed all my life.I understand economics.

    Hah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaa! Why would you think that doing billing for your one-man business gives you special insight into economics. I've been telling time all my life, but I don't claim to know how watches work.

    I'm a soft sekptic on GW but as someone who writes he's own tax checks and pays for healthcare and retirment himself I have a problem with more gov. tax power.

    You shouldn't allow your policy preferences and ideological beliefs to interfere with your understanding of science. The Soviets tried that with genetics - one gene cannot be dominant and another recessive, you see, because such heirarchy is a human construct, not nature - and it set them back decades.

  • Russ 2000||

    Ron, I can accept flip-flopping on global warming when given more facts. What I can't accept is flip-flopping on the purpose of taxation, especially when given more facts!

    Man-made global warming is the wrong term - it should be government-made global warming. Once you look at in in those terms, your approach to the subject will be much more "reason"able that some "let's give the government even more power" scheme.

  • russell||

    Ron should do the math before deploying such examples as his '6000 BTU air conditioner"

    At a dime a kilowatt hour his 5 amp gadget would only be running 34 days a year to produce a '$41' power bill. In sweaty DC, the break-even on the efficiency/ capital cost differential would likelier come in Year One than 5.

  • ||

    "MP-Can I ask why you don't "buy in" to man influenced global warming?

    I'm not sure what gave you the impression that I didn't "buy in"."

    Maybe it was your comment at 9:40 that began:
    "Ron,you see I still do not buy in to global warming."

  • Russ 2000||

    God, I love that quote.

    Well, it may have been premature, but import quotas had something to do with it.

    Not to mention the ban on leaded gasoline pretty much required catalytic converters which reduced smog and created more greenhouse gases.

  • SIV||

    Hello Kitty might find this car to be aesthetically pleasing transportation but it is no substitute for a 1/2 ton pickup truck.

    Interestingly, these cars are sometimes hot rodded by swapping in a larger motorcycle engine.

  • ||

    SIV,

    Well, the left has a decade-long head start on formulating policy for dealing with global warming, so it's not surprising that leftish ideas dominate the discussion. conservatives and libertarians have spent the last ten or more years dedicating their energy to global warming denial instead of coming up with solutions.

  • ||

    So the only way to solve this problem is a goverment tax scheme?I don't buy it.I do not trust them with more money.

  • ||

    Mistah Niceguy,

    MP is not Michael Pack.

    Michael, if you've got a better way to capture global warming externalities, feel free to shout it out.

  • ||

    I think joe won the thread with that last one. Saying that since you work you understand economics is like saying that the horse that won the Kentucky Derby could tell you all about animal physiology...
    MP, if I found myself agreeing a lot with disinterested experts whose findings agreed with my ideological leanings and disagreeing a lot with disinterested experts whose findings disagreed with my ideological leanings, then I would be worried. That or I'd go work at National Review or something.
    The sad thing is that it is hardly "unlibertarian" to accept global warming as a reality. Or to accept that it is man made and something we might want to do something about. I can see the concern that this could be one of many concerns that are used to enlarge government. But the empirical issues simply need not cause any conflict for one's ideology, whatever it is. I really think those who think there is such a conflict are confusing libertarian philosophy as a philosophy with the crap that some libertarian think tanks and publications put out that conflate libertarianism with the vested interests that underwrite those orgs. Given GW is something real and something we should address, the libertarians role, I should think, is to just ask the question: "is this something we are doing the best option for addressing the problem AND protecting as much liberty as possible?" It's not our job to pretend the issue isn't real for the sake of libertarianism...

  • ||

    Oh, thanks joe. Sorry to conflate MP and Michael Pack. It's pack I'm addressing.

  • ||

    SIV,

    If you are going to be pedantic be correct.

    Carbon dioxide is a natural part of our atmosphere not a pollutant.

    Being natural and being a pollutant are not mutually exclusive categories. Mercury or lead (or _____fill in your favorite natural substance) are naturally occurring constituents in ground water, therefore they are not pollutants?

  • ||

    RC Dean,

    Given the long history of climate change before man even existed, much less industrialized, it would be worse than foolish to assume that only man can cause climate change.

    Who is assuming that?

    Does the fact that other factors can lead to global warming somehow mean that our activities can't?

    What is your point?

  • ||

    Oh, thanks joe. Sorry to conflate MP and Michael Pack. It's pack I'm addressing.

    Michael confusion is a fact of my life. I'm a Michael. My step-brother is Michael. My brother-in-law is Michael. My cousin-in-law is Michael. Of the six men in my frosh English class, four were Michael.

