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Is a Carbon Tax a Good Idea?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the emissions-into-dollars dept.

Biotech 238

.-.-.- (aka Fullstop) asks: "Cosmos Magazine is reporting that the rate of carbon dioxide emissions has more than doubled since the 1990's. Several researchers fear increased levels may be unstoppable. Australia's national science agency, CSIRO flatly states that current carbon reduction efforts are just not working. Add to this heady mix the fact that Toyota is pushing for a carbon tax and Australia, and the UK, are currently considering one, and a trend begins to emerge. If current reduction methods are not working what will? The United States currently employs a voluntary carbon reduction scheme based on market trading, with very limited corporate participation. Is a carbon tax a good way to stabilize emissions in the face of heretofore failed efforts at stabilization?"

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Proposed Carbon Neutrality (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17014988)

I was watching the Colbert Report the other day and the CEO from Timberland was on there explaining his carbon neutral stance [nytimes.com] and he sounded quite avid about it. He was clearly agitated from Steven's persona of a right wing nut who couldn't understand. It was more awkward than funny.

But it caused me to wonder what would happen if I urged the big company I work for (and it is multi-national) to go carbon neutral. Well, on the surface, we don't burn anything. But I thought harder about the thousands of computers we must operate and the kilowatt upon kilowatt of power that is most likely used by each facility. Ok, so (since we can't assume the power company is adjusting for it) we offset [wikipedia.org] the power consumption through planting some trees. Well, how many trees and how much land would this cost? And what about the thousands of computers we buy yearly from Dell or IBM? What about the plastics that go into the casings? And what about the companies that they buy the chips from and where do they buy the ore that's refined to make the silicon chips?

The more I taxed my brain with this possible carbon neutral proposition, the more it looked like this was going to require a lot of resources. Resources being money. And while we're doing this, some other IT company isn't and we're competing with them to do business with our customers. So my proposition might be passed around at the office as a joke until the CTO got ahold of it and thought about the shareholder and rejected it.

So before any of you say a carbon tax is stupid because consumers will start to buy the most environmentally friendly products, you're simply wrong. The only way they'll buy it is if the environment is having direct negative impacts on their business. And the irony is that if it does negatively affect their business that means lost profits. And lost profits means they'll have less money to spend on their solutions. So our environmentally friendly services with a carbon neutral company will probably be out of the question if they're more expensive. Tell me, when you buy your computer or your Xbox360/PS3/Wii or your new processor, does carbon neutrality figure into your pricing at all? I'll bet it doesn't.

And at the end of the day, my coworkers will tell me that there's X number of companies that are worse than us so I shouldn't even worry about it. Or that we don't even need to worry about that because it's the people who make our tools that should be conscious. But we do need to at least think about it. We might even need to worry about it more than others because we're the least obvious target yet the largest base of carbon output. Take Wal-Mart for example. Just look at the trucks they use for their distribution centers. 500 distribution centers across the states with probably thousands of stores--all of those places being supplied regularly from the coasts and producers by truck. Such an easy thing to overlook--especially if they contract those truckers because then it's not their fault, it's not their conscious and they can have articles hailing them as the greenest distribute in the world while the contractor doesn't care because they're doing business with the largest distributor in the world.

I'm not going to tell you whether or not a carbon tax is a good idea. I'm just going to ask you to tell me what scenario would have to go down for an entire industry to collectively switch to being carbon neutral. And I mean that everybody has to be on board because it will affect price. And when that price goes up, if it doesn't go up across the board, consumers will on average opt for the cheaper product. What would have to be happening to make that consumer stay away from non-carbon neutral companies? News of carbon doubling in the last 15 years? The death of cold weather animals? A cataclysmic heat wave that leaves the equator unlivable? On top of that, how do you define a truly carbon neutral company (see my worries above)? I would assume we would at least need a federal agency (EPA maybe) to identify companies that satisfy carbon neutrality.

