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Minnesota Introduces World's First Carbon Tariff

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the hey-cut-that-crap-out dept.

Earth 303

hollywoodb writes "The first carbon tax to reduce the greenhouse gases from imports comes not between two nations, but between two states. Minnesota has passed a measure to stop carbon at its border with North Dakota. To encourage the switch to clean, renewable energy, Minnesota plans to add a carbon fee of between $4 and $34 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions to the cost of coal-fired electricity, to begin in 2012 ... Minnesota has been generally pushing for cleaner power within its borders, but the utility companies that operate in MN have, over the past decades, sited a lot of coal power plants on the relatively cheap and open land of North Dakota, which is preparing a legal battle against Minnesota over the tariff."

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303 comments

Better yet... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675200)

California Introduces World's First Micropenis Tariff. Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda is the first to be slapped with a fine due to his pathetic 2 inch wang.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675222)

This is totally unconstitutional, but I wonder how long the legal battle will take before this idea dies...

afterall, post 9/11 sneak&peak is still on the books in spite of america's 4th amendment...

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (2, Interesting)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675358)

What's unconstitutional about it?

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (4, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675370)

Just the vibe of the thing...

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675412)

Can you back that any more than "just the vibe of the thing"? Putting ellipses at the end of something doesn't make it any deeper or more thoughtful of an opinion, you know...

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (2)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675864)

A quick grep of the constitution shows no references to vibes.

It's kind of funny the Scientific American article says "that this would unfairly discourage coal-powered electricity sales in favor of renewably powered electricity". I'd hardly call this unfair. More poignantly, I'd say that's the purpose of the bill, and if North Dakota is suing my state, it's because the bill will work.

Yes, this may marginally increase the cost of manufacturing some kinds of goods but the overall impact will largely affect the utilities.

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (4, Informative)

wiggles (30088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675474)

Interstate trade is regulated by Congress, according to the constitution. Courts have held that all taxes on trade between states are an unconstitutional restraint on trade. The only exception is alcohol, which is granted an exception by the 21st amendment.

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (5, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675564)

This isn''t a tax on trade between states. It's a tax on carbon. It's perfectly neutral in theory -- no matter where your carbon-based energy comes from, it gets hit with the tax. Now, it's true that much of MN's coal-based energy comes from ND, so the law will impact imported power more than local power, but a luxury tax on high-priced wines is not unconstitutional because more wine is grown in California and imported to Minnesota rather than grown in Minnesota. This is no different. There's nothing unconsitutional going on here, it's a spurious argument being raised by people who oppose a carbon tax in principle.

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675624)

Bravo for your clear and succinct smackdown of the "unconstitutional" teabaggers.

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675852)

The tax is a Tariff, which by definition, is a tax on imports. Minnesota can tax consumers directly for the carbon they use if they so choose, but they may not tax imports of coal into their state. They can tax the use of coal by utilities in their state, but not the importation of coal into their state. If indeed this is a tax on imports of anything (except alcoholic beverages) from North Dakota, then the courts would strike that down in a preliminary hearing.

This has nothing to do with your political leanings; it's pure constitutional law as I (I'm not a lawyer) understand it.

Ottertail Power (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675880)

"it's true that much of MN's coal-based energy comes from ND"

Big Stone is in SD. I think they get their coal from Montana. I know the Hoot Lake plant does.

Re:Ottertail Power (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675972)

I stand corrected. There's a reason I usually just say "the Dakotas". XD

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675646)

Interstate trade is regulated by Congress, according to the constitution. Courts have held that all taxes on trade between states are an unconstitutional restraint on trade. The only exception is alcohol, which is granted an exception by the 21st amendment.

Is this the argument Amazon uses to further it's tax collection evasion campaign?

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675922)

That may be commonly understood by laymen but there must be some wiggle room. How else do you explain the widely varying taxation rate on tobacco sales? Some states have very small tax, like Missouri with their $.17 per pack tax, or Rhode Island with their $3.46 per pack tax.

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (2, Informative)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676042)

because they are taxing people within their state, for consuming things within their state?

Different interpretations of the law (2, Informative)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675956)

There are multiple interpretations of the Interstate Commerce Clause. By some interpretations, States do have limited rights to regulate commerce with other states. Also, there seem to be additional interpretations of the law for state-owned services (See the paragraph on "In United Haulers Assoc. v Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority (2007)".

See the following site a good summary of some of the debates.