    It's like there was some sort of mass hypnosis in the early 70's..."You will name your child Michael".

  • ||

    joe,Actually,the shop I first owned for 15 years had 8 barbers,12 beautians,and 2 desk clerks.My yearly pay roll was 350,000.I sold out and left because I was tired of working 65 hours a week and meeting payroll and dealing with the mall.I took care of my mall lease and most of my accounting except tax returns.I think I kanow a thing or two.I found it more importat to spend time with my wife than at work.

  • ||

    Rus2000,

    Man-made global warming is the wrong term - it should be government-made global warming. Once you look at in in those terms, your approach to the subject will be much more "reason"able that some "let's give the government even more power" scheme.

    Wow. Do you really see the all powerful hand of government behind the industrial revolution...government is the source of all negative consequences of economic activity on the environment?

    A question, in the US how much does government activity determine the success/failure of the economy. Are you attributing the majority of the variance in outcome to government policy? Really?

  • ||

    russell: I'm just reporting what the government approved labels say. Label ($41 per year) for Energystar air conditioner I mentioned here. Label ($46 per year) for non-EnergyStar label air conditioner here.

  • SIV||

    neu mejican,

    Not pollutants at the levels at which they occur in potable drinking water.Even the most alarmist environmentalists don't claim our air is unsafe to breath because of the level of carbon dioxide.
    Levels have been much higher in the past with no human contribution.

  • ||

    OK, Michael Pack. Whatever.

    Was one of your hairdressers an economist?

  • ||

    russell et al: I apologize--I got busy linking to stuff and mislinked the first air conditioner label to my ExxonMobil Whore article. Too fast typing not enough checking.

    In any case, the EnergyStar air conditioner label ($41 per year) is here.

    The ($46 per year) non-Energystar label here. Like I said, I'm just reporting what the government says about these two air conditioners.

  • ||

    M Pack-as Mr. Nice Guy of the H&R blog I feel it my duty to advise you to stop digging that hole you're standing in...This is in no way to disparage your knowledge, just saying economics and business administration are two different subjects for a reason. Running a business is a valued and difficult task, but an economist it does not make one.

  • ||

    no joe I read a lot,always have.I be all for a carbon tax if they overhauled the entire tax code.Adding more layers to what we have now dosen't make sense to me.

  • ||

    I'm not digging,I just want to know whose going to collect it and how we can control it.

  • SIV||

    Well the US Government won't let you buy these energy efficient automobiles that allow the Japanese to reduce their carbon footprint. The NHTSA hates GAIA.

  • ||

    SIV has a point there. American auto safety regs are insane, and often counterproductive. For one thing, they only look at the safety of passengers, as if the damage vehicles do to the people and cars they hit aren't a safety issue.

    And road standards - they make big, straight roads so it will be safer for people to drive 30 mph on them, which only encouraged people to drive 50 mph.

  • ||

    SIV,

    Not pollutants at the levels at which they occur in potable drinking water.Even the most alarmist environmentalists don't claim our air is unsafe to breath because of the level of carbon dioxide.
    Levels have been much higher in the past with no human contribution.


    Are you going for the non-sequitor of the thread award?

    An air pollutant is not a pollutant only because of its impact on breathing... other types of harm can be used to determine that something is a pollutant. Think of litter. Litter does not need to make a stretch of land uninhabitable to be considered pollution.

    Whether or not a particular level of a substance occurs naturally does not make the results of a human activity at that same level "not pollution." The human element matters in the determination.

  • ||

    Michael Pack,

    Well, that would be nice, but we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    I'd like to see a carbon tax and a FICA repeal in the same bill, like Al Gore suggests.

  • Mike Laursen||

    The law can be written such that the revenue from the tax is directly and permanently linked to a reduction in other taxes.

    Wouldn't doing so make the government highly dependent on the carbon tax as its source of income, creating a motivation not to cut carbon emissions too much.

  • ||

    SIV

    I agree that government regulations have gotten in the way of adopting better transportation (and building) practices. Look at the difficulties and pricing involved in electric cars. Good technologies are available, but safety regulations have kept then in the $90-100,000 dollar range. Loosening those regulations to allow for innovation is a good idea.

  • ||

    Maybe we can turn it over to Homeland Security.They done so well protecting us.

  • ||

    SIV,

    So given that targets (like safety) can lead to negative consequences...do you agree that a tax that internalizes the externalities of interest be preferred?

    Or is there some balance between the two that can optimize performance? If not why not?

    (yeah, yeah, no regulation or taxes...yadda yadda...)

