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Carbon Pricing

Published on June 10th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


US Carbon Tax “Close To Inevitable,” Conservative Leader Proclaims — Moral Disgrace Of Ignoring Global Warming Too Strong

June 10th, 2016 by  

Not working to stop global warming is one of the most disgraceful, horrible things a policymaker can do. It demonstrates a complete lack of morals — unless the policymaker is simply ignorant, but that is very barely a legitimate excuse these days, given that the opinions of thousands of climate scientists are almost 100% that humans are causing unprecedented global warming that could destroy society.

Powell-Science-Pie-Chart GW_Attribution_med

Starting from ABC, the question for some may remain “Why is the Republican Party still opposing the existence of this unprecedented societal threat and strong global warming action?”

For some in party leadership, the story is clear: they are closely tied to one or more fossil fuel industries, and they are selfishly ignoring the science and fighting the solutions out of pure greed and corruption.

While fossil fuel companies send a ton of cash into Republican policymakers’ piggy banks, I don’t actually think that’s the direct reason for most Republican congresspeople’s opposition. While congresspeople have a great number of resources available to them, they still just have 24 hours in the day, and their “resources” can very easily be biased or misinformed. Relying on party leadership and the conservatives who “call the shots” for guidance on how to respond to a specific issue, the simple story could be that most of these policymakers don’t take the time to look deeply into the matter with an objective mind, and follow suit with the corrupt and lying Republican leaders who are heavily invested in the burning of deadly fossil fuels. I still think this is a moral #fail of a very high order, because no matter how much you know, you have to know that the truth regarding this matter is hugely important to billions of humans and the future of the human race, in general.

And I think that is where opposition to global warming solutions like a carbon tax (or carbon fee & dividend that sends the revenues from a carbon fee right back to the people of the United States, resulting in no net increase in taxes) is breaking down. A growing number of conservatives have learned enough about global warming and climate change that they are eager to change the party line or even break the party line in order to get stronger US climate action moving. The latter would be a huge deal, because Republican congresspeople are known to vote in lockstep, taking orders from the party leadership without dissent, to a rather insane degree. Freedom of thought is not a cherished ideal when it comes votes on just about anything, but especially this topic — everyone with the GOP badge is expected to fall in line. Some congresspeople who have broken the party line on this topic later had to face difficult primaries in which their opponents were heavily backed by Republican movers and shakers and almost without exception (or maybe without exception) lost their seat.

But there is reportedly talk that Republican congresspeople with a conscience who have done their duty and taken the time to learn about global warming are getting restless. They don’t want the United States, and especially the Republican Party, to be in the history books for costing us millions (or more) lives, tens of trillions of dollars of damage, and unquantifiable suffering simply to extend the wealth of some polluting billionaires and millionaires.


George Shultz (left) talking with Admiral Michal Mullen (right).


POLITICO reports on the following recent statements from US conservative leaders:

  • Eli Lehrer, the president of the free-market think tank the R Street Institute: “In the long run, a carbon tax or something like it is probably close to inevitable.
  • Jerry Taylor, president of the libertarian think tank the Niskanen Center: “There are some Republicans, more than you might think, who are deeply uncomfortable with the party’s position on climate change.” (As they should be!)
  • Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute: “It is worrying to me that the House would consider legislation to oppose a common-sense approach to addressing climate change. Instead of relying on dozens of federal and state regulations that themselves are costly, a carbon tax would be transparent and cost-effective.” (This is in response to the likelihood that the US House of Representatives is about to prematurely vote against a carbon tax in order to try to build momentum against the option, should it become a serious possibility in the coming year or so.)

We have reported (via Think Progress) in the past on conservative leaders who support a carbon tax, or carbon fee & dividend:

  • Former Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) said years ago that a carbon tax “really is a conservative position.” 
  • The Cato Institute’s Peter van Doren noted the obvious: “So, if fossil fuel combustion produces byproducts that cause negative health effects on third parties as well as changes in the temperature of the atmosphere, the obvious lesson from economics is to increase fossil fuel prices enough through taxation to account for these effects.”

  • Gregory Mankiw, economic advisor to Mitt Romney and chairman of former President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers: “The economics here is straightforward: emitting carbon into the atmosphere entails a negative externality. In absence of any policy, people will emit too much…. The case for a carbon tax looks even stronger after examining the other options on the table.”

  • Last but certainly not least, George Shultz (an economist in the Eisenhower administration, secretary of the Treasury and Labor as well as Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Nixon administration, and Secretary of State for almost 7 years under President Ronald Reagan) has long been an outspoken supporter of a carbon tax. In 2012, he stated:

    “What we do today is going to have a big impact on the future. I have three, soon to be four, great-grandchildren. I’ve got to do what I can to see that they have a decent world. And if we let this go on and on the way it’s going right now, they’re not going to have one. Getting control of carbon is right at the heart of the problem.“We have to have a system where all forms of energy bear their full costs. For some, their costs are the costs of producing the energy, but many other forms of energy produce side effects, like pollution, that are a cost of society. The producers don’t bear that cost, society does. There has to be a way to level the playing field and cause those forms of energy to bear their true costs. That means putting a price on carbon.

    “We’ve studied a variety of ways to do that, and to me the most appealing way is a revenue-neutral carbon tax. That is, you distribute all the revenue from the carbon tax in some fashion back to taxpayers, so there is no fiscal drag on the economy. British Columbia has a revenue-neutral carbon tax. They started low and increased the tax over five years to a much higher level, so people could adjust. The revenue is distributed mostly to individuals, so it’s popular.”

Let’s listen to George Shultz and the other ethical, positive, compassionate people of the Republican Party. Let’s push all congresspeople, on the left but especially on the right, to vocally and strongly support a carbon fee & dividend.

Top images via Skeptical Science, bottom image of  Some rights reserved by CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Epicurus

    Republicans like Schultz and Inglis are on the verge of extinction.

  • Xander66

    When you call it a “Carbon Tax” most people think it’s more taxation added to what they already pay and will argue against it.

    It’s a “Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend”

    Most people don’t understand that 100% of the net fees will be paid back to households each month.

    The words you choose make a huge difference to a person’s perception.

    Tell them to Google “Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend”

    • Yep, agreed. I used the term for a few purposes here. But also mentioned carbon fee & dividend a few times in the article (which I encourage you to read). I feel like our audience is educated enough to not be scared away by the term tax, and think it has value to use for some pieces, but I was planning to switch completely to revenue-neutral carbon fee & dividend in the future.

      Thanks for the tip anyway, though.

  • Deep Time

    Another reason many Republicans oppose any action is because the Democrats (and the President the GOP hates so much) largely support aggressive action. And they simply cannot agree with anything the opposing party supports, doing so would be anathema to them.

    • Bob_Wallace

      There’s a name for that. Somebody’s law. Name escapes me at the moment.
      If Democrats are in favor of something then Republicans automatically oppose it.

    • Sad, but true.

  • RobertM

    The GOP inside the US will never vote in a Carbon Tax. I can see them adding in tax rebates for thing like solar (They have already done so) but not institute a new tax. Any member of the party that would vote for it would know they would have a primary challenger that will likely win on this 1 issue alone.

    This site has a policy against debating Global Warming so don’t bother attempting to convince me it is true. The fact is many people believe Man Made Global Warming is BS and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

  • jburt56

    Fortunately solar energy can scale by a factor of 1 billion times today’s energy use (Dyson Sphere).

    • JamesWimberley

      Putting the words “can” and “Dyson sphere” in the same sentence is extreme chutzpah. The sphere is a way-out thought experiment, implying ultra-cheap matter conversion and antigravity for starters.

  • JamesWimberley

    A point nobody else gas yet made. You need a carbon tax to deal with the climate externality. For thus. The form of the emissions is irrelevant. But climate isn’t the only externaluty. You need a second tax for the health damage: and thus one should depend on type and location. Its targets are coal, diesel and gasoline. Natural gas gets a free pass on this one; though it should pay a high tax on methane leaks.