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/statecommerce.htm [umkc.edu]

"The Commerce Clause is a grant of power to Congress, not an express limitation on the power of the states to regulate the economy. At least four possible interpretations of the Commerce Clause have been proposed. First, it has been suggested that the Clause gives Congress the exclusive power to regulate commerce. Under this interpretation, states are divested of all power to regulate interstate commerce. Second, it has been suggested that the Clause gives Congress and the states concurrent power to regulate commerce. Under this view, state regulation of commerce is invalid only when it is preempted by federal law. Third, it has been suggested that the Clause assumes that Congress and the states each have their own mutually exclusive zones of regulatory power. Under this interpretation, it becomes the job of the courts to determine whether one sovereign has invaded the exclusive regulatory zone of the other. Finally, it has been suggested that the Clause by its own force divests states of the power to regulate commerce in certain ways, but the states and Congress retain concurrent power to regulate commerce in many other ways. This fourth interpretation, a complicated hybrid of two others, turns out to be the approach taken by the Court in its decisions interpreting the Commerce Clause."

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675854)

Only the federal government has the authority to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. States can't levy tariffs on each other's goods because they were not given the constitutional authority to do so.

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675900)

Minor nit pick, they weren't not given the authority; they were told no that's congress's domain.

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (1)

Disgruntled Goats (1635745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675976)

Except they aren't regulating interstate commerce. They are only taxing energy companies within their state and only based on the impact of their emissions within the state (assuming they do business in other states).

Re:UNCONSTITUTIONAL (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676086)

Except that they presumably are not applying those same taxes to their own state residents. In other words, they have constructed an elaborate system that results in a tax paid only by folks from out-of-state. That is clearly unconstitutional.

culmination of quite a long attempt (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675248)

Minnesota's attempt to do this dates back nearly 20 years, long before the current global-warming political debate, so interesting to see it finally passing. I believe the first bill was proposed in 1992, which would've imposed a $6 per ton tax; here's a 1994 report [ilsr.org] by a MN environmental group as well. Major attempts seemed to happen every 3-5 years.

Re:culmination of quite a long attempt (4, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675494)

SO i can pass a bill in my state that allows me to tax your state? I think I see a solution to our states fiscal problem.

Re:culmination of quite a long attempt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675740)

SO i can pass a bill in my state that allows me to tax your state?

Yes, in the same way that Use Taxes are a tax on a different state (in other words, it's not a tax on your state at all, it's a tax on users of a good or service who reside in the taxing state).

Maybe you should RTFA to understand how the tax actually works, instead of coming to some half-assed assumption?

Minnesota Carbon Tariff is Illegal (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675250)

No state may regulate interstate commerce. One can find that written in the U.S. Constitution. The legislature in Minnesota needs an education in civics.

Re:Minnesota Carbon Tariff is Illegal (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675290)

It's not nearly that clear in this case. The tax is only applied to companies doing business in Minnesota, and is only assessed on the portion of their business considered to impact Minnesota (i.e. emissions actually generated in Minnesota, emissions imputed to electricity transmitted in Minnesota, etc.). It's at least arguable that that doesn't violate the dormant commerce clause: MN isn't specifically taxing only imports and exempting in-state MN electricity generators, which is the usual inter/intra-state disparity in treatment that caused constitutional problems; nor is the state attempting to tax companies that don't do business in MN.

Re:Minnesota Carbon Tariff is Illegal (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675464)

Exactly. I think that MN would argue that they're not taxing interstate commerce, but ALL commerce that meets the criteria -- of which much happens to be out of state.

It's Even More Complicated Than that (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675502)

Those are all certainly good points but it's not nearly cut and dried unconstitutional as people are making it out to be. For example, I believe states can rightfully burden interstate commerce in the name of health and safety. Take an example from 1890 [justia.com] where states had different laws on the quality and inspection of meat that could be sold within their borders for human consumption. In the name of public safety, Minnesota was allowed to burden interstate commerce on foods not inspected within its borders after someone distributed rank meat acquired from Illinois and not certified by a Minnesota inspector.

Now, this requires Minnesota to prove that the coal generated electricity is a threat to health and or safety of its citizens. That's going to be hard to do. But as your other post pointed out [slashdot.org] , they've been going about this for quite sometime but I'm sure every year they feel closer to being able to prove this is legal on account of public safety.

