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Ron Bailey reports on the start of the U.N. climate change conference in Montreal, where participants are distressed to discover that Canada is still really cold.

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  • VM||

    ARGH!!!!!

    you're too late!

    Nature magazine has pointed out that we're doomed. The gulf stream has stopped.

    Run for the hills!

  • ||

    This means, all other things being equal, that the extra CO2 should increase the earth's average temperature.

    That's a very big assumption (about the other working parts of the atmosphere, etc.).

  • Dave W.||

    Canada-related threadjack: I was glad to see that PM candidate Stephen Harper proposed a tax break aimed at the poor up here. Always good to see taxes get a bit less regressive. Maybe they will even get lower.

  • Dave W.||

    errr, I meant tax cut, specifically a cut in the national sales tax.

  • M1EK||

    Sigh. "Technology will save us!" will look good on your eulogies while your grandchildren piss on your graves, I suppose.

    Technology won't save shit, unless there's an economic incentive for it to do so, since that technology ain't free. And without a tax on carbon emissions, no incentive exists, since it's free to pollute.

  • MP||

    while your grandchildren piss on your graves

    I don't plan on being buried. I wouldn't want to consume precious, scarce, land...especially after much of the existing land gets flooded by the polar ice-caps.

  • ||

    "The Montreal climate confab is aimed at finding ways to prevent dangerous anthropomorphic interference with the world's climate"

    the author needs to look up the definition of anthropomorphic:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=anthropomorphic

  • ||

    Sigh. "Tax = Incentives" will look good on your grave also. Neener neener neener.

    Please point me to the economic model where Higher Taxes = Better Economy.

  • ||

    Well, Umbriel, this explains that surge in GW media attention we were discussing last week!

  • ||

    Hakluyt: I say again, "all other things being equal."

    M1EK: Technology has already "saved" billions of people from humanity's natural state of abject poverty and short miserable lives. Example: Average global life expectancy in 1900 around 33 years; today 66 years.

    Regarding incentives: Jesse Ausubel at Rockefeller University points out that humanity has been on a two century decarbonization trend that he argues will continue throughout this century. Why? At least partially because as people become wealthier they prefer to move from dirty smokey fuels to cleaner more pleasant fuels--and they'll pay more for them. However, you're right that a carbon tax would probably hasten the decarbonization trend-but at what cost to the poorer members of the human community?

  • ||

    jo: Right you are: I meant "anthropogenic." Thanks.

  • MP||

    Please point me to the economic model where Higher Taxes = Better Economy.

    That has nothing to do with M1EK's argument. M1EK is utilizing tax policy for goal achievement, like having cigarette taxes to reduce smoking.

    Average global life expectancy in 1900 around 33 years; today 66 years.

    I really hate that statistic. Unless you are talking specifically about how technology has improved infant mortality rates, it is highly misleading.

  • ||

    MP.

    Its due to a whole host of technological factors, including those concerning the creation and processing of food, public health, vaccinations, emergency medical care, etc.

    M1EK,

    Sorry, but a tax is hardly the only way to create value in this instance. Indeed, its probably not even the most effecient way to do so.

  • ||

    Honestly, if you are really concerned about CO2, etc. emissions a tradeable scheme along the lines of a commodity exchange is a far better option. It would easy to tie that to emissions from stacks, the pipe out of your car, etc. Hell, because so many individuals are involved in the creation of CO2 you could have a very diverse set of players in such a market.

  • ||

    Instead we have moronic liberals like M1EK whose only solution to anything is to TAX IT! or REGULATE IT! via some centralized, inflexible, innovation-killing government bureaucracy.

  • ||

    MP: Of course you're right about infant mortality, that's not all there is to it. For example, LIFE EXPECTANCY: "In 1900, the life expectancy [in the U.S.] was 47 years of age. Only one person in 25 had then survived to age 60. Women lived shorter lives due to childbirth."

  • MP||

    Its due to a whole host of technological factors, including those concerning the creation and processing of food, public health, vaccinations, emergency medical care, etc.