The benefit of a carbon tax is that it would make a lot of the big worries above go away. The net effect is that it would piss a lot of people off because products would cost more on average & the economy would slow down a little. I think the best carbon tax would be one that is gradual and slowly increased like postage. If it doesn't show to change or slow rising carbon dioxide emissions, then we could look for other avenues.

So my response is that I support a carbon tax that's done intuitively and gradually ramped up.

Re:Proposed Carbon Neutrality (3, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015398)

The only way they'll buy it is if the environment is having direct negative impacts on their business.

The whole central problem behind the "carbon" tax is that with the lack of consensus over whether or not fossil fuel emissions are increasing the Greenhouse Effect and producing global average temperature rise -- and frankly, I don't see how it couldn't be having some impact -- there is little or no "tangible" effect that anyone can point to. You can tax alcohol, gasoline, roads, and the like, and people are comfortable with that because they are things they can see. Businesses are not going to hop on the carbon tax bandwagon because most of those who are doing most of the emitting are not convinced it's doing any harm, and those that aren't aren't strong enough to take on the ones who are.

The carbon tax is a good idea; I just don't think there's enough conclusive evidence that is going to make anyone agree to it.

Lack of consensus? (3, Informative)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015528)

The whole central problem behind the "carbon" tax is that with the lack of consensus over whether or not fossil fuel emissions are increasing the Greenhouse Effect and producing global average temperature rise -- and frankly, I don't see how it couldn't be having some impact -- there is little or no "tangible" effect that anyone can point to.

If you subtract those people who are receiving money from fossil fuel companies, then as far as I know there is a total consensus on this issue. In fact, even among those people who DO receive money from the fossil fuel companies, you'll find several scientists who admit that fossil fuel emissions are increasing the Greenhouse Effect. (Go to the bottom of this article [c-ville.com] and see Pat Michaels arguments against Global Warming. Basically it's that "That number [the amount of global warming] is significantly low, and it suggests to me that this becomes a self-limiting issue in the following way: 100 years from now, the technology that runs our society, and powers our society, is going to be radically different than it is today. It will almost certainly be a more efficient, maybe not even a carbon-based fuel society.")

Now, I know people will call this an ad hominem attack, but if it is, it's valid. Just as it was valid to point out that those scientists who denied that smoking was bad for were being funded by tobacco companies. I say it's valid because for the majority of people who don't actually understand the science themselves, they need to consider the biases of those who provide the information. One on hand you have scientists being largely funded by an administration that has very weak on climate issues, but who still find very strong evidence to support the greenhouse gas theory, and on the other hand you have scientists being funded by ExxonMobil and friends who try to find faults with those arguments. It's also worth pointing out that this same group of scientists first denied global warming was happening, then suggested that it's not due to greenhouse gases, and is now claiming that it's not really that big of a problem. So, if you don't understand the science, who do you believe?

Personally, I understand the science fairly well. But it's hard to convince those who don't understand it without pointing out to them why some scientists might be deceiving them (either deliberately or otherwise).

Re:Lack of consensus? (2, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015918)

Now, I know people will call this an ad hominem attack, but if it is, it's valid. Just as it was valid to point out that those scientists who denied that smoking was bad for were being funded by tobacco companies.

And sadly, when a doctor claimed smoking was good for them, people believed them. Look, I'm not saying that global average temperature rise is not occurring and more importantly that carbon emissions are not exacerbating the effect of the natural greenhouse system, but I am saying that unless there is a "smoking gun" (no pun intended), the general populace will believe what they are told. If the U.S. Government and the big polluters put their message out there more forcefully, the populace will reassure themselves that everything is fine, no matter how many climatologists are jumping up and down screaming about runaway carbon emissions. It's not about facts anymore -- it's about the message and how it's being put across. Barring evidence for the eyes, people will tend to look to authority figures for answers, and right now the authority figures they are following are the wrong ones.

