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The Forum > Article Comments > The flawed logic of the cap-and-trade debate > Comments

The flawed logic of the cap-and-trade debate : Comments

By Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, published 5/6/2009

Current efforts to tax or cap carbon emissions are doomed to failure: the answer lies in making clean energy cheap.

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It is now clear that politicians do not have the cojones to make carbon penalties tough enough. The free permits and generous offsets of cap-and-trade schemes will become exemptions and deductions under a carbon tax so that is not an alternative. However the inescapable fact remains that 'clean energy' with storage and transmission is more expensive than coal. Therefore to confer a relative advantage to clean tech the cost of coal must be increased by government decree. Other approaches like prescriptive carbon standards or green quotas may create unintended consequences. For example a swing from coal fired to gas fired electricity reduces CO2 but may raise gas prices for long standing gas users.

Quite apart from climate change the other problem is that fossil fuels will effectively run out by mid century. Crude oil has already peaked. Those countries with spare gas and coal will be pressured to help out the rest of the world. Carbon penalties now may smooth the inevitable transition path to clean energy. The multi-billion dollar dividend creates a funding mechanism for clean tech capital.

Therefore I think the answer is to persevere with cap and trade schemes but administer them in a fairly harsh way. Disallow most offsets and give subsidies instead of free permits. The squabbling will be deafening with those with the least to lose probably making the most noise. If governments can tough it out for the next decade or two there may be clearer waters ahead. We are heading towards a cliff anyway both in terms of climate surprises and fossil energy shortages.
Posted by Taswegian, Friday, 5 June 2009 9:01:58 AM
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polititions are polutions in and of themselves..[see the joke folks]

see we put punitive taxes on booze/smokes..[doubled even trippled their price..[BUT HOW MANY STOPPED DINKING?>SMOKING,...not many..[in fact some just drink/smoke..all the more]

see that a doubling..of power/water wont change nuthin..[if your hot your going to turn on the air-con..regardless of the cost..[you may pay later..[same re cold,..the addicts to heat..will simply take longer showers..before plugging in the heater]

cap and trade is even worse..[its like giving the booze/smoke tax back to the booze/smoke merchants..[mate its smoke and mirrors,this increase of price..aint going to stop nothing

worse it all the carbon traders..[who will increase the price/cost of carbon/units..[because its paid by the a TAX..compulsory tax put on everything

[just like alcohol/booze tax..[or the tax on smokes]THAT HAVNT AFFECTED boozing or smoking...see this whole tax-sceme is flawed...from its conception..[by the bilderburgers in the 40's]

havnt we learned from the euro/ stupid to give the credit to big buisnes..[the same poluters...that emit all the other polutions..[that our tax will allow them only to find more clever ways of getting our tax

here is how it works...they produce electicity..[from the station...your switcching/off..your light..donst make less electricity..[those still using the light get higher rate of it flowing through their mains

[instead of getting 240 volts of it they get 241 volts of it..[thats why your electrical things burn out..[they push the max down the tubes they can get away with..

look its the same with water..[your tap goes off more presure comes though everyone elses pipes]...its like push-poling

[think about it..[if your paying for two forty volts..but getting 250,..your using an extra 10..[they doubled their product/sales/price you have to pay for..[havnt you studied your bill?

...linesmen will explain it better..[if you think..their planning to give you 240V your delusional..[they are pumping up to 280 most of the time..[its more noticable with water..[see the burst mains..[its the same deal

[your two-minute/shower uses more water at a higher presure..than if the presure was lower..[you think they dont know...HAVNT you noticed your taps dripping more?...why..they been pumping it in at a higher/presure...[to keep their sales/income up...]
Posted by one under god, Friday, 5 June 2009 9:59:19 AM
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All attempts to 'cure' climate change are doomed to failure. Only the climate can change itself. People never caused climate change in the first place, and they cannot 'un-cause' it.
Posted by Leigh, Saturday, 6 June 2009 11:52:59 AM
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I note that the right wing think tanks have enthusiastically embraced Nordhaus and Shellenberger's article - the IPA, Lavoisier, Heartland etc have published it on their websites.

As like others who jump camp, these gentlemen are offering more of the same solutions - divide and delay. Clean technologies remain futuristic and to date there is no such thing as clean coal nor will there ever be.

One must aske a few questions:

1. Why are we debating climate change

A: The evidence is overwhelming that atmospheric CO2 has increased more rapidly than any other time in the past 650,000 years.

2. What has caused the increase in CO2

A: Human activity

3. How can you prove that

A: From carbon isotopes of anthropogenic, fossil fuel emissions

4. Who are predominantly responsible for excessive CO2 emissions

A: Large pollutant industries

5. The ETS will be implemented to protect polluters and will lead to elevated emissions. In addition, the lag time between now and the advent of "clean technologies" apart from renewables, is too vast.

6. Why have pollutant industries' emissions not been regulated and capped in developed countries through the EPA legislation and departments of environment?

A: The object and principles of the Act were legislated over 40 years ago to prevent, control or abate environmental harm and to make good resulting from environmental damage caused by pollutant industries - "Polluter Pays Principle."

Posted by Protagoras, Saturday, 6 June 2009 3:20:01 PM
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7. The EPA legislation has been used, abused, manipulated and corrupted by giant pollutant corporations, senior bureaucrats and sycophantic politicians.

8. The EPA is legislated and the Act should be enforced immediately - here and in the US at least. Those who breach the international guidelines for emissions (already in place) commit an offence and should be prosecuted(as the Act states.) Scrubbers and pollution control technologies (already available) must be made mandatory and all pollutant corporations must install continuous monitoring for their emissions and analytical reports submitted on a quarterly basis to departments of environment and the NPI etc. Daily analytical records must be kept.

Only with enforcement of the Act will we see a massive mitigation in CO2 emissions and other seriously destructive pollutants.

9. Many senior bureaucrats from the Department of Environment in my state, have jumped camp to work for Alcoa and othe big polluters. There is no lag time between appointments - a clear conflict of interest.

10. The Departments of Environment have always acted as a defence for the big polluters. The Environmental Protection Act is a farce. Billions of dollars of taxpayers' money have been used to prop up these departments which, together with their "clients," are criminally responsible for the already dire state of our environment:
Posted by Protagoras, Saturday, 6 June 2009 3:33:28 PM
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I think politicians are sometimes smarter than we give them credit for. Having been presented with a problem that is currently overstated in relation to its provable impact, politicians have come up with carbon policies that are equally overstated compared to their provable impact. Very smart!

They are also leaving “wriggle room” for later scaling up or down and the opportunity for almost endless delays whilst at the same time maintaining as much ideological support as possible. Brilliant!

The variables they have already factored in include the potential for the supporting science to either “firm up” or “decay”, the setting in of “green fatigue” as the public turns its focus to more pressing matters, and the increasing recognition by the public that they are not qualified to make scientific decisions and should not have been presented with the problem in the first place, let the scientists work it out.

Politicians always have an eye on increases in government income and will keep their options open for as long as possible for the “sellable” opportunity to pour carbon money in any form into their general revenue. Sensational!

More amazing than all of this is the fact that some members of the public still cannot see the politics, and insist that they are indeed “qualified” to deliberate on the science. They tenaciously hang onto the belief that they can influence the public mood through the circulation of pseudo-science whilst presenting their true credentials as well meaning ideological amateurs.
Posted by spindoc, Sunday, 7 June 2009 9:53:51 AM
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