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06 mei 2009

Emissiehandel of koolstoftax? Romm versus Hansen

Romm: 'Why oh why do even smart people like NASA’s James Hansen think that there is such a thing as a 'simple carbon tax'? Have you folks ever looked at the friggin’ tax code? Seriously, nothing bugs me more than this notion that Congress would ever pass a 'simple' carbon tax, even if it were politically feasible, which it most certainly is not. Well, one thing bugs me more — people who attack the first serious chance we have to get major energy and climate legislation because they are operating under the severe misimpression that the political system of this country might embrace a tax.
Nobelist Al Gore, who also embraces a 350 ppm target like Hansen, combines political realism with his climate science realism, which is why he takes the exact opposite view that Hansen does (...).'

Read the rest of his analysis on Climate Progress.

As for James Hansen's view: read his letter to Michelle and Barack Obama (December 29, 2008):

Rising price on carbon emissions via a “carbon tax and 100 percent dividend.”

A rising price on carbon emissions is the essential underlying support needed to make all other climate policies work. For example, improved building codes are essential, but full enforcement at all construction and operations is impractical. A rising carbon price is the one practical way to obtain compliance with codes designed to increase energy efficiency. A rising carbon price is essential to “decarbonize” the economy, i.e., to move the nation toward the era beyond fossil fuels.
The most effective way to achieve this is a carbon tax (on oil, gas, and coal) at the well-head or port of entry. The tax will then appropriately affect all products and activities that use fossil fuels. The public’s near-term, mid-term, and long-term lifestyle choices will be affected by knowledge that the carbon tax rate will be rising. The public will support the tax if it is returned to them, equal shares on a per capita basis (half shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly in bank accounts.
No large bureaucracy is needed. A person reducing his carbon footprint more than average makes money. A person with large cars and a big house will pay a tax much higher than the dividend. Not one cent goes to Washington. No lobbyists will be supported. Unlike cap-and-trade, no millionaires would be made at the expense of the public.
The tax will spur innovation as entrepreneurs compete to develop and market low-carbon and no-carbon energies and products. The dividend puts money in the pockets of consumers, stimulating the economy, and providing the public a means to purchase the products.
A carbon tax is honest, clear and effective. It will increase energy prices, but low and middle income people, especially, will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead. The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases.
Effects will permeate society. Food requiring lots of carbon emissions to produce and transport will become more expensive and vice versa, encouraging support of nearby farms as opposed to imports from half way around the world. The carbon tax has social benefits. It is progressive. It is useful to those most in need in hard times, providing them an opportunity for larger dividend than tax. It will encourage illegal immigrants to become legal, thus to obtain the dividend, and it will discourage illegal immigration because everybody pays the tax, but only legal citizens collect the dividend.
“Cap and trade” generates special interests, lobbyists, and trading schemes, yielding non productive millionaires, all at public expense. The public is fed up with such business. Tax with 100 percent dividend, in contrast, would spur our economy, while aiding the disadvantaged, the climate, and our national security.'

...- and make up your own mind. My gut feeling is that Hansen is right, but Romm's approach is the only politically feasible one; conclusion: the emissions of greenhouse gasses won't be reduced enough anyway...

Also see:

Worshipping the Temple of Doom [i.e. cap-and-trade in Hansen's view; Gaia]
By James Hansen, May 4, 2009 (PDF)

An open letter to James Hansen on the real truth about stabilizing at 350 ppm
By Joe Romm, Climate Progress, November 23, 2008

You make a compelling case we must ultimately return atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million to avoid catastrophic climate impacts (see 'Stabilize at 350 ppm or risk ice-free planet, warn NASA, Yale, Sheffield, Versailles, Boston et al').
But you have made an uncompelling case about how President-elect Obama should go about achieving 350 ppm


US climate bill weakens
Greenpeace, May 14, 2009

In the Dutch newspaper 'De Volkskrant' (May 9, 2009) ExxonMobil Benelux CEO Joost van Roost says:
'A direct carbon tax would be much better [than carbon trade]. (…) A tax is more predictable and more transparent. Companies can take it into account. Also a tax system is easier than a system that requires administration of the offsets of each company.'
According to the author of the article, VK staff editor Michael Persson, ExxonMobil boss Rex Tillerson thinks carbon trade is not the mechanism of choice to force companies to lower their emissions too.
Tillersons lousy environmental record is well known (see e.g. Joe Romms article piece 'NYT suckered by ExxonMobil in puff piece titled “Green is for Sissies”').
How to judge this? Does this tell us anything to help take position in the carbon trade versus carbon tax debate?
By the way: in the same article Persson lets Roost get away with the predictable assertion that not a transformation to green energy sources, but ‘efficiency’ is the solution for global warming (so that ExxonMobil will be allowed to scrape and sell every gallon of oil out of the earth, including tar sands and oil shale or course).

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