    Yeah, but if you compare life expectancies of people who lived to be at least 2 years old, I'm pretty sure (although I don't have the stat at hand) that you don't get anywhere near a doubling of life expectancy. It's the dramatic 33 vs. 66 comparison that irks me.

  • ||

    MP,

    No, you get about a 10-15 year extension as I recall from my HOT lectures. The human application of technology has dramatically lengthened the lives of both those age cohorts.

  • MP||

    Instead we have moronic liberals like M1EK whose only solution to anything is to TAX IT! or REGULATE IT! via some centralized, inflexible, innovation-killing government bureaucracy.

    Uh-oh...a Moron bomb as been tossed. OK, I'll bite. Can you have a tradeable emissions system that doesn't require the existance of a Regulatory body to define the marketplace (including the maximum overall emissions allowed to be traded) and to enforce the trade contracts?

  • Shannon Love||

    M1EK,

    "And without a tax on carbon emissions, no incentive exists, since it's free to pollute."

    So what was the tax incentive to switch from wood and muscle power to coal and then from coal to petroleum? There is a innate incentive to move to energy sources which are more dense, more transportable and more on demand.

    Without political interference in nuclear power both pro and con we would be generating far less CO2 today than we do. Its kinda of silly to say, "technology won't save us" when we have technology that will solve the problem already sitting on the shelf but which we cannot use due to political hysteria.

    Slapping a carbon tax on energy sources could have all kinds of perverse unintended consequences. Such ideas sound simple but have a track record of failing. Look at what happened the last time the government tried to regulate oil supplies in 70's. Price controls and windfall profits taxes intended to assure supplies, keep prices low and reduce foreign dependency did exactly the opposite in all three cases.

    Technology is a much more reliable solution than politics. We understand engineering much better than we understand economics.

  • ||

    MP,

    Can you have a tradeable emissions system that doesn't require the existance of a Regulatory body...

    What do you mean by "regulatory body?" The NYSE self-regulates after all (along with being regulated by the government) as does the oil tanker industry (to name just a few). No, I'd think you would need some regulatory body, be it private or public.

  • ||

    Shannon Love,

    Nuclear power isn't going to stop the usage of fossil fuels for electricity production much less for making cars, etc. go down the road.

  • ||

    MP,

    The point of course is to take the decisions on how to meet goals out of the hands of centralized authorities.

  • MP||

    Hakluyt,

    The NYSE self-regulates after all (along with being regulated by the government) as does the oil tanker industry

    In neither example does the regulatory body set the size of the market. In an emmissions scheme, just like with fishing, some public body has to set the aggregate size of the marketplace (maximum number of fish that can be caught by all market players, or maximum number of carbon credits that can be traded).

  • MP||

    The point of course is to take the decisions on how to meet goals out of the hands of centralized authorities.

    Agreed. My point is that there is a difference be minimimal regulation and the absence of regulation. Thus, a call for regulation doesn't make one automatically a moron (and yes, I know you have many other reasons for your opinion of M1EK, I'm just specifically countering one of them).

  • ||

    MP,

    That's neither here nor there. As I stated, a regulatory body would have to exist - whether it is public or private. And the NYSE (as do the other stock, commodity, etc. markets) do set the size of the market that is traded on their floors - they only pick certain companies, types of commodoties, etc. to be listed after all and do regulate and even stop stock sales.

  • ||

    MP,

    That's why my qualifier was in the statement:

    ...via some centralized, inflexible, innovation-killing government bureaucracy.

  • MP||

    Without political interference in nuclear power both pro and con we would be generating far less CO2 today than we do. Its kinda of silly to say, "technology won't save us" when we have technology that will solve the problem already sitting on the shelf but which we cannot use due to political hysteria.

    When we remove the government liability subsidy to the Nuclear Power industry, maybe I'll stop being less hysterical.

  • ||

    MP,

    Indeed, I'd say that it is the exclusivity of the NYSE and other trading markets that makes the market something one wants to invest in. Controlling the size of the trading market helps engender trust, etc. all the other qualities that make people want to do business with you.