It's even worse (5, Informative)

jvonk (315830) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675590)

Everything is defined as interstate commerce now, at least when the Feds want it to be. Allow me to cite two Supreme Court cases:

Gonzales v. Raich [wikipedia.org] - A woman in California grew medical marijuana (legal in CA) and gave it away for free, solely within California. This was defined as interstate commerce in the decision.

US v. Stewart [wikipedia.org] - Stewart personally designed and built his own homebrew machine guns, not for sale. After he was busted by the feds, he lost the case but won on appeal. The government appealed the case to the Supreme Court. It was remanded by the Supreme Court back to the appellate court for reconsideration "in light of" Raich. This means that the Supreme Court considers Stewart's actions to be interstate commerce too.

In conclusion, "interstate commerce" is now de facto defined as "anything the Federal government wants to regulate, even if there is no commercial or interstate aspect". Naturally, I imagine that this flexible definition is reserved for the Feds use only--no doubt states will have to continue to use the actual definition (ie. what the Constitution actually means).

Re:It's even worse (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675638)

Naturally, I imagine that this flexible definition is reserved for the Feds use only--no doubt states will have to continue to use the actual definition (ie. what the Constitution actually means).

As far as "what the Constitution actually means", it's not clear that there is actually a blanket ban on states regulating interstate commerce--- there is textually no such ban. It's been inferred from the commerce clause to form the so-called dormant commerce clause [wikipedia.org] . But yes, under existing precedent the dormant commerce clause prohibits a much narrower range of things than the positive commerce clause enables, so states are not automatically prohibited from doing anything that Raich would permit to the U.S. government.

Re:It's Even More Complicated Than that (4, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675980)

Now, this requires Minnesota to prove that the coal generated electricity is a threat to health and or safety of its citizens. That's going to be hard to do.

Au contraire, mon frere. This issue has been proved already in federal court, relating to federal lawsuits brought by NJ under the Clean Air Act to stop dirty coal-fired plants in upwind states (PA, OH, WV, maybe more).

Re:Minnesota Carbon Tariff is Illegal (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675658)

Why don't they tax there own people who get power from coal plants?

If they truly want clean energy, and not revenue generation, that would be the logical way to go.

Re:Minnesota Carbon Tariff is Illegal (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675728)

Isn't that equivalent? It's more or less a sales tax on electricity, pro-rated by how much carbon was used to generated the electricity. They could collect the sales tax from the purchaser, or from the seller; usually sales taxes are collected from sellers, because it's easier to administer such a system.

Re:Minnesota Carbon Tariff is Illegal (1)

nsayer (86181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676110)

It's not nearly that clear in this case.

It's pretty clear that it fails the duck test [wikipedia.org] . Whether that's enough for the courts or not (and the mere suggestion that it wouldn't be) might boggle the imagination.

Constitutional? (1)

sproingie (1690772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675258)

It's great that they're pushing for cleaner power, but isn't this a textbook case of interstate tariffs that states are forbidden to enact?

Re:Constitutional? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675374)

It's great that they're pushing for cleaner power, but isn't this a textbook case of interstate tariffs that states are forbidden to enact?

No, it's not. States are free to tax things within their state all they want. If Minnesota wants to tax carbon, Minnesota can tax carbon. If people don't want to see carbon taxed, they can point out that most of the coal-fired energy used in Minnesota actually comes from North Dakota, and then pretend that this is a case of an interstate tariff when it's nothing of the sort. By lying about what it is, they can generate a lot of heat and fire the public up against it. Seems to be working, based on some of the posts I'm seeing here...

Re:Constitutional? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675542)

But aren't they taxing the energy that is being used in MN?

Re:Constitutional? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675772)

If people don't want to see carbon taxed, they can point out that most of the coal-fired energy used in Minnesota actually comes from North Dakota, and then pretend that this is a case of an interstate tariff when it's nothing of the sort.

Except that it is a case of an interstate tariff. My prediction is that it will be overturned by the courts.

Re:Constitutional? (2, Informative)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676024)

Except that it is a case of an interstate tariff. My prediction is that it will be overturned by the courts.

I'm sure it won't be, precisely because it's not an interstate tariff, no matter how badly the Dakotas wish it was. The motives may be ultimately the same as a protectionist tariff, but the action itself is perfectly normal case of taxation. You can't overturn a cheese tax just because a lot of cheese gets imported from Wisconsin, you can't overturn a wine tax just because a lot of wine comes from California, and they won't overturn a carbon-tax just because a lot of coal-generated electricity comes from the Dakotas.

