What Tom Friedman Forgets to Mention About Danish "Green Taxes"


In the wake of the post-Copenhagen climate change conference fiasco, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman waxes eloquent over this Danish energy frugality in a recent column and even mentions why they might engage in energy sparing behavior: taxes.

As I listened to Denmark's minister of economic and business affairs describe how her country used higher energy taxes to stimulate innovation in green power and then recycled the tax revenues back to Danish industry and consumers to make it easier for them to make and buy the new clean technologies, it all sounded so, well, intelligent. It sounded as if the Danes looked at themselves after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, found that they were totally dependent on Middle East oil and put in place a long-term strategy to make Denmark energy-secure and start a new industry at the same time.

The more I listened to the Danish minister, Lene Espersen, the more I thought of my own country, where I've been told time and again by U.S. politicians that proposing even a 10-cent-a-gallon increase in gasoline taxes to make America more energy independent and to stimulate fuel efficiency is "off the table," an act of sure political suicide.

Not in Denmark. So I asked the Danish minister: "Tell me, what planet are you people from?"

Espersen laughed. But I didn't. How long are we Americans going to go on thinking that we can thrive in the 21st century when doing the optimal things — whether for energy, health care, education or the deficit — are "off the table."

It is true that the Danes are very energy conscious. Hmmm. Why would that be? First, let's clear up a few things. Denmark is now "energy-secure" largely because of its share of North Sea oil and gas. It even exports gas to the rest of Europe. The country reduced its carbon dioxide emissions not only because of windmills, but because the government started levying high taxes on high-carbon coal and lower taxes on lower-carbon natural gas used to produce electricity. Friedman is right that the taxes get recycled back to industry (not so much to consumers) and such recycling paid for much of the capital costs for the industrial switch from coal to natural gas and tax recycling works as a subsidy which helps Danish industry remain globally competitive.

However, Friedman fails to mention that another result of "green taxes" is that Danish consumers pay some of the highest electric rates in the world: 42 cents per kilowatt hour compared to 9 cents per kilowatt hour in the U.S. This may explain why the very hospitable Danish lady from whom I rented a room while covering the climate conference was always following behind me to make sure that the lights were off. Friedman's mention of "a 10-cent-a-gallon increase in gasoline taxes" is a bit disingeuous as well. A gallon of gasoline costs $7.76 in Denmark compared to $2.63 in the U.S.

Whole Friedman column can be found here.

NEXT: Dump the Audience?

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  1. After Friedman’s tongue bath of China’s authoritatian dictatorship, does anyone really take him seriously anymore?

    1. Well, if you begin with the premise that Friedman’s a jibbering idiot whose sole purpose in life is to be a great, big inflatable confirmation bias balloon in the Macy’s parade, then no, you shouldn’t take him seriously at all. He should be mocked and sneered at regularly, if not beaten outright publicly. You should shoot your TV if his Blart-like face appears on the screen. He’s fatally tainted it.

      If you’re a typical Democrat, then yes, take him totally seriously. He completes you.

    2. Friedman serves a very useful purpose for harried journalists: if you don’t have time to research and write a story from scratch, just take whatever he wrote recently and disprove most of his “facts”. Bam – done in time for Happy Hour!

  2. Never did to begin with.

    1. Even better.

  3. …when doing the optimal things…

    Ah, yes – straight out of the Gospel of Saint Al.

    1. *ahem* Observe the proper protocols when referring to Me, peon.

    2. Optimal in terms of what? Electricity prices? Or smugness?

  4. Interesting article on Danish electricity. According to the article they are part of a multi-country power grid, along with Germany, Norway and Sweden. And that while production of wind power corresponded to about 20% of Danish consumption, much of it in fact exported at very low prevailing prices rather than substituting for domestic base-load coal-fired generation. And that during the periods when wind can not cover consumptions the power imported from Sweden … is almost half nuclear and half hydro, the power … imported from Germany is largely generated by brown coal and nuclear power.

    1. I saw a show the other dy about brown coal plants in Germany. They were showing the HUGE bucket wheel excavator that digs the coal. The 1 plant burns 56,000 tons of coal per day. Yes I said per day. Fascinating stuff.

      1. That’s 112 million pounds per day. I’m gonna need a citation.

        1. Here is one that burns 82,000 tons a day.

  5. This may explain why the very hospitable Danish lady from whom I rented a room while covering the climate conference was always following behind me to make sure that the lights were off.