  • Shannon Love||

    MP,

    The life expectancy at birth metric (which produces the 33 vs 60 numbers) is used because it is an excellent indicator of the overall health of a studied group. However, it is a mathematical abstraction. It doesn't mean that you rarely ran into somebody 35 and older a hundred years ago although many people seem to read it that way.

    Life expectancy at birth is a better metric than life expectancy at 5 years or any other point because a wide range of health, nutrition and safety factors influence infant mortality. Infants are indicators not only of their own health but of the health of their parents and others around them. Infant mortality is often a trailing indicator so when you start denting infant mortality you know you are making real progress.

  • ||

    MP,

    Honestly, I don't know if nuclear power could survive without government subsidies as the industry is configured today. It started off on the enitrely wrong foot back in the 1950s and has remained so ever since.

  • ||

    MP,

    What I mean is that government tried to "jump-start" nuclear production in the U.S. and that this inhibited the normal growth we have generally seen in the U.S. from new sources of electrical power.

  • Shannon Love||

    MP,

    "When we remove the government liability subsidy to the Nuclear Power industry, maybe I'll stop being less hysterical."

    Of course the liability subsidy is itself made necessary (or at least politically sustainable) by fantastically high safety standards and a political subculture which supports politically motivated punitive suits on the least pretext.

    I am reminded of the parable of the inn keeper who puts a mouse in quest room and then charges them for the cat to chase away the mouse, then a dog to chase away the cat, then a tiger to chase away dog, then and elephant to chase away the tiger and lastly a mouse to chase away the elephant.

    The history of nuclear power and other attempts at targeted political economic management do seem to follow this exact pattern. Intervention causes problems which seem to justify more intervention, etc rinse, lather and repeat.

    Stopping a intervention cycle is just like stopping a vengeance cycle. At some point, people just have accept the injustice inherent in not reacting to the events of the last iteration of the cycle and just move on.

  • ||

    Shannon Love,

    Insurers have been wary from the start re: nuclear power, just as they are wary of insuring folks for flood insurance who live in flood zones. Back in the late 1940s when nuclear power was first floated as an idea for private enterprise to consider, no insurance company would take them up on the idea. Like I wrote above, the government's efforts short-circuited the natural progress of this industry.

  • VM||

    Hak:

    even though our transportation isn't electrified, why not make a larger portion of energy needs electric? our nuclear model of france can serve as a guide. how about worrying about powering city power grids first, then get to transportation next? i know nothing about this field, so i'm just throwing something out there. apologies if this is back at third grade level!
    :) dieu merci c'est vendredi...

    there's some people in rhode island who are working on this, and some people at UT Austin.

    and there's the chicago permit exchange.

    global warming aside, i'd say alternatives (substitutes) for energy makes sense. is this one of those things where the tracks need to be forced to change? think: race in the 50s. even though it's loonacy to think that restricting the labor pool to fucking cracker cronies isn't economically limiting, nobody was willing to do that. Is this the place for an intervention?

    the obvious warning against that is that AA is still around and, often, is counterproductive. I'd fear energy would be the same, only moreso.

    But i like the idea of more substitutes and choices for energy to be available. i like that stuff. how do we get there without something pushing us in that direction?

    what to do!

    government intervention aside, does anybody (dis)agree that more energy choices/ substitutes for energy is a good thing?

    plus, it'd topple saudi arabia. isn't that what the neocons really have been going for? (grin. sorry. couldn't resist)

    Thoreau: how are you coming along on the dilithum chrystals?

    happy friday, all!

  • ||

    Since VM mentioned the Chicago Carbon Exchange, I'll just do a plug for TERRAPASS:
    http://www.terrapass.com/index.html

    where we little pleebs can miticage some of our carbon emmissions...if we should so desire. :)

  • ||

    VM,

    our nuclear model of france can serve as a guide.

    I don't think its sustainable. Resistance to generation reactors is growing in France and there are some signs that the French population don't want to go the nuclear route any more.