Re:Constitutional? (1)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675616)

They are not pushing for cleaner power. This is nothing more than another way to tax the people. A money grab. Who do you think will be paying this tax? The price of power will simply go up. We need to get rid of anyone that wants to raise taxes to grab more money.

Church is in session (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675268)

  The reverends of Church of Climatology will now ADDRESS YOU!!!!!

Interstate Commerce (0, Redundant)

BarefootClown (267581) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675278)

I suspect this will die in court; the power to regulate interstate commerce is reserved exclusively to the Federal government.

Re:Interstate Commerce (1)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675938)

The summary is bad - they are taxing all electricity sourced from coal, not imported electricity.

Re:Interstate Commerce (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675968)

Die? This has already been smacked down, the eventual court case and what not are just formalities.

Constitution: Article 1, Section 10. (1)

GWRedDragon (1340961) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675298)

No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.

Re:Constitution: Article 1, Section 10. (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675418)

Ah, thanks for the random constitutional quote. You failed to explain why you're making it, but I assume you're pointing out what the Constitution actually says, in case some people misremember this part of the constitution and thus mistakenly think what Minnesota is doing here is in any way unconstitutional. Since Minnesota isn't doing what this particular article forbids, it's perfectly constitutional, even if it does have a greater impact on ND than MN power companies.

Re:Constitution: Article 1, Section 10. (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675598)

Except that it is putting a tariff on electricity generated in ND and imported into MN, which kinda is what that article forbids.

Re:Constitution: Article 1, Section 10. (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675760)

It's not specifically a tariff, because they charge all electricity sold in MN the same cost, whether generated in- or out-of-state. That makes it more of a sales tax, which is constitutional.

Re:Constitution: Article 1, Section 10. (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675796)

Except that it is putting a tariff on electricity generated in ND and imported into MN, which kinda is what that article forbids.

Except that's not what they're doing. If they decide to tax cheese, and it turns out a lot of cheese is imported from Wisconsin, that doesn't make a cheese tax unconstitutional. They've decided to tax carbon. Will this disproportionally effect North Dakota? Yes. Does that make it unconstitutional? No.

Re:Constitution: Article 1, Section 10. (0)

ThePlague (30616) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676030)

The thing is, they're not taxing electricity, which is the commodity that's actually being purchased in Minnesota, they're taxing carbon emissions which does not occur in MN.

Re:Constitution: Article 1, Section 10. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675720)

they are laying a tax* on imports, specifically energy.

"carbon fee of between $4 and $34 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions to the cost of coal-fired electricity, "

If you export you enerby to MN, they will tax it. It's pretty simple.

*imposts or duties

Re:Constitution: Article 1, Section 10. (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675848)

they are laying a tax* on imports, specifically energy.

That's precisely what they aren't doing. They are taxing energy, yes. They have the right to do that, and there's no legal requirement to exclude imported items from any particular tax. A tax on cheese would apply to cheese imported from Wisconsin as much as on cheese made in Minnesota. It would not become unconstitutional if it turned out more cheese came from Wisconsin than locally made. Likewise, this energy tax is not unconstitutional, simply because it does disproportionally effect the Dakotas.

Its about time (3, Insightful)

Jenming (37265) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675300)

Not having a "tax" on environmental damage causes everyone who is effected by damage to the environment to subsidize industry that damages the environment.

While it is hard to put a monetary value on environmental damage, its obviously not $0. If an industry is making money damaging the environment, that may be fine, but some of the money really should go to everyone living in the damaged environment.

Its also nice to see individual states take the lead in issues like this.

Re:Its about time (2, Insightful)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675380)

Its also nice to see individual states take the lead in issues like this.

Yes, it is nice to see individual states taking a lead in dramatically raising energy costs, especially in a recession. It only further proves how utterly incompetent our leaders. While taking energy is stupid in the first place, even if a country or state is dead set on doing it, only a moron would do it DURING A RECESSION when people don't have the money to pay the tax. Taxing energy raises all costs - do you really thing the people of Minnesota can afford to pay more for heat, fuel for cars, food, lighting, clothing, and everything else right now? That's what taxing energy does - it raises the price of everything. This is an epic fail for Minnesota.

Re:Its about time (2, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675408)

Please define 'dramatic' in numerical terms.

Re:Its about time (4, Insightful)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675614)

I prefer to just quote Obama: electricity rates will “skyrocket”. That’s “dramatic” enough for me.