  • S Herb

    It is certainly right to be working on the legislators, and especially the Republicans, with pressure from below. There is also considerable corporate interest in a carbon tax as an alternative to complicated regulations. It seems very important to have some middle level bipartisan groups working on this – the worst outcome would be for it to become totally politicized as a Dems vs Reps issue. This is a good reason, for example, to avoid a strong presidential push (for now).

  • Jens Stubbe

    There is a number of possible legislative actions that are not taxes that will not cost the tax payers a single dime to implement but will have a huge influence on net GHG emissions.

    1. Remove all subsidies to coal from discounted access to excavate coal on federal land, discounted rail transportation, free water etc.

    2. Move all decommission cost up front by demanding that the funds are set aside now.

    3. Impose a strict demand that each and every utility owned or sourced power generation unit compiles and submit public environmental declaration including full cycle from excavation to post production effects for audition every year. (I was involved in developing (the worlds first such report for Novo and they have now used it as a management tool for 20 years and have in this period moved to number one positions in biofuels, industrial enzymes, diabetics and microbial fertilizers.) Just the awareness of the effects and numbers will have a profound effect and in a free market with competition among utilities the utilities that perform to the consumers satisfaction will attract the most customers.

    Relative to the utilities economy the cost associated with the environmental declaration will be sub percent but their gains in terms of being able to document their carbon footprint will be huge and they will be able to enforce their buying power on Fracking gas producers and coal mines.

    Fracking gas and coal producers with no control over emissions will lose market shares.

    Electricity rates for utilities heavily dependent upon expensive pollutive fossil fuels will go up, which will fuel the transition to cheaper renewables with far less externalized cost.

  • super390

    Besides my comments on ideological denial of the existence of externalities, I think there’s other reasons for the shared belief of conservative factions that destroying the environment for short-term gain is a virtue. But they’re not things that they’d ever admit to a pollster.

    a. It starts with the belief of an imminent threat to their “way of life” which must be crushed before they are outvoted by non-Whites, non-Christians, etc. This wartime thinking (instead of the war on global warming thinking that we need) energizes them and gives them moral license to destroy enemies as war always does. You see it in the “War on Christmas” stories rehashed every December on Fox News.

    b. The next assumption is that capitalism itself is the lifeblood of their White Christian civilization, thus any attack on the former is really a conspiracy against the latter; there can be no legitimate reason for dissent from such an evil enemy.

    c. The belief that the Right as we’ve known it has constructed on top of this is that the White Christian men who master capitalism must be defended from this conspiracy, as any good barbarian tribesman would defend his war chief in battle.
    Actual benefits from the system stalled out for wage-earners with the coming of Reagan, who preached an insidious elevation of corporate and military elites beyond quantitative judgment, under a rubric of “freedom” that meant accepting your increasingly likely freedom to fail. Life has been mystified into a test from God, of your manhood, against Those Dark-skinned Criminal Races. (God, Guts, and Guns, as the bumper sticker went.) If you fail, it’s because you failed the divine cause and its unimpeachable chiefs, not because the objective mechanisms created by humans failed you.

    At this hysterical level of emotion, there’s no damn point in reasoning. All Trump had to do was cleverly recognize the opportunity after decades of failure: break with his fellow chieftains, accuse them of treason, claim he is the True Czar who loves his henchmen and will lead them to destroy all enemies. His environmental positions are thus simplified beyond all use for quantification: the purpose of the economy is to elevate the most White and the most manly tribesmen over us all, thus coal workers, truckers, factory workers, farmers, ranchers, policemen, etc must be unleashed from laws and regulations to consume the very Earth, creating a country too manly to fail. As usual, the rest of us are left dumbstruck.

    • nakedChimp

      Interesting thoughts.. never read those points before.

      Personally I’d have thought that this is more a have’s vs have-not’s than linked to skin color, but I don’t frequent those circles, so wouldn’t know.

      Thanks for posting anyway, moves my horizon on that front a bit outwards 🙂

  • JamesWimberley

    Let’s have carbon taxes, by all means. But you can’t return it all to the citizens as a dividend. We are going to need massive carbon sequestration, by the hundred gigatonnes, to have a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C. The first claim on a carbon tax has to be a premium for sequestration. There is no way the market will deliver this by itself, whatever technological miracles you assume.

    • Steve Grinwis

      We don’t do carbon sequestration first. First, we need to beat those coal plants, and guzzlene cars off the face of the earth, then probably we need to tackle space heating, which is overwhelmingly natural gas in most of the developed world.

      You do that by offering ever higher rebates for things like solar panels, wind mills, EVs and PHEVs, and air-source heat pumps.

      Once market forces are such that taking 1 tonne of carbon out of the air is cheaper than preventing a tonne from being emitting, then yes, we switch to carbon sequestration on masse. But not a penny before hand. (Not counting research, and pilot projects, of course)

      • JamesWimberley

        Agreed on the sequence. But there is less time than you seem to think. A credible analysis reported here found that while we have 29-25 years at current rates of emissions before we break the 2 deg C carbon budget, there are only 5 before we go through the 1.5 deg C budget. The former is fixable on a reasonably optimistic reading of current trends, the latter plainly is not. The 5-year review of the Paris Agreement will conclude that sequestration has to start immediately.

        It’s important to get the sequestration footnote included in any carbon tax.

        • Steve Grinwis

          I’ll be honest. I have no faith that we’ll get enough traction in the next 5 years to keep to the 1.5C target.

    • super390

      Well, there’s more than one way to create a dividend. If you use the carbon tax to create something that will save me the taxpayer some $ down the road, I might appreciate it. Though as short-term thinking becomes ever more intense I doubt it. Like, help me buy solar panels for my house, or an EV that will eliminate my gasoline costs.

      Now as to sequestration, the way to do that would be to plant trees – but to have the trees publicly owned. As in, we the taxpayers are the shareholders of these tree plantations located on public land. Tree-planting only works as long as the trees are alive, but when they die they simply rot and release CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. So all tree-planting is already based on the expectation of future use, and that implies that the wood has some economic value that can be returned to the shareholders.

      • JamesWimberley

        If you plant a new forest today on a noncommercial basis, it fixes carbon until it reaches maturity (maybe 40 years in Brazil, 100 in Europe). At that point it enters a steady state, with new growth balancing the rotting of the dead trees. You can improve the carbon balance by careful harvesting, if you use the wood for construction. There’s a wooden pagoda in Japan built in the 8 th century. That’s extreme, but another 100 years of sequestration are quite easy.

  • jonesey

    I’m happy to see all of these words, but I will reserve judgment until I see some action. Let’s see some US Republicans support and pass actual legislation implementing a cost of carbon.

    Until then, Republicans talking about carbon taxation is exactly like Volkswagen talking about their 300-mile-range electric vehicle. All hat, no cattle.

    • dRanger

      California instituted a successful carbon tax but only after the Republican minority had been totally crushed in the legislature – a real lesson there for the rest of America.

    • Exactly. And this is why I put the article up — as yet another push. And why I started with the moral imperative. I think that’s what will get politicians to break rank, as it should!

      • Ross

        I see it as a plea to conservatives to return to responsibility. They started on the right side of this issue and can return to a more sane position. The economic costs of postponing being serious about the causes and effects of global warming are huge. Dealing with the many threats of climate change can easily be cast by them in ways that will resonate with their voters.

  • thinkmorebelieveless

    So the deal is something like this: pay the government lets say a thousand dollars and at the end of the year the gov’t gives your thousand dollars back. Given that there is no interest earned and inflation is a factor then you get less than a thousand dollars of buying power back at the end of the year…….this is not neutral it is a loss.

    To avoid this entire Carbon Tax exercise all together why not wean the FF industry off of the gov’t support gravy train. Take the FF support money and direct it towards renewables and efficiency. It is time that our Legislators do their job and change the legislation they created and stop looking to taxpayers to makeup for their inability to act. If you take the gov’t support away from the FF industry won’t the price of their products increase ? Let economics determine if FF is less cost than zero fuel cost renewables.