US govt is not with the big polluters (on this) (2, Interesting)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016226)

If the U.S. Government and the big polluters put their message out there more forcefully, the populace will reassure themselves that everything is fine, no matter how many climatologists are jumping up and down screaming about runaway carbon emissions.

Although the Bush administration has been far too quiet about it, what has been said by them mainly supports the position of non-ExxonMobil supported scientists - namely, that anthropogenic global warming is real. That said, their silence is almost deafening. Also, I did understand that your point was a lack of communication and am in no way suggesting that you are contributing to the misinformation. As such, it's a valid point as many scientists have a hard time communicating with the general populace, and our government doesn't seem to have the willpower to do the communicating, either.

Re:Lack of consensus? (1)

testadicazzo (567430) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016552)

What you seem to be missing, or perhaps deliberately avoiding, is the fact that there is a "smoking gun". Your previous post implied you did not believe global warming theory and predictions to be accurate. This post seems to indicate that you accept the accuracy of the predictions, you just think we should give up about it because the problem is too big to handle, and everyone with money and authority is against you. Neither of those perspectives is at all helpful, and to some extent they are contradictory. The one point that both posts seem to have in common is the message "don't do anything about global warming".

I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt regarding your motivation, and just say that if you believe what you say in this last post, your task is to learn the facts, learn about the smoking gun, and work against the forces that are trying to make us believe a lie.

Just as the lies of the smoking industry were eventually discredited, so too will the lies of the energy concerns be discredited. The question is how many people have to die, and what the cost to our country and the planet has to be. Are you aware that the US is virtually alone in it's dismissal of global warming? Even US client states like Britain have begun to realize that the issue should no longer be avoided. We live in at least a somewhat democratic society, and thus it is our duty to wrest control of the state away from those that steer it in a harmful and threatening direction. It not only can be done successfully, but it has been done succesfully, and in your lifetime (assuming you are older than the bush II administration). So face facts: you have a voice. It's small, but it counts. So you can try to help, you can ignore the problem, or you can actively contribute to the problem. It's your choice. You affect whehter it's about the facts or about the marketing dollars.

Re:Lack of consensus? (4, Interesting)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016850)

Both my posts indicated that while I believe that there may be a causal link between carbon emissions and average global temperature rise, the fact remains that the average person does not see this. The best you can hope for is "it's seems to get hotter every summer." And then of course we have a bitterly cold winter, and people immediately joke "that's global warming for you!"

What you and I consider adequate proof is no such thing to the average American. They have to be led by the nose -- people are not sitting around their dinner tables (if they even do that anymore) and discussing the effect on the planet's greenhouse system by continuing dependence on fossil fuels. They are blithely accepting what is said, or not said, about the subject, and going about driving their SUVs and throwing away their plastic. I put "smoking gun" in quotes, because the average American wouldn't see the smoke even if their clothes were on fire. Americans as a general rule are short-sighted; because global warming is not inconveniencing them now, they don't see what the trouble is.

I hate to say it, but Al Gore has done more for the global warming case that all the climatologists. It's that kind of publicity, coupled with evidence of how this is directly impacting them, that is going to change the minds of Americans. Nothing less will do.

Re:Lack of consensus? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17015926)

If you subtract those people who are known Communist sympathizers and left-wing nutjobs, then as far as I know there is a total consensus on this issue. In fact, even among those people who ARE known nanny staters, you'll find several scientists who admit that we don't know the real effect that current emissions will have, the most efficacious ways to mitigate the impact of anthropogenic global warming, or the most economic (in the macroeconomic sense) way to address AGW. And so forth.

Re:Lack of consensus? (3, Insightful)

testadicazzo (567430) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016372)

Personally, I understand the science fairly well. But it's hard to convince those who don't understand it without pointing out to them why some scientists might be deceiving them (either deliberately or otherwise).