    A fine metonymic capsule of what the Times advocates its non-subscribers’ lives be like. The probably blindly ironic “hospitable” is perfect.

  6. I wonder if Friedman thinks that the government ought to be forcing people out of homes like these:


    1. The hypocrisy is delicious.

    2. I don’t know, wifeys family got caught up in the real estate crash and managed to lose 3 1/2 bil. So I’m sure that there’s a federal program to keep the poor Friedman family in their humble abode!

    3. Besides Friedman’s obvious hypocrisy…

      that house is absolutely dreadful.

      I don’t think I can trust anyone who willingly spend so much money on a hideous dwelling like that.

      1. Friedman has to be in that evil top 1% of wage-earner tax bracket – can’t he at least afford some cosmetic surgery on that hideous bungalow?

        Or his face, for that matter. It just screams “Punch me, I’m a pompous douchebag”.

        1. ‘Or his face, for that matter. It just screams “Punch me, I’m a pompous douchebag”.’

          Your powers of observation are unrivaled, sir.

          1. Seriously, what IS it with the Friedmans, the RFK Juniors (ever hear the man speak? Grow a chin on that voice, dude!), the Krugmans (there’s a good reason for the facial growth, kind of like how Slash wears the hat and has his hair down over his face – to prevent seeing too much of the latter)?

            It’s not just looks, though… it’s the innards. These people are homely on the INSIDE.

            What’s worse… people listen to them. God help me, I can’t figure out why. Massive brain damage, perhaps.

    4. Low blow, but I like it. Isn’t there a law in Sweden regarding the maximum size of a home?

      1. Aren’t there laws in the works here in America, regarding maximum home sizes?

        We’re sliding into the abyss, and some are cheerleading for it. *cough* Tony *cough*

  7. Wow, a place that has marginally higher electric rates than * some * parts of Hawaii (Oahu is the “cheap” island at * only * 29 cents per KwH):


    Who knew that someplace was even more socialist than here?

    1. I’m WORKING on it, Prolefeed.

      1. And on fucking up traffic less than a mile from where I live, due to all the secret service protecting your bloody vacation.


        1. That’s IT, goddamnit. I’m having your ass hauled off, strapped in a chair, and plopped down right in front of Olbermann’s MSNBC studio desk.

          Fuck the no-torture shit I spouted earlier this year – your ass is MINE, heretic. You and every goddamned one of you hateful fuckers are in for a world of hurt that’ll make getting beat up by SEIU goons seem like a fucking free trip to Disneyland. I’m done fuckin’ around with you ingrates.

          1. That’s telling them, Master! WE LOVE YOU!!!

            Please don’t hurt me.

            1. Inhale next time – all the way to the balls.

    2. Given that they’re redistributing the cost of carbon reduction from the masses who are actually paying for it to power companies, it’s more of a corporatist thing.

      (I’m assuming that the tax is simply passed through to the consumer of electricity, rather than cutting into the revenue of power producers)

  8. Top usage block for N. California is $.44/Kwh

    It’s all about income redistribution.

  9. I don’t know where you get your data on Danish electricity prices, but the EU has different data. Denmark still has the highest electric prices, although it’s a bit less of a difference (probably due to exchange rates). The differences between Denmark and the other EU members are less than given on Wikipedia, however.

  10. Ten cents a gallon won’t make much of a difference. It’s funny, I remember an episode of The West Wing from like 2002, that said that a 50 cent a gallon gas tax increase would save us from the evils of those dirty foreigners in just a few years. Well, gas was ~1.50 at the time, and it’s about 2.50 around where I live, and yet we use more imported gas than ever.

    1. $5 a gallon gas is wicked when the money goes to the oil companies.

      That very same $5 a gallon gas suddenly, magically becomes virtuous when the money ends up in the greedy maw of Big Government.

  11. Yes, you fucking idiot, if gas and electricity cost more, people use less. Get a fucking science degree.

    Merry Xmas.

    1. Suck a dick dumbshit.

      Merry X-mas.

    2. And that WON’T be a regressive tax on poor people… eh, Morris?

      You are such a crapsack.

    3. I am smart! I am smart!

      Merry Exlax

    4. Morris –

      Up your ass with Mobil gas – happy motoring!