    ...then get to transportation next?

    Because car emissions are going to be the really difficult nut to crack.

  • ||

    ...generation three reactors...

  • Shannon Love||

    Hakluyt,

    I agree completely that government intervention intended to advance the adoption of nuclear power in 50's-60's utterly destroyed the freemarket evolution of nuclear power. The first commercial nuclear reactors were scaled up submarine engines rushed into production so we could gain the national prestige of beating the Soviets.

    In 70's, the politics swung from pro-nuke to anti-nuke and nuclear power was effectively shutdown by the early 80's. In current climate, no one in their right mind would put private money into nuclear power, especially for economically risky research and development.

    Frankly, I don't know what to do. The immediate temptation would be to use political intervention to try to correct the distortions caused by previous interventions but as I pointed out above, that usually doesn't work.

    Perhaps we could just scrap the entire legal edifice relating to nuclear power and start over from scratch, treating nuclear power the same way we would a novel new technology. If the private sector could be assured that the legal and economic risk associated nuclear power were on par with other industrial technology then the "natural" evolution of the technology might resume.

  • ||

    Shannon Love,

    Yeah, that is definately the rub. How to undo a screwed-up situation.

  • V Moose the cold fusion genera||

    Thanks Sam, Thanks Hak!

  • ||

    In re: Nukes. Perhaps there is a technical solution--pebble bed nuclear reactors. They maybe economically competitive with conventional sources of power. Of course, not everybody is convinced.

  • ||

    Can you have a tradeable emissions system that doesn't require the existance of a Regulatory body to define the marketplace (including the maximum overall emissions allowed to be traded) and to enforce the trade contracts?

    Just as an existence proof that you can, let the maximum overall emissions allowed to be traded be zero. That's the most logical number. It's also a quantity that is rather immune to political or regulatory hijinks.

    Now you can charter any number of private organizations that know how to measure CO2 production and reduction mechanisms and can audit the balance sheets of the producers and reducers to make sure the trade is carbon neutral.

    If complete elimination of all anthropogenic CO2 really is too expensive for the economy, then you can develop some quasi-random process to give you the maximum quantity out of a giant matrix of CO2 concentrations, temperatures, and economic metrics. That number might not be perfect, but it would be between the error bars, and it would be better than having any committee come up with it.

    But please, whatever you do, don't tax CO2!

  • ||

    MikeP,

    Yes, taxing it is definately the worst way to deal with the situation given the number of options available.

    Plus there are practical considerations to deal with. National legislatures (or whomever) are much more likely to balk at a tax over time than other solutions that may not be so amenable to interest group pressure.

  • M1EK||

    "So what was the tax incentive to switch from wood and muscle power to coal and then from coal to petroleum?"

    Did the global CO2 emissions go down for each of those changes, or did they go up?

    Here's the hint for you: None of those changes happened because it was too expensive to pollute. It was free to pollute; and it's free to pollute now (for the most part).

  • M1EK||

    MikeP,

    It sounds to me like your ideological opposition to anything which is technically a tax is leading you down a very strange road.

    A "cap and trade" without a PRICE for the emissions is worthless. And that PRICE is, basically, a tax.

  • M1EK||

    "M1EK: Technology has already "saved" billions of people from humanity's natural state of abject poverty and short miserable lives."

    Because there were ECONOMIC INCENTIVES to do so. What economic incentive exists for me not to pollute? (Beyond the crude 'incentive' posed by the current regulatory regime here in the US, of course, which most of you would eliminate).

  • ||

    A "cap and trade" without a PRICE for the emissions is worthless. And that PRICE is, basically, a tax.

    No, it isn't. A tax is collected by the government, gets tossed into government coffers, gets spent by the government in assorted ways that have nothing to do with CO2, and will get set by entirely political means that have mostly nothing to do with reducing CO2 emissions.