I'm a computational physicist, so I have middling understanding of the science. But I understand the scientific process and politics of science pretty well. I'm always floored by the number of "global warming is a conspiracy invented by scientists to get more funding" posts that show up whenever there's an article on global warming. Knowing what I know about industry funding, if a scientist could come up with valid research that contra-indicated the current consensus regarding global warming, they'd have a pretty easy time getting funding from large oil concerns. In fact it's the deep pockets of the oil industries that are responsible for what little quasi-scientific publications are available.

My colleagues in atmospheric science know of NO peer revied publications in the last 20 years that indicate global warming is not a threat. There is plenty of disagreement on the details, but no one seems to be disputing the existence or danger of the phenomenon. Can anyone provide a link to any such research?

To the non-scientists out there, it's true that the peer-review process can lend a certain inertia to scientific biases. The convergence pattern on the charge of electron is pretty canonical example. Rather than approaching the current level of accuracy from both above an below, it approached routinely from above. Scientists tended to introduce a bias towards the initially (too high) measured value. It's not dishonesty... it's a fact that scientists have to discard bad data sometimes, and sometimes it becomes questionable whether you are discarding bad data or introducing bias to get publishable results. That said, well documented, well researched science will get published even if it violates the existing consensus. That's how we get scientific progress. So while the system has flaws, it works pretty well, and I certainly can't come up with a better idea. As another point, in any active area of research, it's unusual to get the kind of consensus one sees in global warming research. Scientists are a contentious lot, and our jobs boil down to questioning assumptions. So the fact that such a strong agreement exists should tell you something.

Beyond scientific consensus, which is of course often wrong (that's why we get scientific progress), there exist other criteria to evaluate a theory's merit: prediction. A good theory predicts verifiable events or behaviors. I first started reading predictions coming from global warming theory back in the early eighties. Every year now I read about events verifying these predictions. So far, fortunately, only the non-cataclysmic predictions have been verified. This indicates that the theory is not too bad, as many predictions have been successfully verified. It is of course true that the environment is a hugely complex system, and it's possible that important factors were neglected when making relevant simulations and predictions. The question we need to ask ourselves is: do we really want to keep testing the theory to see if the catastrophic ones are also true? I for one vote no.

There is no downside to researching, studying and working to counter global warming. There are many common sense steps that can be taken to mitigate the problem that will in the end improve our quality of life, even if the catastrophic predictions are false (something I again don't care to verify except in simulation). Reducing emissions is a wonderful idea. Do we need hummers? Lets make smaller, quieter, more efficient vehicles. When we can let's cycle and walk or use trains. Replace all of your light bulbs with energy saving bulbs. Raise awareness. Give gifts of energy saving bulbs to your reticent friends, colleagues, family. If it's practical for you, install a solar water heater in your building. Improve your insulation. Keep your building warmer in the summer than in the winter. Wear a sweater indoors in the winter, and tank tops indoors in the summer. Lobby congress to provide tax incentives for producing clean energy in your home or farm. Most importantly encourage congress to increase funding for research into clean energy, to bring our emissions standards for automobiles up (at least to those of China for god's sake).

ok, I'll get off my high horse, it's probably emitting a lot of greenhouse gasses...

Bravo, encore! (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016502)

I've attempted to say before much the same as what you've just eloquently posted, but nowhere near as well. Well said!

Re:Proposed Carbon Neutrality (1)

salec (791463) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015616)