  • ||

    Wouldn't doing so make the government highly dependent on the carbon tax as its source of income, creating a motivation not to cut carbon emissions too much.

    The government doesn't operate like a private profit-seeking entity. If revenues from carbon taxes fall too far at some point in the future, they government can just create another revenue stream by fiat, so the motivation to keep carbon usage up in order to collect taxes on it doesn't really exist.

  • SIV||

    (yeah, yeah, Individuals making free choices...yadda yadda...)

  • ||

    And I'm less free if the government collects $4000 per annum in carbon taxes from me, than if they collect $4000 per annum in FICA taxes, how, exactly?

    Actually, I'm quite a bit more free, because I can reduce my carbon usage, and thus taxes, with much less harm than my income.

  • Mike Laursen||

    OK, joe, I'll just have to accept that you think it would be easier for our legislators to pass a new tax than to maintain a status quo source of income. We simply disagree in our perception of the government's track record.

    I remember that you said the other day that you think our representative form of government quickly responds to the will of the people. I see a history of great inertial resistance to change.

  • SIV||

    SIV has a point there. American auto safety regs are insane, and often counterproductive.

    joe, you should have stopped right there.

  • ||

    SIV,

    I am sorry.

    I thought maybe you could get past the bumper-sticker level of discussion.

    Given that there will be government policies related to transportation and energy, I thought maybe a discussion what those policies might look like would include, I don't know, some discussion of what those policies should look like.

  • ||

    Michael Pack wrote:
    "I'm just not sold.There are many int he field thet do not agree with there peers.Science is not based on concesus but fact.I remind you inthe 1970's it was cooling that was the danger."

    I shall point out then that this 'danger' was the product of the media, not the scientific establishment. Basically they (NewsWeek, Nat Geo., et al) misquoted/took-out-of-context the only two(2) peer reviewed articles which might support the notion of Immenant Ice Age™, and made a big scare. This time around, the notion of human influenced global climate change has the support of hundreds of In-Context and Not-Misquoted Peer Reviewed science articles.
    Source: http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/

    And the only reason the notion of 'Consensus' keeps coming up (like breakfast from Denny's from last week) is that Rightwingers™ claimed loudly in the early 90'as that there was no consensus...and they kept bringing it up. [blegh]

  • ||

    At a dime a kilowatt hour his 5 amp gadget would only be running 34 days a year to produce a '$41' power bill. In sweaty DC, the break-even on the efficiency/ capital cost differential would likelier come in Year One than 5.

    A/C units don't draw 5 amps the entire time their on. That's only when the compressor kicks in which depends on the thermostat setting and the ambient temp (e.g. it will kick in less often at night). Factor that in with the fact that most areas of the nation would need A/C for only 3 months of the year and $41/$46 is probably pretty close.

  • Russ 2000||

    Neu Mejican,

    Do you really see the all powerful hand of government behind the industrial revolution...government is the source of all negative consequences of economic activity on the environment?

    Wow. Did you really read what I wrote or are you having an argument with the crazy libertarian in your head again?

  • SIV||

    Given that there will be government policies related to transportation and energy, I thought maybe a discussion what those policies might look like would include, I don't know, some discussion of what those policies should look like.

    This is a libertarian blog's comments so you can assume I don't think the Federal Government should be regulating vehicle fuel economy and safety standards at all.I'm such a raving anarchist I don't think they should have the power to regulate how much water my shower head flows or how many gallons my toilet uses per flush

  • ||

    Russ2000,

    No actually, I was reacting to the phrase "government made global warming" but maybe I misunderstood your point. It seemed to imply that all the negative impacts of industry can be blamed on the government. That is why my comment was couched in terms of a question, fwiw.

    SIV,

    I was, actually, interested in a discussion about why you think your view will result in better outcomes and what hedges you would make to your position given that some policy will be implemented. In other words, if you are a libertarian, I would assume that policies that move towards your ideal would be preferred to those that move away from it.

    Like I said. If you don't want to move beyond bumper stickers, that is your choice.

  • SIV||

    Why I bother....here goes......
    As safety and mileage are things a consumer would take into account an auto manufacturer probably should voluntarily choose to have these quantified by some outside independent trusted group in order to offer this information to the potential buyer who may choose to use this information in determining which vehicle to purchase.States(the 1 of 50 kind) should set some standard of mechanical safety(lights, no leaking fluids etc) in relation to other users of the road for motor vehicles operating on their highways.

    No I won't debate how many fluid ounces of water the Feds should allow a toilet to use per flush.

  • ||

    SIV, '

    States(the 1 of 50 kind) should set some standard of mechanical safety(lights, no leaking fluids etc) in relation to other users of the road for motor vehicles operating on their highways.