    In the system I'm describing, the price is what it costs to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere. Since that can be done anywhere on the planet, irrespective of where the CO2 was produced, this is an eminently wide-open and competitive market. The price will very accurately represent the cost of the CO2 reduction. The producer can then decide whether the primary purpose which causes the side-effect of CO2 production is worth the cost of the reduction required to balance it. He can decide to pay the price, stop the production, or find a more carbon-efficient energy source. The price indicates actual costs that can be used for actual decisions that best allocate actual resources.

    This is really, really, really far from a tax.

  • Shannon Love||

    M1EK,

    You seem to be making the implicit argument that unless the full cost of C02 emissions if integrated into the market decisions for carbon emitting energy sources people will not transition to other energy sources.

    I don't think that is the case because other factors drive the adoption of energy technologies. The best energy source is dense i.e. produces a more energy in less space, transportable i.e. can provide energy in more places and on-demand i.e. the energy is available anytime it is needed. The evolution of energy sources in the last 200 years has been driven solely by these factors. Why do you seem to assume that these economic incentives have suddenly stopped working?

    As I noted above, without political interference we would most likely be well on our way to transitioning to nuclear power even if we had never thought of global warming because nuclear power is denser, more transportable and more on-demand than fossil fuels.

    I have no confidence that carbon taxes or emissions trading will work. This is a global problem which would require a functioning global property system in order to work. Most of the developing world, where most of the future CO2 will come from, does not even have a functioning property system for land. How are they going to manage taxes and property on something as ephemeral as atmospheric gasses?

    We simply do not have the political institutions on a global scale to manage carbon emissions regardless of the strategy we choose. We are going to have to fix the problem (if there is a major one) by creating technology that provides energy better than carbon emitting fuels.

  • ||

    It sounds to me like your ideological opposition to anything which is technically a tax is leading you down a very strange road.

    To put it another way, M1EK...

    The state requires that I carry auto insurance. I pay State Farm for that auto insurance. In no way can anyone consider the price of that insurance a tax.

    Your way of thinking would have the state not do something as simple as requiring auto insurance and letting me sort out the costs and details.

    Rather, you would have the state note that driving kills some number of people per mile driven, and it would be better if the total number killed were much lower -- say half, though this quantity can be determined by legislators and regulators as needed. So the state decides to tax driving with the intent of halving the number of miles driven and thus halving the number killed. And, by the way, the proceeds of that tax are used to pay for a war in Iraq.

    Which system is better?

  • ||

    M1EK has as usual backed himself into a corner and is unwilling to come out of it.

  • ||

    What economic incentive exists for me not to pollute?

    Define pollute, you green-house gas-emitter.

  • ||

    Ron,

    Yeah, I've done some research into those things and its hard to tell which experts are right.

  • MP||

    Why do you seem to assume that these economic incentives have suddenly stopped working?

    Those incentives don't directly lead to the usage of energy sources that lead to reduced CO2 commissions. They could, they might, but if they did, it would only be a fortunate (if you buy into GW) side benefit. If M1EK's specific policy goal is to reduce CO2 emmissions, then natural market conditions do not exist to achieve this specific goal.

    Now you can charter any number of private organizations that know how to measure CO2 production and reduction mechanisms and can audit the balance sheets of the producers and reducers to make sure the trade is carbon neutral.

    Who is "you"? Isn't that the State? If not, what are the natural incentives do ever do this, other than Greenpeace fellatio?

    We simply do not have the political institutions on a global scale to manage carbon emissions regardless of the strategy we choose. We are going to have to fix the problem (if there is a major one) by creating technology that provides energy better than carbon emitting fuels.

    Bingo.

  • ||

    Who is "you"? Isn't that the State?

    Yes, that "you" is whoever is willing to wield the power to kill people to achieve their goal, in this case the reduction in GHG emissions. That is usually the State.

    It could also be an IPCC/Al-Qaeda coalition if the United States government fails to take on the responsibility.

    My point is that, if and when society decides anthropogenic CO2 reduction is required, the rule can and should be extremely simple, with all the execution and details handled by the market.

