Eco Maniac: Carbon, Carbon Everywhere

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Eco Maniac: Carbon, Carbon Everywhere

There's a lot of debate lately about the best method of reducing carbon by monetizing emissions. Basically, there are two camps: carbon tax versus cap and trade. Both plans have their merits; both have their flaws. I've been studying up on the issue for several weeks and still don't know which is the better model.

Implementing a carbon tax is probably the simpler way to go. We already have a system in place and an understanding of how taxes work. A carbon tax would be an amount tagged onto products and processes that emit carbon. The system is flexible in that the amount can be easily shifted in order to achieve maximum success. If it's too high and burdensome, it can be lowered; if it's too cheap to provide a good carbon reduction incentive, then it gets bumped up until polluters are inspired to clean up their acts.

Seeing as tax increases of any kind strike fear in the hearts of many and riots in the aisles of Congress, proponents of the carbon tax scheme propose to make it revenue neutral by reducing taxes in other places, such as payroll taxes. That way we're taxing things that we collectively consider harmful and in need of reduction while lightening the load on something we collectively consider beneficial and want to boost. Makes good sense, right?


Some reports insist that most economists like the carbon tax plan. It's straightforward, flexible, transparent and manageable, and we can estimate how much income we'll generate based on historical usage. However, ExxonMobil likes the idea and that has to trigger cause for concern. I mean, do we really want to run gadarene into something that Big Oil supports? That has never served us well in the past.

That might be why when Senator Barbara Boxer recently rolled out her six Principles of Global Warming legislation, she put her considerable heft behind the cap-and-trade idea. Boxer, who is the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said, "We're willing to look at everything... but we believe cap-and-trade is the way to go."

The best thing, as best I can tell, about cap and trade is that we can set and control the reduction goals. We can't, however, control the prices which are largely subject to market volatility. In a nutshell, companies would have to buy permits that would allow them to pollute. Only so many permits would be available, so companies that reduce their emissions and have extra permits would sell them to other companies who need them. It's a free market solution that demands a certain trust of big businesses and I, for one, am wary of those right now.


Although the system worked well for acid rain reduction in the early 1990s, Europe put a cap-and-trade program into effect in 2005 and it failed miserably. Too many permits were issued and the prices plummeted. Phase two of their program kicked into gear last year and is doing better. Because of this the European Union is fairly well stuck on the idea, so if we want to be part of the global picture, c-and-t might be the better dress to wear.

There are formidable forces – from John Boehner to Nancy Pelosi to Steven Chu – lining up on both sides of the debate. Getting a carbon tax passed in this economic climate might be tough, while the cap-and-trade program may provide just enough political cover to ameliorate the fact that it is, in essence, a tax in policy clothing and allow it to squeak through. Some advocates say that auctioning off the c-and-t permits resolves the price control and over-saturation issues; opponents argue that's just putting lipstick on a very expensive and complicated pig.

I don't wear lipstick and I don't eat pigs, so I really can't say either way.

Comments [20]

LongBeachDogLover's picture

Without a doubt, he was

Without a doubt, he was explaining exactly what will happen. Even though I may not respect the utility companies manipulation of the market, and their overpricing for services that are imperative for basic human needs, I do respect that he is being honest.....

The utility companies will not 'foot the bill' for any regulations forced on them. They never have, and they never will.

Corporate rule #1 : Make sure that the public needs your product, or service.

Corporate rule #2 : Always look like the 'good guy' when questioned about your motives.....

Corporate rule #3 : Make sure that you have a monopoly on your service, or product. If you don't, buy the competition.

Corporate rule #4 : Threaten to limit production. That will increase profits, with less capital output.

Corporate rule #5 : Make sure your lobbyists are well dressed when they visit their friends in Washington, D.C.


CA_Medicine_Woman's picture

Very interesting indeed. I

Very interesting indeed.

I like how Rogers brought up the issue of concern that the monies raised from auctioning off the permits would not be spent on finding ways to reduce carbon emissions and research into green technologies, but that they might go to fund totally unrelated programs.

Maddow brought up an interesting point to counter Rogers' claim that cap and trade amounts to nothing more than a tax. Rogers readily admits he is the third largest carbon emitter in the US, and Maddow rightly questions why, after decades of emitting harmful substances that effect the health of people and cause environmental damage, Duke shouldn't have to now pay a price for that from their profits.