Re:Its about time (0, Offtopic)

swb (14022) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675518)

Have you seen how grossly obese Margaret Andersen-Kelliher is? She likes to tax the way she likes to eat. There is no self-control there, only the willingness to keep gorging herself.

Re:Its about time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675554)

So with this new found money that they receive the intern further destroy the environment with what they purchase with it. Everything is about energy it's the one commodity that all others are derived from. Carbon extortion is what this is.

It's just gunna get pushed to the customers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675308)

I live in the region and if Minnesota goes through with this then Minnesota customers are the one's that are going to be paying for the carbon tax.

Re:It's just gunna get pushed to the customers (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675372)

That's actually the whole point of it.

Re:It's just gunna get pushed to the customers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675608)

People who pay the Windows tax are being discriminated against!

Wonderful! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675340)

Greenhouse gases and global warming has been shown to be a hoax, yet these morons are dreaming up more taxes based on a lie. That just goes to show you it has nothing whatever to do with cleaning up the environment, but rather more and ever increasing control over peoples' money and lives.

Obvious, but... (4, Insightful)

querist (97166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675348)

This will, of course, ultimately be passed on to the customers. Ultimately, this is a way to raise taxes to force a change in private industry. The government keeps the money, and we the people pay the taxes. It won't hurt the companies in this case because there is no choice in electricity providers. You can't switch electric companies like you can cell phone companies.
How, exactly, will this force "cleaner" electricity generation?
What will be done with the money from these tariffs? Will it only be used for environmental concerns, or will it just go into the general budget?

Re:Obvious, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675388)

Pockets, sir. Pockets.

Probably Wind Incentives to Companies (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675636)

This will, of course, ultimately be passed on to the customers. Ultimately, this is a way to raise taxes to force a change in private industry. The government keeps the money, and we the people pay the taxes. It won't hurt the companies in this case because there is no choice in electricity providers. You can't switch electric companies like you can cell phone companies. How, exactly, will this force "cleaner" electricity generation? What will be done with the money from these tariffs? Will it only be used for environmental concerns, or will it just go into the general budget?

Minnesota has grown to be fourth in Wind Power generation [windpoweringamerica.gov] . And if you look at time lapse growth [windpoweringamerica.gov] they're really pushing that. The weird thing about it is that they're not even one of the prime wind resource states [windpoweringamerica.gov] although I will testify that the wind gets ridiculous out there. Now, you probably already know this but Tim Pawlenty (Republican) [state.mn.us] is the governor of Minnesota and of course is going to try to get a bid for the presidential run in 2012. On his about page:

implementing a plan to Americanize our energy sources by generating 25% of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2025

As a moderate Democrat, I was kind of afraid when he almost got a bid in 2008 ... because he's actually not that bad of a candidate. He doesn't talk like a moron and he's got his head in a lot of the right places. If he would cut the Christian God talk out of his speeches, I'd probably be on board. Sorry to get offtopic but I'm trying to say that this tariff would probably be a huge in road for him to moderates if he could pull it off. I'm certain he's not the prime motivator behind this but I would bet that they'd take the taxes from this and dump it into wind incentives. They're racing against Iowa in the wind department. California and Texas are too big and too prime locations to take on for Megawatt generation from wind power.

That is where I bet they would take this money: incentives to corporations for wind power.

Re:Obvious, but... (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675696)

How, exactly, will this force "cleaner" electricity generation?

It makes cleaner electricity generators more competitive because, as you point out, it raises the price of their competitors' product (electricity from coal-fired generators). A tax on a competitor is basically an indirect subsidy.

It is Obvious...Way to go MN!!! (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675756)

Question...Why can't you change energy companies?

Energy has been deregulated for some time now. The owners of the power lines are forced to lease them to anyone. I live in Georgia and have the option of 3 different companies.

This law will encourage people to use power more efficiently. In addition it helps remove the subsidy that Coal powered electricity has enjoyed for most of the last century. (And yes it is subsidized through legal protections and by not having to clean up much of its environmental damage). This will also encourage the power companies to build / buy cleaner power to avoid the tax.

Since there is 1.5 lbs of CO2 (about) per KWH, we are talking about a tax of $0.004 to $0.02 per KWH. Or between 4 and 18 dollars per YEAR for the end user.

This won't affect end users much but would be expensive for larger industrial users. Since some forms of local generation are already almost competitive with coal, this law would encourage thoes people to install some non-CO2 emiiting power locally.