  • M1EK||

    "You seem to be making the implicit argument that unless the full cost of C02 emissions if integrated into the market decisions for carbon emitting energy sources people will not transition to other energy sources."

    No, I am not saying that. If a magical new energy source appeared tomorrow which was CHEAPER than anything which emits CO2, people would switch to it.

    This is unlikely to occur.

    In the REAL world, it's very cheap to pollute, and technology is expensive. This is why countries with no environmental laws use/used so much oil.

    This is not difficult to understand, but it DOES run contrary to libertarian ideology. Oh well.

  • M1EK||

    "No, it isn't. A tax is collected by the government, gets tossed into government coffers, gets spent by the government in assorted ways that have nothing to do with CO2, and will get set by entirely political means that have mostly nothing to do with reducing CO2 emissions.

    In the system I'm describing, the price is what it costs to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere."

    I understand that YOU don't think this is a tax. I'm asking you to think for a moment about how few people in the rest of the world would call it anything BUT a tax. For instance:

    1. The amount of allowed CO2 emissions was set by a government.

    2. The requirement not to emit CO2, or to pay somebody else to remove CO2, is set by a government.

    3. The enforcement of these rules is done by a government.

    I realize that you're going through a lot of gymnastics in order to avoid creating something that _you_ think is a tax. Fair enough. I don't believe that the simple fact that you think it is or isn't a tax is particularly relevant to how effective it would be. For instance, in your scenario, a technology would have to exist which could (at a practical price) sequester CO2 in some fashion. Such technology does not exist today; and there is no guarantee it will ever exist. If the cost of sequestering a pound of CO2 is a million dollars, and it's not yet feasible for a company to cut its CO2 emissions DRASTICALLY but only MODERATELY, what happens?

    A tax, on the other hand, would, if such a technology is slow to develop, not destroy the economy in the meantime (it might lead to less, but non-zero, CO2 emissions in the time it takes such a technology to develop, if it's even possible).

    But tax bad. Hurrr. Hulk Smash Tax.

  • MP||

    This is not difficult to understand, but it DOES run contrary to libertarian ideology. Oh well.

    The at least once daily M1EK slam of all libertarians?

  • ||

    For instance, in your scenario, a technology would have to exist which could (at a practical price) sequester CO2 in some fashion. Such technology does not exist today; and there is no guarantee it will ever exist.

    Well, these folks claim a carbon elimination cost around 20 cents per gallon. They'll have to compete with large agricultural and forestry outfits that will get paid for growing carbon sequestering flora. And then there are the Micronesian populations who will be sowing the ocean with algae simply in defense of the rising sea level. I don't know all the possibilities.

    But I do know that if the chosen solution is "tax it!", none of these will be explored, and the resulting incentives both for the economy and for the government will be hideous.

  • ||

    1. The amount of allowed CO2 emissions was set by a government.

    1. The minimum level of liability insurance on my car is set by the government.

    2. The requirement not to emit CO2, or to pay somebody else to remove CO2, is set by a government.

    2. The requirement that I carry auto insurance is set by the government.

    3. The enforcement of these rules is done by a government.

    3. Whenever I am pulled over for a traffic stop, I must show the officer my proof of insurance.

    State Farm taxes me. Q.E.D.

  • ||

    The latest scare tactic being used by the environmentalists in Montreal is to claim that without the implementation of Kyoto, global warming will make ice hockey extinct.

    Many Canadians -who have taken too many pucks to the head in their daily lives- will undoubtedly believe the environmentalists.

    The good news is that when environmentalists are forced to lie to dimwitted Canadians about global warming, they are close to admitting that they have lost the argument.

  • ||

    The latest scare tactic being used by the environmentalists in Montreal is to claim that without the implementation of Kyoto, global warming will make ice hockey extinct.

    Many Canadians -who have taken too many pucks to the head in their daily lives- will undoubtedly believe the environmentalists.

    The good news is that when environmentalists are forced to lie to dimwitted Canadians about global warming, they are close to admitting that they have lost the argument.