    • dRanger

      “…wean the FF industry off of gov’t support gravy train.” This will be difficult because any kind of subsidy reduction magically becomes a tax increase, and the American people have been conditioned to see ALL tax increases as bad, bad, bad. Of course EV subsidies are a stain on free market principles – see how this works?

      • thinkmorebelieveless

        I don’t follow your reasoning of how less support to private industry becomes a tax increase. Many people see EV subsidies as an effort to accelerate a nascent technology, a cost that will go away as the technology quickly matures. Unfortunately though subsidies like for EV’s are also seen as picking the winners and the losers. FF support is perceived as endless. Support take-back should result in a product price increase if the industry wants to maintain profits.

        • dRanger

          Less subsidy translates into higher taxes because most of the subsidies are structured as tax breaks, just like the solar, geothermal and EV subsidies. Less tax break equals higher taxes paid.

    • super390

      Besides dranger’s point, much of the so-called subsidy comes in the form of things that are hard to quantify due to ideology: health costs from pollution and the deformation of the military budget by added missions.

      Health costs from pollution are themselves attacked by conservatives, whether in their attempts at “tort reform” based on the claim that “trial lawyers” are all lying about harm done to their clients, or in battles against environmental legislation and regulation. Just look at the brawling over the EPA’s claim that CO2 emissions fall under the language of the laws that define its regulatory responsibilities. Now if a right-winger believes that sick people should not get any help from government in the first place but doesn’t want to come out and say that, the fact that they got sick due to pollution is just another reason for him to lie about pollution.

      If you dig deep enough into the priesthood that generates these ideas, you get into a scary land that rejects the very idea that there are any such things as public goods (like clean air and water). Some of these folks want to put price tags on all matters of justice. Like replacing prison with cash penalties based on the value of a person. Meaning if a poor man and a rich man get into a fight, and the former kills the latter, he faces a fine of millions, but if the rich man kills the poor man he faces a fine of thousands. But of course, some of them also think that if you can’t pay your debt you should be put in a slave labor camp or in some other way be enslaved by the person you owe, so the poor man goes to prison anyway. Another corollary is that the rich MUST be rich because they make superior money decisions, therefore the poor should pay HIGHER tax rates because they will just waste their tiny earnings anyway on drugs and junk food.

      That’s actually the ideological freak show Speaker of the House Paul Ryan comes from, as do some successful GOP governors. You will never get people like them to sincerely accept the idea of “externalities” that markets can’t fairly address. To them, the useful rich can logically sacrifice the useless poor as long as net wealth is produced. So saving the common folk from ANY health effects deprives the rich of their opportunity to magically generate more Rolls-Royces.

      If you think that’s nuts, that’s a far more coherent argument about costs than you will ever see in the magical patriotical realm of military spending, which is why I’m skipping it tonight.

      • nakedChimp

        The societies of the future will have to find a way to channel/guard individuals with such traits to not be bale to do harm anymore.
        The current systems are complete failures on that front.

    • ElectricGuy

      Running this thru the federal income tax system would allow you to adjust your withholding (likely automatic for most people) and get a ‘raise’ approximately equal to the higher fuel costs you would face each month.

      That’s pretty neutral.

      We could remove tax breaks from FF, but for the most part they are simply treated like other companies.

      • thinkmorebelieveless

        Well if the FF guys are being treated like other companies then it will be difficult to single them out, especially considering that they produce a product in great demand. Look at pickup truck and SUV sales compared with fuel efficient vehicles and I see that they are still building mega-mansions and our average energy consumption per household in the US is still around 12,000 kWh per year.

        Do you have any knowledge that the Carbon Tax would be linked to the IRS ?

        • ElectricGuy

          It’s the most proposed mechanism for the refund. But there is not legislation to reference. BC simply lowered tax rates.

          That said, analysis of the various things Congress could do shows using the revenue to reduce the deficit is the best thing, by a nice margin. We just have to truxt that Congress would actually do so. Fat chance, IMO. Better to give it back and accept the lesser benefit that would actually occur, rather than the greater benefit that would likely never materialize.

          • Matt

            The most common and based on studies effective is to give the dividend back in equal amounts to everyone; well normally tax payer and dependents. If you use no carbon (electric, gas, etc) then you get a lot more that it cost you. If you use a lot of carbon then you pay much more that you get back. So you therefore want to reduce your carbon footprint.

          • ElectricGuy

            There are a variety of mechanisms proposed, but the most effective in terms of how it affects the economy is deficit reduction. I don’t think we’ll see that one, personally, since this needs to be sold as revenue neutral and it is not. Plus, trusting Congress to actually reduce the deficit is an exercise in folly.

            On how it will motivate you to shift from fossil fuels, the tax alone is (needs to be, see below) enough to motivate. The returned revenue would allow you to do nothing as much as it would allow you to finance non-fossil alternatives. In effect, by not returning the money directly (various alternatives for that, too) the motivation to change is increased.

            Before we impose a carbon tax, we could (and should) easily justify about $0.25 to $0.40 per gallon tax to treat respiratory diseases associated with fossil fuel combustion, another $0.50 is needed to pay for roads. The carbon tax itself would only be about $0.30 (at $30 per ton). In that light, it’s fairly small compared to the discussion it gets. It’s also fairly small as a motivator. We regularly endure swings much greater than that and don’t see the reduction in demand we need to address climate change concerns. Perhaps the swings are too short in duration and a known long term increase in energy prices would have angreater impact per $ of change.

            Interesting viewpoint I’ve seen: A carbon tax could/should allow us to eliminate many emisssion regulations, helping reduce the burden on business (passed along to individuals). As with deficit reduction, I can already hear the screams from both sides of the aisle if somebody introduced a bill to tax carbon at a buck a ton (and other emissions accordingly) and do away with the EPA.

    • nakedChimp

      You really care for 2-3% of interest earnings on $1000 that is eaten up by inflation many times over?

      • thinkmorebelieveless

        Would it matter to you if your bank stopped paying interest on your savings and checking account ?

        Also consider that there would be millions paying the $1,000 for the Carbon Tax…………now we are talking big money lost interest yet I suspect that the money would be put in an interest earning escrow account. Who gets the escrow earnings ?

        • nakedChimp

          I know about the big picture – so my answer is no, it wouldn’t and doesn’t bother me in the slightest that I don’t get paid interest on those couple thousand or more money that is sitting in my accounts.

          I have bigger things to worry about than that little bit of interest on FIAT money that I get.
          I don’t even worry about my retirement fund that much.. by the time I will retire the whole thing won’t be worth a penny anyway.

          I worry much more about the hidden interest in all the prices that I pay to the borrowers of the capital that went into those plants and technology that I buy products off.
          I worry much more about the financial transfers of interest payments in the government expenses for borrowing money that is taken out of the annual government income.

          There is a flow of money from ordinary people to the 1% that is mind boggling. And this flow only leads to more inequality. Just look at the growing rate of debt and riches on accounts world wide.. that’s two sides of the very same coin there. You only get those unbelievable riches because you have those insane debt on the other side and that flow of money.
          Money should not be used for 2 functions at the same time.. transactions and wealth accumulation.

          That’s what I’m worried about and what this will lead to.

          Read Keynes and Gesell.. don’t know if there is adequate English literature on the subject though.

          Good luck.

          • thinkmorebelieveless

            You have an interesting perspective on this and I share some of your concerns.

          • Carl Raymond S

            Money is a yardstick used to measure wealth. Wealth is kept as assets.

  • Freddy D

    Revenue neutral is an important concept. Ronald Reagan wanted a revenue-neutral gas tax, but his colleagues gagged him on that idea in about 10 minutes. In those days, while climate change was certainly in discussion, it was a national security, trade deficit, economic efficiency and economic stability play. All very rational at the time.

    • dRanger

      Reagan’s economic policies were “rational” only to the 1% and only in the short term. The resulting climate disaster and consequences of income inequality will demonstrate the error even to the 1% very soon. It’s already started.