Generally, anything that saves material and energy expenditure is a step in good direction regarding carbon problem and it also saves money. For instance, telecommuting, public transportation, thermal isolation of buildings, hybrid cars etc. There are some more untried opportunities for savings and instant business success:
  • public cargo transportation service (instead of per-company truck fleets),
  • new construction methods using materials whose production technology does not demand carbon emissions (for instance, we need something to substitute iron and cement, as those two, due to high demand, are major industrial sources of CO2 emission, right after the fossil fuel thermoelectric power plants),
  • power-efficient agricultural machinery, end goal: carbon neutral (or net carbon sink, if attainable) food production. With autonomous guidance (without paying human operators), we could very well trade time (abundant, at present) for consumption and save big bucks as well. Possibility of introducing weaker, renewable power sources to power them up is a bonus.
  • power-cycling resistant, instant-on, low power electronic appliances (those are expensive and we tend to prolong their working life by avoiding power-cycling),
  • regenerative workout machines which do not dissipate your work during fitness exercise but instead stores it in usable form, (i.e. charge batteries or put power back to grid)
  • three-cycle in house reusing of water:
    1. drinkable - also for cooking and oral hygiene, (and no, if you drink it, it does not get recycled in the system subsequently),
    2. technical - usable for washing (i.e. from rain collector, or pure drinkable spilled in the sink),
    3. hydraulic - usable for toilet flushing (already used up in washing)
    - essentially, both water supply- and energy- saving

Anything (5, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17014996)

that attempts to reduce consumption of unsustainable energy is worth a shot. If people only respond to the cost of something - if it takes a tax that makes other solutions relatively cheaper - then it's worth investigating.

Re:Anything (2, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015260)

``Anything that attempts to reduce consumption of unsustainable energy is worth a shot.''

That's a _very_ dangerous thing to say. There are many dumb and dangerous ideas out there, including ones that sound good but aren't.

Re:Anything (2, Interesting)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015680)

I totally agree with you, but your sig prompted me to think: What are some of those dangerous ideas, that sound good but actually aren't? I couldn't think of any offhand.

I'm not talking about "stop giving vaccinations to children to save energy"; I mean proposals that have a chance at getting somewhere.

Re:Anything (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016776)

Well, a big move towards nuclear fission as a power source could be one. I'm sure it would cut carbon emissions, but it causes other problems. In the end, the cure might be worse than the disease. I don't know enough of the specifics to know if this is the case, but I do know that toxic waste that will be dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of years is nothing to sneeze at, and that there are concerns about nuclear weapons that could be developed by countries employing fission plants.

Another candidate would be the use of certain crops as energy crops for making bio fuels. Bio fuels are carbon-neutral, because the carbon that is released into the atmosphere when you burn them was taken out of the atmosphere when you grew the crops (and, unlike for fossil fuels, the time span between the two is short). However, some studies have shown that certain crops (I think maize was one of them) actually cost more energy to grow and process than what you get out when burning the fuel. This would make the whole process a waste of energy, energy that has to come from somewhere...and that might just be fossil fuels. I'm convinced bio fuels are a good idea, but we do have to pick the right energy crops.

Re:Anything (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016076)

> That's a _very_ dangerous thing to say.

There are some ideas which we shouldn't investigate? How would we know otherwise which ones are good and which bad?

Do you have a solution to Turing's Halting Problem too?

Re:Anything (1)

Retric (704075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016098)

There are many dumb and dangerous ideas out there, including ones that sound good but aren't.

How would you suggest separating the good ideas from those that sound good but aren't. While I agree there are a bunch of ideas that are less useful than they sound I can't think of a good way to test new ideas that works better over time than careful implementation after careful consideration.

PS: Over time societies that experiment with new ideas tend to do better than those that don't because they adapt to changing situations. EX: Some people would like to build society's based on ideas from nomadic herders but as the world drifts further from those foundations maintaining such ideas become ever more costly.

Re:Anything (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015266)

You state that "people only respond to the cost of something" but argue that it should be done regardless of what the people want. That kind of goes against the spirit of a democratic society.

And you should probably be careful with that "anything" qualifier. Mass genocide would really cut into carbon emissions solely by reducing the number of people who could cause carbon to be emitted.

Re:Anything (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015548)

> You state that "people only respond to the cost of something" but argue that it should be done regardless of what the people want.
> That kind of goes against the spirit of a democratic society.

I don't care. What people want won't be very important if we fuck up the environment.