Too bad Rogers never really answered that question (he's good at sidestepping and deflecting).

rovermom's picture

Fine, Long...I understand

Fine, Long...I understand that passing of taxes on to the consumer. I might not like it, but make it so big that it drives their prices beyond people thinking their product is worth it. Like you said, it's what I was talking about, or trying to say.

If they get super taxed, it just might work...

As for Wally World, it's a shame....Sam never wanted that kind of business. He was about local folks and their product.

Kelly McCartney's picture

See the Rachel clip I just

See the Rachel clip I just posted above, if you didn't see it last night. The head of Duke Energy talks all about passing all the cap-and-trade costs through to the consumers. Rachel fights the good fight, though.

I've been saying for years that our consumer dollars are far more powerful than our election-day votes. And I'll join you on the battle lines against Wal-Mart anyday!

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Kelly McCartney's picture

Well fought! That's how we

Well fought! That's how we create change - one mind at a time.

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Kelly McCartney's picture

Rachel had a great segment

Rachel had a great segment last night with the head honcho of Duke Energy all about this:
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Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

CA_Medicine_Woman's picture

Kind agree, sort of. If the

Kind agree, sort of.

If the corporation provides a critical product, such as energy or pharmaceuticals, yes, higher taxes on them, and the resulting higher prices on those who are dependent on certain products would be harmful.

But, another example is WalMart (my favorite punching bag, lol). They have a massive carbon footprint, not to mention have been key players in the destruction of our manufacturing and retail industries. No one is dependent on their products, as nothing they sell is unique. If they were to pass on increased taxes to consumers, consumers would seek alternative retailers, something WalMart doesn't want. They would be forced to either change or risk losing business.

Of course, my solution to dealing with businesses with huge carbon footprints (not to mention predatory pricing strategies) is to simply buy locally produced products whenever possible.

CA_Medicine_Woman's picture

I've been calling it climate

I've been calling it climate change for years, especially when I figured out how glacial melting could seriously alter the North Atlantic heat pump (it could trigger a European ice age, soon).

I was debating the whole climate change issue with another driver last month (he insisted on calling it global warming). I tried to explain that the weather is more extreme, not just that temperatures overall have risen a few degrees. The high school drop out told me it was part of the normal environmental cycle. Then, he began cleaning his windshield.

I asked him when was the last February he had to wash bugs off his windshield in the Midwest, which is what he was doing at that moment. He thought about that for a minute, and then said he never had to do that before in 35 years of driving trucks.

I won the debate. He now believes global climate change is very real.

For those who may not understand how I won, it's pretty simple. Unless I am driving in the Gulf Coast states, I shouldn't see any bugs on my windshield this time of the year. I'm hitting bugs as far north as along I-70 this year, including moths and butterflies, insects I shouldn't be seeing for months. That means much less food for birds this year. The lower links in the food chain are going to have serious issues this year.

CA_Medicine_Woman's picture

The problem I have with a

The problem I have with a carbon tax stems from the so-called "sin tax," particularly when it comes to cigarettes.

Cigarettes are heavily taxed, and there are even taxes on the taxes. Not one penny of these taxes goes into preventing smoking, quit smoking programs, or treating smoking related illnesses. I have to wonder how much good $20 billion in tobacco taxes collected annually if applied to these areas. But, as you can see, there is no financial incentive for the states to actually promote and implement smoking prevention and cessation programs. In fact, state and federal budgets are more addicted to tobacco revenues than smokers are to the product itself. Don't even get me started on how the monies won in lawsuits against the tobacco industry, which were supposed to be used for the very programs I set out above, largely went into general funds to finance totally unrelated programs.

I see a carbon tax as just a different sort of sin tax. Rather than cutting carbon emissions, funding research programs, etc., it will just end up in the general fund, to finance totally unrelated programs. It may not happen right away, but it will happen. Eventually, the result will be governments so dependent on carbon tax revenues that there will be no incentive to cut the actual carbon emissions.

I do like the cap and trade idea, but after three decades of corporatist neoconservative policies, I'm not sure our political leadership is up to the task of doing this in a way that will actually limit carbon emissions, let alone cut them. With all the corporate money invested in politics today, I suspect the initial "caps" would be so high as to make such a program ineffective for years.

LongBeachDogLover's picture

"I’d love to see the

"I’d love to see the companies super taxed, or fined for not rising to a high standard."