      • neroden

        I don’t think Reagan’s economic policies can ever be described as “rational”.

        Reagan is the guy who presented a budget and claimed it was a balanced budget. When it was pointed out that it had a deficit of hundreds of billions of dollars, his response was “defense spending doesn’t count”.

        His budgets were full of what were known as “magic asterisks” — huge multibillion dollar entries for “savings to be found later”, which of course never materialized.

        This is essentially fraudulent budgeting, and nobody whose budgeting is fraudulent is engaging in rational economic policy.

        • Freddy D

          I was referring specifically to Reagan’s gas tax rationale, and I even forgot to pile on the revenue to pay for the road system, which is massively subsidized out of income taxes. If roads had to pay their own way without massive subsidies, there would be far more railroads (high speed intercity, modern urban, etc) in the United States. I didn’t intend to comment on Reagan’s other economic moves.

          • super390

            I think dranger is talking about the idea that Reagan’s proposals were meant as a Trojan horse to create conditions for far more extreme right-wing ideas scheduled to follow after he left office, a conspiracy to permanently mainstream fringe regressivism and move the Overton Window rightward. Revenue-neutral, when combined with proposals to cut all other taxes, is basically a way of saying that non-military government spending can never grow despite the growing size of the country. It’s a short road from there to Grover Norquist’s “government small enough to drown in a bathtub”. Which has really meant turning over more and more government to private contractors and mercenaries on the grounds that “business is more efficient than government” so there must be savings, but in fact has often failed to produce quantitative proof.

          • brunurb

            +1 for “overton window” …never heard the term before, but after reading a little about it, it’s a concept that I’ve thought about, but never had the term to describe.

  • Freddy D

    This is an amazing and powerful development.

    Rewind a few months to a key turning point in American political position on climate change. I just happened to hear Pope Francis’s speech to congress and it was an amazing experience. I had not planned on listening to it, nor do I normally follow much to do with the Roman Catholic Church, but I caught the beginning and was hooked and listened to the entire speech, live. Pope Francis speech style differs completely from typical political or religious “powerful” speaking style in that he is very soft-spoken, delivering in a subtle yet powerful choice of language. And he has thick accents layered in, being from Argentina, working in latin, English, and who knows what other languages. He proceeded, in his soft spoken and underhanded way, to tell Congress, something like “let me explain morality to you people, as someone in a position to know a thing or two about true morality. The golden rule (repeated and explained 3 different times), gun control, inclusion rather than exclusion of less fortunate, caring for the poor, education” and down the line. Then he got to climate change and made strong statements there.

    Then Boener quit the next day. Think about that. I think he, as a religious person, had also become very “uncomfortable” with his own party, so he had arranged this “guest speaker”.

    Carbon tax: why is this so important? Two reasons:
    1) it will provide an incentive to stop carbon pollution in all the areas where there would otherwise be no incentive whatsoever. The list of these areas is very long and stopping the last 25% or 50% of CO2 pollution will not happen from economic trends of PV and LiIon alone.
    2) A price on carbon will provide a mechanism to fund CO2 REMOVAL from the atmosphere via reforestation or direct air capture, which needs massive R&D to figure it out.

    CleanTechnica has an opportunity to follow both the policies around carbon pricing and the “Technica” of direct air capture of CO2, artificial leaf, and other schemes to unpollute the air. It’s an obscure field now, and for the folks who know about thermodynamics, the entropy to overcome is daunting. It’s an ugly technical problem and certainly I’m not one to know if it can ever be made to work.

    • dcard88

      Thanks for mentioning that time frame. I didn’t remember those being related events.

    • I’d prefer targeting the carbon tax revenue to CO2 removal via reforestation rather than aiming to make it revenue neutral or funding obscure research. People love trees – where I live was desert before it was settled, and now it’s covered in trees. “But… more trees!” is a great kernel for marketing this approach to voters.

      Another great PR strategy is to call it a “carbon fee” instead of a “carbon tax”. People generally hate to increase their own taxes.

      • neroden

        I’d simply call it a “pollution price”.

        • Harry Johnson


        • Ross

          Everyone use that and it will become common terminology.

        • nitpicker357

          “air-dumping fee”?

      • Matt

        The only way it will go thru is as revenue neutral, plus if you don’t do it with at least 75% as a per person dividend; then it becomes regressive.

        • My point was that revenue neutral is NOT the only way it could be passed. People love trees; they are generally ambivalent about not making or paying any money. Meh.

          The high gasoline taxes in the USA are already highly regressive, but receive solid support overall from both parties.

          • super390

            America has the lowest gasoline prices in the First World. Our taxes must be awfully low compared to Europe, Canada and Japan. Yet whenever the price of gasoline goes over 3 bucks, people start whining about gas taxes as though the roads will fix themselves.

          • That has nothing to do with the regressive nature of gasoline taxes, of course. Again, if you want to positively affect the economics of carbon, your PR should be based on something more persuasive than “we’re taxing you more, but we’ll give you some of the taxes back if you’re poor enough”.

          • super390

            The point is, people in those other countries put up with higher gasoline taxes than we do because of differences in values, probably multiple values that make it complicated to draw useful lessons. And in fact Americans do demand cuts in gas taxes at the very same time that they complain that we haven’t built enough highways. So I am doubtful that they will be placated by being told that it’s being used to plant trees even though that would be a logical thing to do.

          • Ross

            Other countries are under more pressure to balance their budgets. They don’t have the ability to print more of their currency while retaining confidence in their country’s economy.

            That’s a reality that makes it easier to impose taxes.

          • Ross, can you run for president of the United States? I feel like you are terrifically suited for it. Or at least for a position in Congress?

            I know, I know… but seriously, wish I could upvote this 100 times and somehow get >50% of the population to read and understand it. It was absurd what the GOP did, and absurd what it has been doing for decades. Let’s just hope Trump shakes things up enough to make more sensible Republicans decide that they’ve had enough of the nonsense and work to turn the party around.

          • Calamity_Jean

            “Let’s just hope Trump shakes things up enough to make more sensible Republicans decide that they’ve had enough of the nonsense and work to turn the party around.”

            Or that alternatively that Trump has such massive negative coattails that Republicans become almost powerless for at least ten years, long enough to get real change made.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I can get totally behind that.

            Move this country forward several giant steps and see if we can make up for some of the time we’ve lost to Reaganomics and Bush incompetence.

          • Xander66

            For you to believe the message is: “we’re taxing you more, but we’ll give you some of the taxes back if you’re poor enough” only shows you don’t understand the concept.

            British Columbia employs a revenue-neutral Carbon Tax Shift that is unique in North America; only Quebec has a similar retail tax but it is set at a much lower rate and does not include a matching tax shift.

            I’m not “poor enough” but because I live in BC my income tax was cut by 2% for the first 2 tax brackets. So for most of BC’s residents the government isn’t giving anything back. They’re just taking less to start with. That work’s for me, would it work for you.

            By law, every dollar raised by the carbon tax is returned to individuals and businesses in advance, through *tax reductions*. None of the carbon tax revenue is used to fund government spending.

            There is, however, a tax credit designed to help offset the carbon tax paid by low-income individuals and families (as there should be). The credit is paid quarterly along with the federal GST credit and BC HST Credit.

            The problem is most people believe the carbon tax is just a tax grab.
            Because of this, many law-makers are reluctant to enact a “carbon tax” of any kind.

            But a “revenue-neutral” Carbon Tax Shift plan allows market forces to lead us away from the use of fossil fuels. The “Carbon Fee and Dividend” plan, although more complicated than BC’s plan is also “revenue-neutral”, so it could also work.

            Monthly *per-person* dividend payments would be made to ALL American households, not just those “poor enough” (½ payment per child under 18 years old, with a limit of 2 children per family).

            By law, the total value of all monthly dividend payments would represent 100% of the total carbon fees collected each month.

            People like to get checks in the mail.