    So you would move highway safety to the state level. Okay. I am not sure this would reduce the number of barriers on innovation compared to the current federal regime. My guess is that the industry would prefer the uniform standard set at the national level as it would be easier and cheaper to maintain compliance.

    Would there be the right kind of competition between states for innovation encouraging regulatory regimes? I am not sure.

  • ||

    Ron Bailey,
    I am late to the party here, but I believe that the gov't has limits on the electrical use of appliances. So your $48 fridge may be at the max, withe the Energy star one even more efficient. Pres. Clinton turned the screws so hard on GE et al that they screamed, but still they met the goals. Not that it is efficient, but it does allow economies of scale on the $48 fridges, etc.

  • Mark Bahner||

    Hi Ron:

    You write, "You are absolutely correct that the gov't is terrible at picking winners. But given that the Feds will be doing something to address man-made global warming, a carbon tax is a far fairer and more efficient way to go about it than a hodge podge of standards, subsidies and so forth."

    I think I could solve the world's energy problems with $10 billion.

    I'd give technology prizes that total $10 billion (IF the prize goals can be achieved) to three technologies:

    1) Non-tokamak fusion,

    2) Photovoltaics, and

    3) Methane hydrates.

    $10 billion to solve the world's energy problems

    Why hydrogen-boron fusion is the ultimate solution to the world's energy problems

  • ||

    Hi Mark: I completely agree with you about establishing huge government prizes to encourage the develop of advanced technologies. Setting the exact specifications will need to be done carefully of course. The best part, the money doesn't have to be paid (nor taxed) until the winner turns over the technology.

    BTW, did you know that canning was invented in 1795 by a French guy who wanted to get a 12,000 franc prize offered by Napoleon? See info here.

  • Mark Bahner||

    "I completely agree with you about establishing huge government prizes to encourage the develop of advanced technologies. Setting the exact specifications will need to be done carefully of course."

    Yes, I don't know much about fusion, but I see the setting of fusion prizes as being relatively straightforward as compared to, for example, prizes for photovoltaics.

    The way I see it, if fusion can exceed breakeven in a device that costs less than a couple million dollars, so much venture capital will pour in, that there won't be any need for future prizes.

    Are you aware of the research in Chile to create "nanofusion" devices, via dense plasma focus fusion?

    12 Joule fusion device

    This, to me, is incredibly important work. It seems to me that the proper way to bring fusion to commercialization is to develop devices that are of such low capital cost that any decent university can afford one or more of them.

    The prizes would then just be higher and higher amounts of money for closer and closer to breakeven.

    It is remarkable to me how *non-tokamak* fusion is off of the radar screen of virtually every organization in the U.S. and around the world discussing long range energy and global warming policies.

    Small fusion devices are really the ultimate energy answer: essentially non-polluting (including GHGs), no lack of fuel, incredibly high energy density, can be placed anywhere, and reasonable capital cost.

    Did anyone point that out at the World Future Society meeting? My guess is "probably not." That's part of why I dropped out of the World Future Society...in terms of predicting future environmental and energy trends, they seemed to be amateurs. As you noted, they seemed stuck on future environmental and energy doom.

  • Mark Bahner||

    Oh, one last thing before bed:

    All talk of manned missions to Mars without fusion are pretty much doomed to failure. Without fusion, there's no chance for any significant human habitation of Mars. Conversely, with fusion, even terraforming of Mars becomes a possibility.

    It's amazing to me that there is no push at all at NASA (that I'm aware of) to develop fusion, either to power rockets or to power outposts outside of the earth.

  • Mark Bahner||

    Oops. A typo. That Chilean device is 125 Joules, not 12 Joules. Either way, that's a very small, transportable, and relatively low-cost device. That's where the energy revolution will start.

    Just remember Hit and Run readers, you read it here first.

    ;-)

  • ||

    Energy is the input which allows other natural resources to be converted to our purposes. As you know, energy is available in alternatives (substitutes) such as carbon, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal, wave, etc. Reducing carbon-based energy consumption (and so emissions) via carbon-energy-based taxing strategies can ONLY be successful if the tax recipient is willing and able to consume 'carbon-substitute' energy or so-produced items. Otherwise carbon-energy-based taxation is merely a wealth transfer strategy, shifting money from one carbon-energy consumer to another. That is, the tax-wealth recipient (government) merely spends the tax revenue to itself consume carbon-based energy or so-produced items. Carbon-energy-based taxation does little to reduce aggregate demand for carbon-based energy and so won't effectively reduce emissions. V Harris.

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