Finally, it also depends on what the money is used for. If it is just used for general funds or as a tax break for the wealthy it won't do much. If it is used to improve infrastructure, attact green tech, improve energy efficiency of clean up the environment then it is an EXCELLENT source.

Re:It is Obvious...Way to go MN!!! (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676124)

I would assume he can't change energy companies for the same reason he probably can't change ISPs: Lack of Competition.

Re:Obvious, but... (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675794)

This will, of course, ultimately be passed on to the customers.

The claim is used frequently, by people who have no business knowledge at all, and it's almost always used incorrectly.

In truth, higher costs are almost always only partially passed on to the customer, if at all.

It won't hurt the companies in this case because there is no choice in electricity providers. You can't switch electric companies like you can cell phone companies.

Do you have any idea what subject you're discussing, or did you not make it through the summary?

We're talking about OUT-OF-STATE electricity. YOU (the consumer) will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER be doing business with them directly, so it doesn't matter that you can't switch. Instead YOUR POWER COMPANY is the one doing business with them, and they sure as hell CAN switch to some other provider.

How, exactly, will this force "cleaner" electricity generation?

Go read the definition of a tariff. Why you think they don't work is beyond me.

When the "dirty" electricity is 5% more expensive, that means "clean" electricity becomes 5% less expensive, by comparison. So now there is a slightly larger curve where "clean" makes economic sense. Additionally, this opens the door to clean power plants using technologies which are 5% more expensive, but can now be profitable.

Re:Obvious, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675958)

I'm guessing people are going to be using less energy at home, since prices will invariably increase. This could matriculate to a bad place, considering how cold it can get up north.

End result? Less energy being used, and less carbon being 'spilled' into the atmosphere. Win-Win I say!

Re:Obvious, but... (1)

X_Bones (93097) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676122)

In certain states like Massachusetts, the power plants and the transmission wires are owned by different people. Residents can choose who they want to get their electricity from [saveonenergy.com] .

That way the local public utility infrastructure can be regulated by one set of rules, and the electricity providers by a different set. Makes sense to me. Now if we could only have the same separation of infrastructure and content with the cable companies...

Your First Premise Is (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675354)

Wrong. There is no United States of America, more or less.
Just wait until all 50 states declare bankruptcy.

Yours In Ashgabat,
Kilgore Trout

P.S.: Senator Dodd will not seek another term. Good riddance.

Re:Your First Premise Is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675670)

P.P.S.: I will now seek a large Negroe to fellate. Auf wiedersehen!

I happen to favor this (4, Insightful)

ihuntrocks (870257) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675368)

At the risk of getting flamed and shot down, I have to admit that I actually favor actions like this. Will it hold up in a legal sense? Like the Queen's ass, that remains to be seen. However, I have long though that those things which are blatantly harmful to human beings, and the planet in general, should have enough economic disincentives as to make them all but beyond the ability of anyone to procure. Oh, I think you should be free to buy whatever you wish, but I think that freedom should include the freedom to have to spend all of your money on the stupid, inefficient, and harmful things if you so desire them. I'm frankly tired of seeing the economic incentives of "cheap" and "profitable" driving harmful things. It's time the tables turned, in my opinion.

Re:I happen to favor this (1, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675462)

However, I have long though that those things which are blatantly harmful to human beings, and the planet in general, should have enough economic disincentives as to make them all but beyond the ability of anyone to procure.

This is, of course, predicated on you believing AGW. Which appears to be up for debate. Significantly.

Re:I happen to favor this (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675500)

However, I have long though that those things which are blatantly harmful to human beings, and the planet in general, should have enough economic disincentives as to make them all but beyond the ability of anyone to procure.

How about the things such as coal burning plants which aren't "blatantly harmful" to human beings? I recognize there is some pollution issues with coal burning. It produces small amounts of sulfur dioxides, nitrates, and even introduces more radiation than nuclear plants. They also provide electricity to people and businesses. Benefits outweigh the minor harm.

I'm frankly tired of seeing the economic incentives of "cheap" and "profitable" driving harmful things.

I'm frankly tired of seeing things which are not harmful being labeled as "harmful".

Re:I happen to favor this (1)

ihuntrocks (870257) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675594)

Let me say, my post is actually more about efficiency versus inefficiency. Generating your power outside of your state and pushing it across inefficient lines (where the majority of our generated electricity is lost) is horribly inefficient. Inefficient use of finite resources IS blatantly harmful, to anyone involved. Furthermore, I was at one time, a Geology major, so I have never really bought into AGW. I'm not really arguing it from that standpoint.