            Go see the Citizen’s Climate Lobby proposal at:


            B.C.’s carbon pricing system is not perfect, but it’s the best and only one in North America and probably the world so far.

            The key to implementing a carbon tax is to remove the “it’s just a tax grab” argument and get the program started.

            Canada’s last Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeatedly claimed that a carbon tax would “destroy jobs and growth.” Yet the evidence from the only province that actually passed a revenue neutral tax – British Columbia – tells a different story and can be used as a real world example.

            The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that B.C.’s “revenue neutral” policy has been a real environmental and economic success. Far from a being a “job killer,” it is a world-leading example of how to tackle one of the greatest global challenges of our time: building an economy that will prosper in a carbon-constrained world.

            The Financial Post says B.C.’s carbon tax shift works. Go see at:

          • Steve Grinwis

            High gasoline taxes in the U.S.? BUA HA HA HA HA HA!

            Around here, in Canada, we pay $4.13 / gallon, and the overall tax we pay on it is in excess of $1 / gallon.

            Nice try, but your gas taxes are actually really low…

          • Fuel tax rates vary widely from state to state and province to province, but the average in the US is about 45¢ and in Canada is about 75¢. I wouldn’t consider EITHER of those “really low”! 😀 (See references below. Both are in US$.)

            But my point wasn’t to whine about taxes – roads must be funded, after all – but rather that fuel taxes are both regressive and unpopular in the US, and thus a poor model for proposing to impose the actual cost of carbon emissions on those who produce them.

            Do you disagree with my actual point?

            [1] eia dot gov/petroleum/marketing/monthly/xls/fueltaxes.xls
            [2] x-rates dot com/calculator/?from=USD&to=CAD&amount=1
            [3] wikipedia dot org/wiki/Motor_fuel_taxes_in_Canada

          • Calamity_Jean

            “The high gasoline taxes in the USA … receive solid support overall from both parties.”

            So why is there such opposition to raising the gasoline tax, despite the fact that the road maintenance fund they go into is almost empty?

          • People in the USA love for OTHER people to pay more taxes to pay for stuff they want. They hate to pay more taxes THEMSELVES, and gasoline taxes affect most voters. So while both parties doggedly defend the gas tax, and get away with it because the tax is already hidden in the price listed at the pump, raising it is problematic because it makes headlines about taxes each voter will have to pay.

            Adding carbon “taxes” suffers the same problem, even if you claim it is “revenue neutral”. You make headlines about “new taxes”, and evoke a visceral negative response. But if you claim new revenue sources (not taxes) will be dedicated to a worthy cause (more trees!), you may succeed. People love trees.

            Example: The Texas lottery passed due to repeated assurances that the revenue would be dedicated to improving education – voters love children even more than trees. Then voters discovered that it actually just went to the general fund, and education spending didn’t change. They promptly obliterated the career of popular governor Ann Richards, who had repeatedly made the false promise and who until that point was considered likely to be the first female POTUS.

            So, don’t call it a tax. Seriously. It’s a fee to plant trees, or save the children, or create jobs – ANYTHING voters support. But NOT another tax!

          • Calamity_Jean

            One of it’s major supporters calls it “fee and dividend”.

          • That’s a pretty good name, I think.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Yeah, I like it.

    • I never watched the speech, but am now tempted to!

      And interesting point on Boehner… who also joined Obama for a skit for the annual presidential media ball.

      • Freddy D

        Building on that, the Pope released his Encyclical on Climate Change some weeks / months prior. I’ve not read that one myself. I am certainly curious as to whether, after years of silence on climate change and other moral issues, these formal messages from one of the world’s few centrally run religious organizations might have an effect on human perception. So much of dealing with climate change now depends on human will and policy since the technical feasibility and economics no longer barriers to transformation.

    • Jens Stubbe

      The pope is a chemist by training so he knows the fundamentals. http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2013/03/12/pope-francis-scientist-2/#49b21c2a6d8f

  • Sylvia Preston

    There is no doubt that politicians are motivated by the funding provided by their fossil fuel industry benefactors, but the cynical view is too simplistic. The politicians most rewarded for their favorable policy positions on issues affecting the industry most often represent districts the economy of which is heavily reliant on the industry.
    The greater intellectual and moral failing is among the prople they represent. Politicians could nto be corrupt if their constituents were not corrupt.

    • Harry Johnson

      I agree. Voters are ultimately to blame. My rage for them is already there.

    • dcard88

      Politicians could not be corrupt if their voters were not corrupt AND/OR ignorant.

      • neroden

        There’s a rich and powerful lobby which is doing their best to MAKE voters ignorant by spreading disinformation. ExxonMobil is a big part of it.

        • Epicurus

          Lying about facts critical to public policy choices should not be protected speech.

          • So you would have the government decide which facts are “true”, and which facts are “critical to public policy choices”, and then punish people for unapproved speech? That’s called “censorship”.

            Patrick Henry is spinning faster than a Tesla axle in his grave.

          • Epicurus

            Judges and juries decide which statements are true and false everyday. Ever heard of libel and slander? They also decide what facts are material and what facts are immaterial to a particular issue. Materiality is a much litigated concept in the securities arena.

            Not all speech is protected speech under the First Amendment, and, yes, unprotected speech is subject to censorship.

            What Patrick Henry would be spinning about is that corporations are considered persons now and have First Amendment rights in the first place.

          • Oh, good grief. If you SERIOUSLY believe the definition of libel is “lying about facts critical to public policy choices”, you flunked civics. And those who live in fragile glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!

          • Epicurus

            You must have flunked reading comprehension.

            My point in mentioning libel and slander is twofold: (1) that judges and juries are perfectly capable of deciding what statements are true and what statements are false (judges and juries, not the “guvamint” you so fear), and (2) not all speech is protected speech.

            I think everyone else understands that.

            Why should lies intended to sway public opinion about important public policy by corporations with a financial interest in the outcome be protected speech?

          • As I stated, when you demand that “lies intended to sway public opinion” be outlawed, you empower the government to define what is a “lie” and why it was told. This is exceptionally dangerous, as the temptation to define a “lie” as “criticism of the government” is very strong, and is exactly the totalitarian power that the First Amendment intends to prevent.

            For more details on why freedom of speech is so important, ESPECIALLY speech that you (and the government) really don’t like, see reference dot com/government-politics/freedom-speech-important-84e52a68cd531b83.

            Hope that helps.

          • Epicurus

            No one is tempted to define a lie as criticism of the government, although I’m sure that’s a hot topic at your John Birch Society meetings.

            Most people think it is desirable to outlaw fraud, and what Exxon has done is essentially fraud.

            Hope that helps.

          • Yet again, if you believe the legal definition of fraud is “lying about facts critical to public policy choices”, then you are badly mistaken.

            But I think you realize your proposal to outlaw political speech in conflict with your own leanings is indefensible, hence your endless ad hominem attacks sprinkled with non sequiter references to slander, libel, and fraud.

          • Epicurus

            I wish you had better reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

          • Arguing that climate science isn’t settled and proposing alternate climate models is most definitely protected speech, both politically and in science. Ditto for your other appeals to emotion.

            In fact, outlawing challenges to ANY scientific theory, even one with exceptionally strong supporting evidence such as, say, Newton’s Laws of Motion, is death for science itself. Think about this example carefully.

            Fundamental to the scientific method is the freedom to propose better models. I trust the scientific community to judge these proposals on their intrinsic value or lack thereof – this is the self-correcting nature of science without which it will quickly stagnate.

            Climate science is more than capable of defending itself on the evidence. It doesn’t require government censorship to be accepted and its implications understood, despite your very low opinion of it.

            The antidote to propaganda isn’t censorship, it is vigorous defense of the truth in the public forum. Censorship of propaganda is but a hair’s breadth away from censorship of the truth.

            Similarly, your demand that speech related to public policy be regulated by the government is anathema to democracy, and will quickly lead to erosion of other human rights.