Re:Anything (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015742)

We can't do anything to the environment. This whole thing is about "save the people", not "save the environment."

The earth evolved from a "great molten mass" to the veritable paradise that existed before man came on the scene. It can take anything we throw at it, short of perhaps blasting the planet apart from the inside.

Re:Anything (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016044)

> We can't do anything to the environment. This whole thing is about "save the people", not "save the environment."

Environment: the combination of external conditions that surround and influence a living organism.

So, you can see that polluting the water supply, heating the atmosphore etc constitutes harming the environment, and consequently people (and other species).

> The earth evolved from a "great molten mass" to the veritable paradise that existed before man came on the scene. It can take
> anything we throw at it, short of perhaps blasting the planet apart from the inside.

Yes, I'm rather selfishly addressing the environment as it relates to its current occupants, as well as those in the next few thousand years. Perhaps that makes me a little short sighted...

Re:Anything (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015950)

Uh, dude, think about what you just said. The surest way to reduce the consumption of unsustainable energy is to use it up. As oil and coal supplies start to run low (probably less than 20 years for oil, 100 for coal), people will find other alternatives.

Hell, with the higher energy prices of the last few years, wood stoves have been selling like crazy (here in Minnesota). Not really a great solution to the problem, though. Even the high efficiancy stoves still emit quite a bit of smoke and other fine particles. High oil prices have lead to a boom in hybrids and ethanol.

Re:Anything (1)

testadicazzo (567430) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016754)

Well, you're right, but in an incredibly stupid and poorly thought out way. There are two points which are gleefully ignoring. First, the evidence is compelling that if we use said resources as quickly as possible we will make our planet unlivable, or introduce catastrophic consequences which cause massive human and suffering in death. The second point is, it is possible to introduce a catastrophic shortage which causes huge amounts of human suffering, not only through freezing , heat exhaustion, and starvation, but through wars for resources.

We have a capacity for reason which grants us a certain capacity for prediction and forethought. Why not use it to avoid such catastrophies? The best arguments I can come up with are "to teach ourselves a lesson", and "to reduce the population". Well, we can learn the lesson earlier, and while I agree a drop in the population would be a good thing, I just prefer it to be a gentler process than war and starvation. For example free suicide booths.

A methane tax is a better idea (1)

Rastignac (1014569) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015024)

It will help a lot in the cubicles ! ;)

Re:A methane tax is a better idea (1)

Markspark (969445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015174)

hehe.. you do have a point there.. and methane is also a greenhouse gas.. :) but anything that keeps emissions down is good in my book.. i would love to see the United States sign the Kyoto protocol and lower their emissions!

Yes (3, Insightful)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015042)

I am a firm believer in capitalism. The market will come up with a good solution.

But the market can only function if all costs involved are part of the price. One way to do this is to have a CO2 tax, provided it is based on the actual CO2 cost of the product, and the money is used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Then the market can decide what to do.

Re:Yes (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17015190)

I am a firm believer in capitalism.

Well, then, you're a nut. Capitalism and communism are totally idealised nonsense based on a world full of people that don't act like human beings.

Re:Yes (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015306)

And if you're not going to let people run things because they "don't act like human beings" you run into another sort of idealized nonsense called Despotism.

Re:Yes (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015410)

Well, the important part is that the tax should be sufficient to cover the costs of neutralizing the CO2. How people decide to act, given the new prices of things, is their problem.

Re:Yes (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015608)

The market will come up with a good solution.

The problem is that the market generally only comes up with a solution when it is glaringly obvious that a solution is needed. "Glaringly obvious" meaning "a lay person can easily see (and mentally connect) the cause and effect".

Well, the thing about climate change is that a lay person cannot easily connect the cause and effect. It takes years for any change in carbon emissions to have a noticeable effect. To compound this problem, a number of scientists are saying "by the time the evidence becomes so irrefutable that even the most anti-climate change loon will have no choice but to accept it, it will be too late".