However, when you look at what all it takes to run a coal power plant, in terms of construction, mining, transport of coal, and actual production versus other alternative methods, it is fairly easy to see that the more efficient use of resources and manpower lie with the alternative methods. Additionally, to place so much stake on a finite resource to provide for our insatiable, continued need for energy production over methods that are, over time period that we will need energy production, far less scare, is absolutely nonsensical to me.

I hope I have done something to further clarify my arguments here, and what my stance actually is.

Re:I happen to favor this (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675812)

Inefficient use of finite resources IS blatantly harmful, to anyone involved.

If it is cheaper, then it isn't less efficient. And merely being relatively inefficient in the consumption of some resource isn't blatantly harmful to anyone.

Re:I happen to favor this (0)

ihuntrocks (870257) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675944)

I'm sorry, but you make a, sadly common, American/capitalist mistake here by giving price and cost equivalence. Just because the price is cheaper doesn't meant the cost is. You have to look at total cost in terms of calculating efficient use of resources. That may or may not include a straight monetary figure.

Re:I happen to favor this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675802)

Are you going to volunteer to have the exhaust pass over your home? Do you even live within 10 miles of a coal power plant?

They aren't clean, and they cost lots of money each month to run.

Re:I happen to favor this (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675902)

Are you going to volunteer to have the exhaust pass over your home? Do you even live within 10 miles of a coal power plant?

I have before. And sure, I don't see the problem with having the exhaust pass over my house.

They aren't clean, and they cost lots of money each month to run.

Well, then I'm glad I don't have to clean one up or pay to keep it running.

Re:I happen to favor this (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675924)

I'm frankly tired of seeing things which are not harmful being labeled as "harmful".

Well, since toxicity is related to dosage rather than substance, one could argue that everything is harmful, and should be regulated, taxed, and carry a warning label, which is where a lot of the alarmists would like to take us.

That being said, coal-fired power plants suck ass is a major way, and fuck up the environment for lots of people who bear none of the benefits of that plant. The water here in the northeast has been plagued for decades by acid rain produced by power plants in the midwest. The local power producers there reap the benefits of cheap coal, allow the fallout to cause problems here, while they deny responsibility and refuse to modernize their equipment. They profit at the expense of my backyard.

I don't like the idea of a carbon tax, and I don't like the idea of over-regulating industry, or granting the government another revenue stream to become addicted to. However, I love seeing coal plants take a good kick in the nuts, because that's exactly what they've been doing to the rest of us for a long time now.

Of course, the problem here is that the coal plants won't suffer much ... it will all fall on the shoulders of consumers. Good luck to the unemployed folks in Minnesota paying their electric bill.

Re:I happen to favor this (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675562)

should have enough economic disincentives as to make them all but beyond the ability of anyone to procure

I prefer to think of it as balancing the books. If you actions are responsible for pumping x amount of pollution into the atmosphere then you should be responsible for cleaning it up. This cleaning up can happen in various ways, in the example of using electricity from coal fired power stations and only considering the CO2 pollution:
. The electricity company plants some trees or otherwise sucks the pollution out of the air, and charges you an increased rate for doing so
. The electricity company pays a third party to plant some trees, and on-charges you
. You plant some trees
. You pay a third party to plant some trees
. The government puts a tarriff on the cost of the electricity and plants some trees

Obviously that's insanely simplified, but the idea is that the cost of the product includes the cost of cleaning up the pollution produced in the manufacturing of that product.

Are such tariff's against the various free trade agreements that are floating around these days?

Re:I happen to favor this (1)

ihuntrocks (870257) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675750)

So long as those trees you plant aren't close enough to that coal plant to be effected by the acid rain (coal being made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur, the byproducts of which will form carbonic and sulfuric acid in rain), and if they are far enough away to escape exposure to the mercury, uranium, thorium, and arsenic that are also byproducts of coal emissions. If so, that plan works wonderfully.

Re:I happen to favor this (1)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675960)

Well, to plant enough trees to compensate for the carbon we're throwing in the air, we'd probably have to reforest the Amazon for millions of years. Not that it's a bad idea, I just sayin' ...

Re:I happen to favor this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675886)

Someone must not pay their own electricity bill. There are very few places where you get to choose where your power comes from.