          • Epicurus

            “I trust the scientific community to judge these proposals on their intrinsic value or lack thereof”

            I most certainly do too, as do we all, and with regard climate science, except for a handful of outliers (kooks, people biased by financial interests, etc.), the vast majority of climate scientists has been in agreement for decades, including the Exxon scientists who conducted the company’s original research in the 70s and 80s.

            When Einstein’s theory of special relativity proved to be superior to Newtonian mechanics, it was readily accepted by the scientific community.

            Were millions of dollars spent by special interests to persuade the public that Newton’s inferior theory was correct?

            Yes, theoretically, the truth should win out in an unregulated marketplace of ideas, and it does within the academic community, but it has been a colossal failure in the public arena.

          • just_jim

            Lying about facts on SEC documents to influence the stock price is fraud. So is omitting material information.

          • Yes, it is. But we weren’t discussing lying on SEC documents to influence stock prices, we were specifically discussing “lying about facts critical to public policy choices”, so that too is non sequiter.

          • Epicurus


            Securities law made a vast improvement over the common law by defining fraud to include failure to state a material fact, not just a false statement of material fact.

            ExxonMobil has a problem.

          • CommentorinChief

            Spoken like a true fascist.

          • Epicurus

            Would Hitler have been able to rise to power if his lies about the Jews been prohibited speech?

          • JamesWimberley

            “Would Hitler &c?” The answer is yes. We know this because the murder of political opponents was a major crime in the law of the Weimar Republic. That did not stop the Nazis from doing it on a regular basis, and getting away with it. One brave Munich newspaper kept a regular tally on its front page. The paper was closed the day the Nazis came to power. There was massive collusion by the Weimar police and judiciary to ignore Nazi crimes. Making hate speech illegal would have changed nothing.

          • Epicurus

            Let me rephrase.

            Would Hitler have been able to pass antisemitic laws and carry out the Holocaust if his lies about the Jews been prohibited speech?

            Of course Hitler was an autocrat so perhaps he could have gotten away with anything, but absent the antisemitic lies, the German public might not have gone along with Kristallnacht and other Nazi brutalities.

          • Oh, good grief, it’s GODWIN’S LAW!!!

            And being paid money to voluntarily agree to a non-disparagement clause in a civil contract is NOT government censorship.


          • Epicurus

            Right, being extorted by a corporation into signing away one’s right to tell the truth about one’s employer is not government censorship. It’s another kind of censorship.

          • The outgoing employee was offered around $10,000 to sign a non-disparagement contract. He could sign or not sign. Where’s the extortion?

            If he chose not to sign, he could say whatever he pleases, just as if he had never worked there at all. Where’s the censorship?

            Are you suggesting that additional compensation for voluntarily signing a severance agreement should be outlawed? Because he sounded like he really needed the additional money right then. I don’t see how making him $10,000 poorer by outlawing a source of income is much help.

          • Epicurus

            Sure. Let corporations purchase the silence of its present and former employees.

            What great public policy.

          • If you don’t want to sign the contract, Epicurus, don’t sign it. But stop trying to run everybody else’s life. We don’t need you nearly as much as you think we do.

          • Epicurus

            Take your right wing free market fundamentalism somewhere else.

          • We call it “liberty”. It terrifies tyrants and sheep.

            I think I stay. Au revoir!

          • Epicurus

            We call it oligarchy, and it will be defeated by a resurgence of democracy.

          • Xander66

            “Facts” are always true. Lying about facts “critical to public policy choices” is criminal and should be dealt with accordingly.

            An in-depth series by Pulitzer Prize winning “InsideClimate News” has explored Exxon’s early engagement with climate research more than 35 years ago and its subsequent campaign to create doubt about climate change to use as a shield against forceful government action to curb global warming.

            Documents show that Exxon’s scientists had warned Exxon’s leadership, as early as the summer of 1979, that CO2 was having a profound effect on Earth’s atmosphere.

            Company memo’s on the subject read: “The potential problem is great and urgent.
            It is very clear that immediate research is necessary” and “action should be taken to stop climate change’s cataclysmic effects”.

            As Hoffert (an Exxon scientist) put it in a recent interview, in those days at Exxon “there were no divisions, no agendas. We were coming together as scientists to address issues of vital importance to the world.

            In 1988, James Hansen told Congress that there was now enough warming to declare that the greenhouse effect had arrived.

            It was a moment that Exxon’s climate experts had been forecasting for a decade: that as warming became unmistakable, governments would move to control it.

            The company’s environmental record, on file in the official ExxonMobil historical archives acknowledged “Fossil fuel use dominates as the source of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide,” said one section of the encyclopedic review.

            “Current scientific understanding demonstrates the potential for climate change to produce serious impacts. Enhancement of the greenhouse effect and the possibility of adverse climate are of particular and fundamental concern”.

            Then, all of a sudden, Exxon’s leadership on climate change came to an abrupt end. Exxon pivoted toward “uncertainty” and away from the global scientific consensus. /

            EXXON knew they could never prove global warming wasn’t happening because their own scientists had proved it was. It was decided they didn’t have to. All they had to do was create “doubt” in the mind of the public and that would keep the government from acting.

            In a stunning reversal, EXXON delivered the following statement: “Currently, the scientific evidence is “inconclusive” as to whether human activities are having a significant effect on the global climate.

            Addressing the World Petroleum Congress EXXON’s Chairman claimed: “The earth is cooler today than it was 20 years ago,” except, that year (1977) was declared the hottest year on record so far.

            Turning his back on Exxon researchers and their state-of-the-art work, the new Chairman mocked the climate models produced by EXXON;s own scientists.

            In 1998 Exxon also helped create the “Global Climate Science Team”, an effort involving the company’s top lobbyist, and a public relations representative for API.(The American Petroleum Institute) They asserted that “it is “not known for sure whether (a) climate change actually is occurring, or (b) if it is, whether humans really have any influence on it.”

            Exxon was funding at least 39 organizations “featuring information on their websites that misrepresented the science on climate change, by outright denial of the evidence that greenhouse gases are driving climate change, or by overstating the amount and significance of uncertainty in knowledge.”

            The newly elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, declared: “a network of Exxon-funded, ExxonMobil funded organizations have sought to distort, manipulate and suppress climate science so as to confuse the American public about the urgency of the global warming problem, and thus, forestall a strong policy response.”

            The investigation found that not only has Exxon known about fossil fuel’s impact on climate change since the early 1980s, it was in fact secretly funding “Think Tanks” to create doubt about the science of climate change for years, despite the conclusions of its own scientists.

            A network of Exxon-funded organizations have sought to distort, manipulate and suppress climate science so as to confuse the American public about the urgency of the global warming problem, and thus, forestall any strong policy response by the government

            The company had reportedly secretly funneled at least $16 million dollars into lobbying and advertising campaigns to cast doubt on the scientific evidence about climate change,

            By 2005 Exxon was funding at least 39 denial organizations that featured information on their websites that misrepresented the science on climate change as either “uncertain” or “untrustworthy” due to tampering by the scientists.

            Their campaign of lies worked.

            EXXON, knowing the Arctic would be largely Ice free soon, quietly bought up drilling leases to exploit,for profit the global warming their scientists predicted and the company denied.

            Exxon and their cohorts have been particularly effective at polarizing and misinforming the public on climate change. They have given over $31 million to organizations and individuals blocking solutions to climate change and spreading misinformation to the public.

            Go see the whole story at:


            Go see What Exxon Knew


            The move to indite Exxon officials is not an attempt to punish people for unapproved speech nor is it “censorship”.

            They weren’t engaged in “free speech”

            They knowingly helped organize the most consequential lie in human history, and kept that lie going past the point where we can protect the poles, prevent the acidification of the oceans, or slow sea level rise enough to save the most vulnerable regions and cultures.

        • Epicurus

          And perhaps the worst part of it all?

          U.S, taxpayers are subsidizing the disinformation campaigns of corporations like ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil and others are no doubt deducting the costs of these campaigns either as ordinary and necessary business expenses or as charitable donations to 501c3 “educational” organizations.