  • ||

    Okay, M1EK. Let me try to meet you halfway.

    If I agree that the government may impose a CO2 tax, will you agree that every single dime must be spent directly on CO2 reduction or on research into CO2 reduction? No general fund. No railroads. No sugar subsidies. No wars in Iraq. Nothing but CO2 reduction.

    Will you further allow that if a CO2 producer can sequester some amount of the equivalent atmospheric CO2 themselves or by paying someone else to do it, they should not be taxed on that CO2 production?

    Note that if the tax is set high enough to allow a healthy supply of CO2 reducers at lower prices, then the tax here serves exactly the same function as noncompliance fines would in my proposal upthread.

    Now, I'm going to ask for a bit more here. Will you agree that there is no reason the government needs to touch the money at all? Can the CO2 producer pay the "tax" on his unsequestered CO2 directly to a CO2 reduction research enterprise? I will grant that these research organizations need strong oversight. Nonetheless, there will be no shortage of legitimate firms trying to get the truly lucrative long-run actual sequestration going.

    To further take decisions out of political hands, the "tax" could be set at something like the 95th percentile of the carbon reduction price. Some care is necessary here because of the fierce bidding and potentially large consumer surplusses involved, but futures markets should be able to moderate these issues.

    Would you be okay with a plan like this? Or is it really taxation and government control rather than CO2 reduction that you want.

  • ||

    It appears that the state of Wisconsin has some kind of program that credits farmers for the carbon sequestration that occurs when they idle their lands. Taking their example, Farmer Patrick sequesters 6.5 tons of CO2 per acre per year that he lets return to native vegetation. That 6.5 tons is 13000 pounds of CO2, or the equivalent product of 670 gallons of gasoline. Incidentally TerraPass says I use 444 gallons of gasoline a year.

    At 20 cents a gallon -- the price the LANL folks upthread claim for their atmospheric carbon sequestration process -- that's $134 per acre in Farmer Patrick's case.

    The rents for farmland in Wisconsin run $66 per acre for cropland and $38 per acre for pasture. Presumably more marginal land would be even cheaper. But then use of acreage would also be competing with agricultural uses, so the CO2 sequestration rents would likely be higher -- incidentally providing the family farmer with a better income while he improved the environment.

    So we've got the LANL process at 20 cents per gallon of gasoline. By the numbers I just ran, the first producers to buy agricultural sequestration can get it for 10 cents or so. The TerraPass people charge 7 cents, but they've got extremely low hanging fruit to take advantage of.

    Now, M1EK, I could use a little help here. Right now 10,000 climate change delegates are eating Atlantic lobster dinners in Montreal. I can't solve all their problems alone. Could you do some of this legwork too?

  • ||

    So M1EK's supposition above that it might cost a million dollars to sequester a pound of CO2 is off by eight orders of magnitude. The number is closer to a penny a pound, 20 cents for a gallon of gas.

    At that price the 13.5 trillion pounds of atmospheric CO2 the US produces every year would cost 135 billion dollars to sequester, just over 1% of the 12 trillion dollar US GDP.

    Note that this 135 billion dollars is not wasted money. If CO2 emissions are in fact causing 135 billion dollars per year damage to the world population, then the system I'm suggesting here simply passes the cost of that public bad directly to its producers while concurrently eliminating the externalized damage. If the damage done by anthropogenic CO2 is higher than 135 billion dollars, no matter by how much, then 135 billion dollars ends the damage completely. Quite a bargain.

    By the same token, if the damage done by CO2 emissions is less than 135 billion dollars per year, then the requirement to offset one's CO2 production should perhaps be decreased commensurately. If the damage is X% of $135B, then producers should be required to eliminate X% of their production, or to pay only X% of the "tax" to reduction research, or to choose a solution between the two. If the damage is a lot less or if it can't really be quantified -- even whether it is positive or negative is debatable -- then probably nothing should be done until more details are known.