As a result, the realistic effect of such a tax will be that people in Minnesota will pay more for their electricity, and get absolutely no gain out of it. However, the state will bring in more money in the form of tax dollars, which will be corruptly blown on just about anything but something people actually need. I'd say now is the time to start donating to some Minnesota State Senator's campaigns, to get the corrupt payoff when the money starts rolling in.

It's not like the government knows how to save money, even though that is exactly what they try to tell everyone else to do.

They are building a border wall with cameras (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30675410)

And they are building a distributed system that will allow citizens to remotely view the cameras and report any carbon dioxide molecules that illegally cross.

I am proud (2, Funny)

haderytn (1232484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675436)

To live in Minnesota!

This qwill fail; (1, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675448)

you can't tariff another state..you can TAX the hell out of electricity from that state. tariff and tax is not the same thing.

Them are fightin words (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675478)

I smell War! North Dakota should invade!

Re:Them are fightin words (1)

swb (14022) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675572)

Until not that long ago, wasn't North Dakota something like the world's #3 or #4 nuclear power? Between the missile silos and the airbases in Grand Forks and Minot, I think they had plenty of nukes.

Re:Them are fightin words (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675632)

Alas, no. The nukes may be located within the Dakotas, but they belong to Washington, DC, which given the current administration, isn't about to nuke a blue state. :p

Of course (2)

lcoscare (1121345) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675568)

This will not likely reduce carbon, what will likely happen is coal plants in other states to will increase capacity while the ones in Minnesota will likely shut down. This is the same thing that is happening with the US and China. Companies in the US can't afford to meet all the environmental regulations, so they move to China, and continue to pollute. The end result is the same amount of pollution, and increased unemployment in the state/city/country with the strict regulations.

Re:Of course (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675722)

The tax doesn't get evaded by moving the power-generation out of state. That's what has North Dakota hopping mad and bringing a lawsuit. The effect of this is not to move power generation out of state, that's already happened, the coal plants MN is drawing power from are in ND. What the expected effect is, is that by making imported power from ND more expensive, MN power companies will turn to wind farms and such, which, coincidentally, are being developed in MN. The end result is pretty much the opposite of what you assert -- bringing the power generation back home to Minnesota. The Dakotans are calling this protectionism. They may be right. However, it's not technically unconstitutional, since it's not a tax on imported power, it's a tax on a particular type of power that happens to be largely imported.

Re:Of course (1)

ari_j (90255) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675814)

Except that Minnesota's tax is on electricity generated by coal plants anywhere, which is the source of the whole North Dakota thing. North Dakota has a huge electrical generating capacity, most of it from North Dakota coal with increasing portions from wind farms in various parts of the state, and exports a lot of that electrical power to Minnesota. Minnesota is doing nothing but increasing the price of electricity for its people.

I guess the State of Minnesota... (5, Insightful)

ScientiaPotentiaEst (1635927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675630)

... has such a surplus that it can afford to introduce yet another incentive to leave.

Why do governments so often fail to consider the effects of disincentives? For example, when raising taxes, they calculate expected increases in revenue while underestimating changes in the behavior of the taxed. They always act surprised when the expected additional revenues don't materialize, or indeed revenues fall.

Perhaps it has something to do with most elected officials being lawyers and not businessmen, engineers, etc.

Re:I guess the State of Minnesota... (2, Interesting)

ari_j (90255) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675782)

Interestingly enough, North Dakota is one of the few state governments that has a surplus right now. A huge one. With the lowest unemployment rate (4.1%, low in any economy). Guess which industry can rightly take a lot of the credit for making that possible.

Re:I guess the State of Minnesota... (2, Informative)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675942)

Why do governments so often fail to consider the effects of disincentives?

Huh? That's exactly what this is all about. They're trying to get people to stop using coal. They're not failing to consider the disincentives, the whole point of this tax is to create a disincentive. If everyone stops using coal and they end up generating no revenue at all with this tax, they will consider the tax to have been wildly successful.

All I can say is -- (2, Funny)

dwiget001 (1073738) | more than 4 years ago | (#30675678)

-- what's next? A fat tax? If so, Minnesota might just tax itself into oblivion.

How wrong can a /. story be? (1)

bfree (113420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30676078)

Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and The Netherlands introduced a Carbon tax in 1990-1991. France and Ireland have just introduced their own and it appears that even in the US this isn't a first as Boulder Colorado (2006) and the "Bay Area Air Quality Management District" (2008) had already introduced Carbon Taxes.

America! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30676092)

Fuck yeah!

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