      • Exactly. And who makes the more ignorant? Well, the politicians certainly do their part.

        • CommentorinChief

          How long until you start executing people that do not agree 100% with your climate religion?

          • Steve Grinwis

            … Are.. Are you serious? Like. What?

          • Have no idea where that came from… Crazy, eh?

          • Say what?…

            Believe it or not, I am against killing (surprising, since I’m also again polluting; poisoning people’s lungs, hearts, & brains; and frying our planet), so I wouldn’t endorse executing anyone.

    • dRanger

      Although there is some truth in your blame of voters, there’s more to it. If people were totally responsible for what they believe, Fraud would not be a crime. Advertising is fundamentally about getting people to believe something they otherwise wouldn’t, and the more you learn about how people can be manipulated, the more horrifying and disgusting it becomes. I vote to cut us poor sheeple a little slack and work to more clearly identify the wolves and their hired psychologists.

      • super390

        The problem is, for 5000 years society and its operations have been getting more complicated. At the very moment when democracy reappeared as a form of government, only 240 years ago, that complexity was just about to shoot through the roof with a new age of science and technology. So we became dependent on our elected representatives to study these complexities and make beneficial decisions – which guaranteed that bad people would target the representatives with bribes and lies. We now live in an age when people probably believe more untrue things than they ever have before, because their intellectual capacity to judge the information flooding in to their senses is completely overwhelmed by volume and their own prejudices take charge with snap rulings.

        The logical solution is simplification of operations, but sometimes this just means walling off certain areas of knowledge and trusting that certain devices will just work. For instance, it is certainly easier to operate a computer now than when all we had was machine code and punch cards. The act of bringing a single frame of video to your home TV is vastly more complicated than it was in the analog age, but we trust microprocessors to do their job and keep our role pretty simple.

        So how do we restructure society so that the stuff that’s too complex to worry our pretty little heads over is located not in the guarded palaces of mighty, corrupt overlords but in little wafers of silicon, forming predictable, agendaless plug-in modules on which we ride as masters? This is why I’m cheering for decentralized electricity production and smart EV charging. It’s one case of where we can be the masters without fully understanding the technology that routes the electrons we produce to other people, replacing this mystical, inviolate grid over our heads that the utility barons tell us is too complex and fragile for energy to come from anybody but themselves. We can’t master the complexity, but it’s better to have complexity which we can punish for failure by tossing it in the garbage and buying a better (peer-reviewed) device, than to have complexity that holds us all hostage in its grip demanding that we pay for more and more band-aids or else. Oh wait, did I just describe the financial system, the military-industrial complex, the medical-insurance complex, and our most intractable environmental problems?

        • dRanger

          “Oh wait, did I just describe…” Ummm…I’m going to go with Yes, yes you did. And I, for one, will welcome our new robot overlords.

  • tony39

    The province of British Columbia has a carbon tax of $30.00 tonne. They also have lowest income tax in Canada, lowest unemployment rate and highest growth rate of any Canadian province. I think slow increase to $100.00 tonne is about right.

    • Steve Grinwis

      That would be great if any of that was true…

      Once you make enough money, and include BC healthcare premiums, you will pay less income tax in Alberta, Newfoundland, or any of the territories. (Nunavut, Yukon, or the North West territories). Furthermore, your dollar will go further in a lot of other provinces, because the sales tax in BC is 12% compared to 5% in Alberta.

      Saskatchewan has a lower unemployment rate, as of May 2016, as does Manitoba, and if you look at the participation rate, instead of the unemployment rate (I.E. the number of people who actually work, instead of the number of people actively looking for a job) then BC comes out near the bottom.

      Nominal GDP growth rate in BC is mostly propped up by the current housing bubble that causes 1200 sq. ft tear downs to be worth millions of dollars. Furthermore, BC gets a “B” on overall economy, because it has among the worst income disparities in the country, and makes it worse off for the average person than Ontario or Quebec.

      So… Uhhh… Nice try?

      • Xander66

        You may want to read Tony39’s post again. His comment was limited to BC’s revenue-neutral Carbon Tax Shift.

        What does BC healthcare premiums have to do with it’s revenue-neutral Carbon Tax Shift? There is no carbon in healthcare premiums.

        What does BC’s sales tax have to do with it’s revenue-neutral Carbon Tax Shift? There is no carbon in BC’s sales tax either.

        What does BC’s income disparity have to do with it’s revenue-neutral Carbon Tax Shift? BC’s income disparity contains no carbon that I’m aware of.

        You say: “Once you make enough money, and include BC healthcare premiums, you will pay less income tax in Alberta”, but that’s only if you can find a job, but finding a job in Alberta has nothing to do with BC’s revenue-neutral Carbon Tax Shift either.

        If pigs had wings they could fly. That’s another thing that has nothing to do with BC’s revenue-neutral Carbon Tax Shift. (My turn to say something stupid and unrelated).

        Tony39 said: “The province of British Columbia has a carbon tax of $30.00 tonne. They also have lowest income tax in Canada, lowest unemployment rate and highest growth rate of any Canadian province”.

        But you say: “That would be great if any of that was true…” But you don’t supply any links to support this. Why not?

        B.C.’s carbon pricing system is not perfect, but it remains the best in North America and probably the world.

        British Columbia’s policy is unique in North America; only Quebec has a similar retail tax but it is set at a much lower rate and does not include a matching tax shift

        Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeatedly claimed that a carbon tax would “destroy jobs and growth.” Yet the evidence from British Columbia, tells a different story.

        The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that B.C.’s policy has been a real environmental and economic success after six years.

        Far from a being a “job killer,” it is a world-leading example of how to tackle one of the greatest global challenges of our time: building an economy that will prosper in a carbon-constrained world.

        Here are links to support what I say. Go see The Globe and Mail article at:

        The Financial Post says British B.C.’s carbon tax shift works. Go see at:

        So….yes…..Nice try….. and successful too.

        BC’s revenue-neutral Carbon Tax Shift can be explained in detail at:

        • Steve Grinwis

          Tony made a bunch of statements that were provably false, and I rebutted them.

          I make no other claims, nor inferences to the relative success of the carbon tax shift, nor it’s impact on any other vital economic statistics. Good on them if it’s successful. Shame if it doesn’t work.

          This is just me being pedantic, not saying “Carbon pricing is evil”.

          Nice to see a solid zealot in action though.

  • Carl Raymond S

    Keep in mind the public’s ability to make moral decisions is proportional to GDP. Australia had a carbon tax, then we disgracefully voted it out, convinced by a FUD campaign that it would hurt in the hip pocket nerve.
    Make the economic case first. Voting for a denialist is economically unsound because they back the wrong horse. The world *will* transition to 100% RE, because free fuel is fundamentally cheaper. What varies between nations is the speed of transition. Those who go hard, who develop the best panels, wind turbines, electric cars etc., will be exporters. Those who fall behind will be importers.
    Once people realise this, their moral outrage will surface.

    • Frank

      Think of a carbon tax as temporary. With the pice of renewables, nobody is going to run a large coal fleet when they can replace it for free, or even make money replacing it. If batteries keep progressing, oil is going to be in for a big drop too. I think the biggest thing that needs to be communicated, is that for most people, this will be painless. Of course, if you are in the coal business, there is a transition coming.

      • debbie5231

        I basically get paid about 6.000-8.000 bucks monthly online. For those of you who are prepared to complete basic at home jobs for 2h-5h daily at your home and earn good payment in the same time… Try this work UR1.CA/p7vw7

      • Shane 2

        We don’t know how long it will take for renewables plus storage to be as cheap as fossil fuels. Elon advocates a carbon tax.

        • Frank

          Elon is right, though I would add anything that goes up a chimney, or out a tailpipe that is harmful. People are very clever. It’s amazing what they can figure out when they have a reason. Those kinds of things never cost as much as those people who don’t want it claim.