    The takeaway here is important: If someone suggests that a carbon tax much higher than 20 cents per gallon of gasoline is necessary, that person is more interested in taxation and government control than in actually reducing CO2 emissions. At prices in that neighborhood, anthropogenic CO2 can be eliminated entirely.

  • M1EK||

    "Well, these folks claim a carbon elimination cost around 20 cents per gallon."

    They're lying. Nobody quite knows today how to sequester CO2 in a fashion that would prove satisfactory (and no, growing tree farms doesn't help, much).

    You guys believe in abiotic oil too?

  • M1EK||

    A financial contract like auto insurance does not map to CO2 emissions (a physical product) very well, but ASSUMING I believed it did, you're still stuck with the fact that the current auto insurance regime works very poorly in states where people don't seem to want to buy the stuff on their own (like the one I live in, in which nearly half of all drivers are uninsured).

  • M1EK||

    MikeP,

    The problem with giving credit to cropland CO2 sequesteration is that this is highly variable and very inefficient. (Akin to the theory that forests provide our oxygen; which, as it turns out, they don't - most of it comes from algae in the ocean).

    For instance: young trees take in more CO2 than they release; but old trees don't. Oops. So, do we cut down the trees before they get old? What do we do with that wood? Build with it? Great. What happens when it's not useful anymore as a building product? Burn it? Bury it?

    And what about the fact that studies have shown over the last few years that increased global temperature is likely to stress current plant species more than it will improve their growth, leading to less natural CO2 'sequesteration' than would occur absent the climate change? Oops.

    If you look into this stuff when you're actually interested in solving the problem, rather than attempting to find justifications to avoid a tax, you rapidly come to the conclusion that reducing emissions is, to the contrary of the typical whining here, much SIMPLER than the supposed technological solutions.

    And if you're asking "what should the tax be?" - simple. Set the level of global CO2 emissions we're willing to tolerate per year. Set a tax at X. Check at the end of the year. Did the emissions go below the magic bar? If so, lower the tax a bit. Did they go above the magic bar? If so, raise the tax a bit.

  • ||

    "Nobody quite knows today how to sequester CO2 in a fashion that would prove satisfactory (and no, growing tree farms doesn't help, much)."

    I do, I Do!

    1. Grow Veggetable Oil

    2. ...erm, pay for it somehow, before it gets sold as food or fuel... (@_@)

    3. Pump veggie oil into old oil wells.

    :D

    needless to say this one would be tough, but at least it doesn't also sequester Oxygen as part of CO2 as current sequestering schemes do. And in a pinch it could be drilled back up again if needed.

  • ||

    M1EK,

    I give you a link to people who claim industrial scale sequestration at a penny a pound. You respond that they're lying and that no one knows how to sequester CO2 satisfactorily. I give you a link describing how the State of Wisconsin tells a farmer how to sample and measure the carbon his field has sequestered. You respond that agricultural sequestration is highly variable and inefficient.

    Aside from your assertions without evidence, you seem to think that the words "satisfactorily" and "inefficient" are arguments against what I suggest. On the contrary, unsatisfactory and inefficient define the margins where the innovation happens. Regardless of how unsatisfactory or inefficient something is, it can be had at some price. The profit available at that price for more satisfactory and efficient solutions is what drives the improvements that make a society wealthy.

    I think it's pretty clear that any punitive tax designed to decrease CO2 production simply by saddling it with arbitrary costs would have to be significantly higher than 20 cents per gallon of gas to have much effect. Let's say it's a dollar, equivalent to a nickel per pound of CO2 and five times the highest of the three sequestration prices I provided.

    If I allow such a tax on CO2 production, would you allow any producer who is able to sequester the CO2 themselves or have someone else sequester it not be taxed on the sequestered CO2?

    If so, I would predict the following after 10 years:

    1. Gross CO2 production will be higher than it was when the tax was put on. (Note that this is a bet against Peak Oil, too. Two for one!)

    2. The tax will have essentially zero revenue.

    And I would then ask, Why did we have the punitive tax? Why didn't we simply set the tax at just above the going price of sequestration?

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