Re:Yes (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015690)

Which is exactly why you add a CO2 tax into the price, so that the market can work in its usual way (with people looking for the lowest price).

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015642)

Absolutely.

And at the moment the great problem of the free market is that all costs are not part of the price. The only reason we have to buy Chinese instead of European and American goods is that their goods do not have the environmental costs included. They pollute as much as they want dumping toxic chemicals into their rivers which end up in the ocean which we all use. Same for the atmosphere.

Frankly, f*** carbon. Put excise duty on environmental damage for all goods. The price of the good must include its full recycling cost and damage cost to the environment when producing it. This should be the case regardless of where it is produced. The Earth is not that big, so mercury, cadmium and lead dumped into the Yantze will end up in the tuna on our dinner table in less then 5 years.

Re:Yes (1)

slashkitty (21637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016558)

I support a carbon tax. Especially if it's phased in slowly, so that the market can react correctly.

All pollution costs are NOT CURRENTLY included in the price of American goods. The main sources of carbon pollution right now are cars and power plants. Everyone seems to think that it's big companies, but, it's not, it's you.

When there is a dollar attached to the pollution, companies will spend appropriate dollars to correct it (ie. use alternative fuels, or improve efficiency)

The China problem does not get solved by a US tax, it really works better if it's global. If the US adds the tax, and China doesn't, it'll just make the problem worse, as products from China will become even cheaper...

I don't think the "carbon neutral" thing works out right. Do you get credit for owning 100,000 acres of woods? Do you get credit for NOT cutting them down? What if you plant 1000 trees, and they all die?

Re:Yes (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015686)

Wow. A few hundred years of evidence to the contrary and you're still so trusting.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17016158)

"I am a firm believer in capitalism. The market will come up with a good solution."

Yeah just like all those technologies and patents companies bury and sit on for years because it might effect their profits. Just like all those copyright extensions and lobbying they do so that they don't have to innovate and can resell the same old stuff over many years to new generations.

The market is fundamentally flawed, our price system is too simple to take into account costs, and because greed and profit is the driving force of markets, many solutions will only see the light of day when many industry heavyweights (market powers) say so.

Markets are not immune from bad demographics.

Carbon tax is a good idea (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015050)

So are the many other ideas out there for reducing global emissions.

Ultimately they will all fail if China is not brought on board.

Australia is seeing massive drought and topsoil erosion due to boneheaded land-management schemes encouraged by the government. The Amazon basin is seeing largescale deforestation due to clearcutting for pastureland as well as hardwood harvesting for construction. Europe is vastly overpopulated and over-farmed that the net margins for farming have gone negative in areas accessible by car.

The only large land area that has not yet succumbed to land overuse is North America and that's mostly due to the sheer size of the land vs the population. At current consumption levels, a land teeming (as Europe teems) with people would consume the resources of the American landscape and pollute it past the point of no return. You know what that is? That's the point in a journey where it's harder to go back to the beginning than to continue on to the end. It's like when those astronauts got in trouble when they were going to the moon. Somebody messed up or something and they had to get them back to Earth but first they had to go around the moon. They were out of contact for hours. Everybody waited breathlessly to see if a bunch of dead guys in a can would pop out the other side. Well, we're just about to slide past the moon and there's only one country that can change our course.

China.

Re:Carbon tax is a good idea (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015196)

Duh, we'll just have to pass a bill through congress that implements a carbon tax in China and India only!

Where do I sign up for one of those cushy political advisor jobs?

Re:Carbon tax is a good idea (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17015830)

What about you, eh? As far as I understand, the US has actually NOT signed the Kyoto agreement?

Oh, and yes, carbon tax is a good idea. In Norway about 80% av the price we pay for gasoline is taxes. The price is what keeps people from driving absolutely everywhere in this country. Taxes on cars are adjusted to how much they pollute etc, to make it profitable to buy an environmentally friendly car.