Rover, I agree with several statements that you made......

However, I feel that you may not understand one very important thing about 'corporations'. Corporations pay no taxes. Now, I'm not saying that a corporation doesn't have a 'tax liability' placed on itself after a profitable year. What I am saying is that you, and I, pay those taxes for the corporations. Whether it is in the direct cost of a product, or a fee imposed for the use of a service, WE pay those taxes. So your theory of "seeing companies super taxed" would only punish the consumer. And, over burden those least able to pay.

I think that you are very accurate in stating that with-holding our purchase of a corporations product, or services, is a very pro-active way to implement a consumer protest. And, possibly through that process, we could further advance a change in the... 'business as usual' mentality that seems to flourish throughout so many un-enlightened corporations.


rovermom's picture

But anyways, Capitalism is

But anyways, Capitalism is what is killing our environment - because it's all about free capital and nothing about social, and social involves people and environment.

I'd love to see the companies super taxed, or fined for not rising to a high standard.

And people should just not buy their product, but leave a letter of request for the things they want in their product.

An assessment and a list of companies should be posted - like a then report and a now report...and the improvement.

rovermom's picture

Yep, most don't get that

Yep, most don't get that global climate change, be it colder or warmer....shifting, which devastating everything.

I'm still not sure which way we should go about this subject, but doing nothing is not gonna do.

Part of my complaint of, or understanding of republican stance....

freedom and pursuit of money (I mean happiness) comes first. The government should stay out of that.

But people need to have go to church and pray....and produce lots of babies. They believe the government should allow people to judge that on others. But capitalism is freeeeee rain.

And people should get out and work hard and not ask for hand outs...ever.

I think we should tithe....every business. Oh wait, that's socialism.

Kelly McCartney's picture

I hate idiots like that. They

I hate idiots like that. They are part of why activists are trying to shift the term to global climate change instead of global warming. It's a more accurate moniker due to the fact that the shifts are to extreme weather of all kinds - not just warming.

Oversimplification, black/white with no grey, lack of nuance... it's astounding how much damage these things can do.

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Steph H's picture

"Why can’t we do good because

"Why can’t we do good because it’s the right thing to do?"

Isn't that the eternal conundrum of life, I wonder....

rovermom's picture

I was watching some of the

I was watching some of the news this morning. I'm teeed off about Rush, but I decided I wanted to scope out what the stations were saying. I got to Fox news. *rolls eyes*


The guy had a climate expert on, and was telling him his figures were wrong and it's actually a few degrees colder this year. He kept making the guy look like an idiot....and using the south's snow storm as an example.

He went on to say that we should complain about it being warmer when it actually is....

I nominate him to go to the North Pole and stay there.

Kelly McCartney's picture

Yes, we are. It's really sad.

Yes, we are. It's really sad. You know, some years ago when I was first studying comparative religions, I was turned off by most of them because they had an element of fear as incentive to do good. Even in Buddhism, the Dalai Lama wrote that we should do good to avoid being reborn as an ant. I never understood that. Why can't we do good because it's the right thing to do?

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Kelly McCartney's picture

Ponder your heart out. It's

Ponder your heart out. It's going to be the next big topic of discussion amongst the important people of the world.

Won't you be my neighbor? @theKELword

Tex's picture

I'm back with ya on the

I'm back with ya on the carbons - thanks for the info. I understand and firmly believe we have to do what we can to positively impact and change our destructive ways for the eco system (ecology and economy). What I can't stop thinking about is the fact that humanity has to be bribed to do the right thing....we are a pitiful bunch!

Twitter Time @kdhales

minniesota's picture

Kelly, I must ponder this. I

Kelly, I must ponder this. I think we will be hearing much more about these types of programs in the future.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Tex's picture

Gonna get back to you on this

Gonna get back to you on this one, but I had to make mention of the THC Ax Men advertisement on the side........geez! Oh, but I forget, those ax men are devastating our forests with less environmental how long does it take for one of those giants to grow? There is another series on TLW - Heli-Loggers if you need more of a chainsaw fix. I have to admit that reality loggers do beat reality housewives.

I'm in the mountains taking the bus and walking every place. Sorry to say I used the bus as an excuse to over indulge with the sushi and sake' last night. I feel better environmentally today, but my innards are talking to me....

Twitter Time @kdhales