    5. Inhale a schlong dirt bag.

  12. I invented a new element on the periodic table – bullshitium! And it does not contribute to global warming, it only contributes to my bank account.

  13. How long are we Americans going to go on thinking that we can thrive in the 21st century when doing the optimal things ? whether for energy, health care, education or the deficit ? are “off the table.”

    We need a Ministry of Optimality.

    Since I, and I alone, am qualified to judge what is, and is not, an optimal use of any resource, I shall have to be the Minister in Charge. I don’t want to; but, since putting anyone else in charge would be a less than optimal alternative, I can no longer shirk my duty to Society.

    Ps- Friedman; you are currently suboptimal. Shape up. the clock is ticking.

    1. We need a Ministry of Optimality.

      An Optimus Prime Minister?

  14. If our leaders are determined to “do something” to reduce CO2, regardless of whether or not that is a wise thing to want to do, then a straight up tax on it is the only logical way to go. No reason to create a giant rent-seekers’s dream in order to pretend your solution is “market-based.”

    And if (in a fantasy world) those taxes simply offset and lower other taxes, then it wouldn’t be so bad.

  15. Dude, this is like the coolest thing I have ever seen.


  16. This article in the WaPo yesterday illustrated the sheer idiocy of electric cars using current technology. The contortions and compromises the owners of golf carts go through to satisfy some twisted green martyrdom is amazing.

    What I want to know is why the gummint and industry keeps focusing on battery-powered cars, as if it is the One True Way?. What is so wrong about diesel-elctric? Taking a small, clean engine, driving nothing more than big, hoking electric motors at the wheels and forgoing the batteries altogether?

    You get the best of both worlds: much better mileage than conventional cars and significantly reduced emmssions, not to mention vastly simplfied engineering. You also get speed-freak converts. Electric motors are all torque.

    I suppose that the alter of Zero Emissions will take nothing other than LI_ON virgins. All other comers will be just be thrown into the volcano.

    1. Limited range, long recharge time, declining performance as the charge is used up….same problems electrics faced at the dawn of the automobile more than a century ago. The breakthrough that will make electrics competitive is always just over the horizon.

      1. The breakthrough that will make electrics competitive is always just over the horizon.

        Yep, just like solar. That critical breakthrough that will allow net-positve economic and practical use of the technology has been just around the corner for the past 35 years and counting. Any minute now….

  17. High taxes and high energy costs are good for us! And there is such a thing as a right to health care! Waah!

  18. Just been reading this.

    After some initial dismay at what has been called, somewhat unoriginally, “Climategate” the reaction amid progressive circles ? 99 per cent inhabited by True Believers in anthropogenic global warming – has been to take up defensive positions around the proposition that deceitful manipulation of data, concealment or straightforward destruction of inconvenient evidence, vindictive conspiracies to silence critics, are par for the course in all scientific debate and, although embarrassing, the CRU emails in no way compromise the core pretensions of their cause.

    Scientific research is indeed saturated with exactly this sort of chicanery. But the CRU emails graphically undermine the claim of the Warmers ? always absurd to those who have studied the debate in any detail ? that they commanded the moral high ground. It has been a standard ploy of the Warmers to revile the skeptics as intellectual whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate modeling enterprises. There’s now a vast archipelago of research departments and “institutes of climate change” across academia, with a huge vested interest in defending the AGW model. It’s where the money is. Scepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker.

    -by that notorious right wing ideologue and capitalist baby-eater Alexander Cockburn

  19. My favorite little bit of global warming stupidity is the guy who opened a gym where the flatscreen TVs were to be powered by the exercisers pumping on treadmills and stationary bikes. The pitch was that this was environmentally friendly because it reduced CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use.

    First person to spot the scientific fallacy here deserves a lump of coal in their stocking.

    1. People produce CO2 ?

      1. You breathe don’t you? If no, call 911 immediately.

    2. Well if the exercisers were going to be putting in the work anyway, now it’s going to a more productive use, so that should reduce energy consumption on the part of the gym.

  20. Friedman left out important details? How dare you – he writes for the New York Times!

  21. Make gas $10 a gallon. See how that cuts back on usage.

  22. Gas taxes are regressive. Faux-progressive economists are generally idiots if they can’t recognize that the disproportionate burden of environmentalism will fall on the poor.

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