        • OneHundredbyFifty

          Simply make reasonable estimates for the cost of exernalities and make FF pay for those and its game over. Well that and maybe get some transmission line right of ways permitted from Great Plains to the East and West coast.

      • Freddy D

        There are big benefits to a carbon tax. I agree that electric generation and most auto transport will convert quickly to non-CO2 emitting, as numerous CleanTechnica articles have argued. A price on carbon can help deal with:
        – Aviation
        – Long-lived capital equipment, such as ships, bulldozers, trucks, buildings
        – Industrial processes that are difficult to convert
        – Heating all the buildings and all the water on the planet, which is almost exclusively done by fossil fuels today and has a very long lifecycle and no economic drivers whatsoever to convert. Natural gas heating is super cheap. This can either be virtually eliminated by high performance building envelopes (PassivHaus) or electrified with heat pumps, but needs an economic driver to do so.
        – Cleaning up the mess – an incentive to remove carbon from the air

        • neroden

          Yeah. I’m converting to a heat pump this year or next, but the fact is natgas is so cheap that it’s going to cost me more to run the heat pump than it does to run the gas heating. Not *much* more, but more.

          Any reasonable-sized carbon tax would equalize the cost.

          • dRanger

            I converted to a GE Geospring Heat pump water heater two years ago and it’s been flawless so far. Solar panels and net metering make it beat even the low cost of natural gas. If your state doesn’t permit net metering, you can use a home battery or a new state. As home batteries weren’t quite ready two years ago, I chose a new state.

          • neroden

            Heh. I’m not moving; I have family reasons to stay put. If the family reasons ever go away, I’ll moving straight into an apartment in a big city on the subway line and the utilities will not be my problem…

            dranger, I bet you’re in a different climate band. I’m in central NY. The efficiency of air-source heat pumps is, of course, lower in colder environments. If I could get the COP up to 3.3 I’d break even. I expect gas prices to go up a bit, and if they go back up from their current record lows to more reasonable levels, I’d only need a COP of 2.7 to break even. But I can only actually rely on a COP of 2.11 to 2.35 in the extremely cold weather where the heating will really be doing most of its work. Thank you extremely cold weather.

            I can’t justify ground-source because my house is too tiny; one bore would heat three or four houses my size, so it ends up being cost-ineffective unless I buy my neighbors’ houses first and become their landlord. (Which I did toy with the idea of doing)

            Natgas is $0.21/therm right now where I am, and the distribution costs here are still dirt-cheap.

            Anyway, the degree to which gas is cheaper is around $200/year at current rock-bottom natgas prices, less if natgas prices go back up to plausible levels. I’m willing to spend that much to reduce my carbon footprint.

            A carbon tax the size of British Columbia’s — $30/ton — would wipe out most of that price difference.

          • dRanger

            It’s pretty clear you’ve done your homework, and you are right that our circumstances a very different. I had no natural gas service so propane doubled my cost. Also, the water heater is in a garage in Northern Californa and the winter temperature never falls below 50 degrees. I calculated a 20% ROI but it was only that high because my old unit sprung a leak and I had to replace it anyway. Replacing a fully functional water heater is s not quite so attractive.

          • Steve Grinwis

            The Fujitsu mini-splits are hitting HSPFs up around 14 for your weather band.

            That’s a COP of 4.0.

            Does that make your math easier?


          • GCO
          • Xander66

            I live in British Columbia and my personal income tax was cut when the program went into effect…… so, I’m good with that.
            By the way, it’s NOT a “Carbon Tax”. A tax has the primary purpose of raising revenue. Our program is “Revenue Neutral”

          • Brooks Bridges

            I have, less than once a year, spent over $100 for a single meal for me and my wife.Puts $360 per year in perspective.

          • Xander66

            When you call it a “Carbon Tax” most people think it’s more taxation added to what they already pay and will argue against it.

            It’s a “Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend”

            100% of the net fees will be paid back to households each month.

            The words you choose make a huge difference to a person’s perception.

        • Carl Raymond S

          Agree. A big slice of the existing emissions pie chart is concrete. Carbon negative concrete exists, but with any cost differential at all, won’t become widespread. A carbon tax will initiate the switch, making future concrete construction part of the solution. Essential, because we cannot stop building.

          • Steve Grinwis

            A first blush googling suggests that cement produces roughly 5% of the CO2 each year.

            That doesn’t seem like the low hanging fruit we want to spend our next “eco dollar” on…

          • Carl Raymond S

            I thought it was more. But it may turn out the carbon negative process costs about the same. So if you can flip that to a sequestration process, it’s like a 10% win.
            It will also be a transition slowed by the need to do strength and time testing. Bridge building requires faith in materials.

          • Steve Grinwis

            I looked a bit more into it. Right now, carbon negative cement is both substantially more expensive, and also of substantially worse durability.

            It’s a bit of a lose / lose at the moment.

          • Carl Raymond S

            Here’s a more positive review. I’m no expert, i mean people say positive things about hydrogen too.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Magnesium carbonate, which is discussed in that link, is definitely the most promising. However, the leading company investigating it was recently bought, and it appears as though development has halted for the time being.

            They are correct about one thing: Concrete is incredibly sensitive to price. If you can save $5 / cubic yard, that’s a massive, and commanding lead in the local marketplace.

            Until such a time as CO2 pricing includes the impact of cement, it seems unlikely that this technology will flourish.

          • Carl Raymond S

            As with solar and electric cars, it’s about price, but much of price is about scale.
            Thus what we do is what we continue to do, until some force is applied to tip the see-saw. That force is the carbon tax.
            So we need to look deeper to determine if Magnesium Carbonate can scale.

          • Freddy D

            Not only can we not stop building, it turns out that concrete is essential to a renewable energy system. Wind turbine foundations, solar foundations, and especially electrified high speed rail (or hyperloop if they get that working), electrified urban rail, more sustainable cities, and so on. Pumped hydro storage and I’ve probably forgotten some key solutions.

        • Xander66

          It’s a “Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend” NOT a “Carbon Tax”

          • It depends on the specific proposal. A Revenue-Neutral Carbon Fee & Dividend looks most desirable and politically possible, but a carbon tax is a clear option as well. (See my note above, though, in support of your push.)

      • Matt

        If we had 100 years to burn at current rates you position might so ok. But we don’t, unless mother nature helps with a way to soon mini ice age. Therefore a carbon fee/dividend system to adjust for the externals is the only logical path. Even if there was no climate change, forcing others to pay 3x-5x in externals (health, live, environment) so FF’s can be “cheap” is not free market.

      • nakedChimp

        “I think the biggest thing that needs to be communicated, is that for most people, this will be painless.”
        Via what medium?
        ‘normal people’ work during day in jobs they’d rather not do (otherwise it’s not work) and need the remainder of their awake time to wind down and reload for the next day.
        The media that you would like them to consume is not the easy fast-food/entertainment they are able to take.. and to make matters worse, the media they do consume is in the hands of the incumbents.

        The only people one does reach (maybe) are people that have some time and the mental capacity to think outside the mainstream – students.
        I think that’s why most revolt’s start with them.

    • Shane 2

      As I recall, the Libs had a carbon tax as a policy until Turnbull was removed as leader in favour of Abbott. Now Turnbull is back and is not moving against the right wing of his Party.

      • Carl Raymond S

        Turnbull did too many deals in order to get the top job. And now it’s looking to cost him the top job. The people have more sense than his party.

    • Robert Pollock

      But this won’t go down country by country, it’s ‘global’. And the tech that it spawns or encourages RE is ‘global’ too, in that it’s available to anyone. Money will do what you’re talking of to some extent, but if wealthy US has less of a plan than say, South Africa, than that theory falters too.

    • Xander66

      When you call it a “Carbon Tax” most people think it’s more taxation added to what they already pay and will argue against it.

      It’s a “Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend”

      Most people don’t understand that 100% of the net fees will be paid back to households each month.

      The words you choose make a huge difference to a person’s perception.

      Tell them to Google “Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend”

      Every time I see the inappropriate term “Carbon Tax” I will post the same reply.

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