Re:Carbon tax is a good idea (2, Insightful)

Moggyboy (949119) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016062)

Right on, you're absolutely correct. Unfortunately, there is no way that China, India or Australia are going to come to the party on any sort of global environmental policy unless the good ol' U.S of A does first. In the case of China and India, it's simply a case of "we're not going do unless the U.S. does!". Australia has no such excuse, having carbon-per-citizen almost comparable to that of the U.S., but having a prime minister who would jump off the Sydney Harbour Bridge if Dubya did it first (a common phrase heard from Aussie mothers for all you non-Aussies) and so isn't prepared to do anything his idol hasn't sanctioned. Ah well, I think we've all dug our own graves, our mass ignorance and refusal to take action will wipe us all out sometime in the near future, and personally, I think the planet will be better for it. Enjoy it while it lasts, kids.

Re:Carbon tax is a good idea (1)

dmatos (232892) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016230)

Waaah! What can I do? I'm only one person. One person can't make a difference in this world.

Have you seen what China makes? Cheap knock-offs of products from other countries. What happens when those other countries only produce environmentally friendly products? You'll end up with cheap knock-offs of environmentally friendly products.

Seriously, if the countries that are currently able to invest the money in R&D of carbon-neutral solutions, the entire world benefits. I pay a premium on my electricity to subsidize the construction of cleaner power generation. Will my $120/year pay for even one wind turbine? No. Will the $120/year that company gets from a hundred thousand people do so? Probably. Will more wind turbines being built make the cost of wind power lower due to the basic economic priciple of mass production? Probably. Will the wind turbines eventually be able to replace the coal-fired generation plants? Maybe. If that happens, will I stop paying a premium on my power? No. I'll keep paying, to support the next generations of even cleaner power stations, whatever they happen to be.

No. (2)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015066)

I pay enough taxes already. I own a decently efficient car, I ride a train to work (well, I drive 10 miles to the train station each day), and I don't drive much on weekends. If you're going to make a "carbon tax", make it for those assholes that commute 50 miles a day in a Ford Expedition. I have enough taxes already.

Re:No. (1)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015232)

They do. It's the gas tax. It's an amazingly fair way of taxing those who drive less efficient vehicles and those who drive more.

Re:No. (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015314)

Yes, but this isn't talking about increasing the gas tax, it's about adding a whole new tax. And since it's a "tax" and not a "fee," I can guarantee it'll apply to everyone and not just the people who are causing the problem in the first place. I'm already paying for too much crap, like stadiums and the government putting up "Obey the Speed Limit!" signs on traffic-clogged roads you can't even hit 20 MPH on. I don't want to pay for "carbon." Especially since I'm not pulled in to the whole global warming panic in the first place. (To be clear, I have no problem with fuel self-sufficiency for the US, or raising the cost of gasoline.)

Re:No. (1)

odourpreventer (898853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015474)

I don't want to pay for "carbon."

And you won't. Unless you are a customer of the industries that will get hit by this tax.

It's called an incentive. Polluting industries will pay extra, which might motivate them to go greener. Of course, they can always charge their customers more, but that tend to make customers look for alternatives.

They need to pay more. (1, Flamebait)

FatSean (18753) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015942)

They need to pay for blocking my line of sight.

When an SUV cuts me off, I call in the plate as a drunk driver. You should do the same!

Re:No. (1)

Markspark (969445) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015272)

everybody should pay more taxes.. we are living well above the standards we could afford if we took in the cost to the environment in the calculation, but since we don't, we over-expend..

Re:No. (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015662)

True, and that's a reason why voters should demand that IF any carbon tax is passed, it is strictly tied to a reduction in other taxes. It makes no sense to punish people for working, for investing, for starting businesses, for reinvesting the proceeds of their previous investments, etc. but somehow leave a "bad" like carbon off the hook. Also, it seems that carbon tax, if sanely executed (a big if) would hit you by far the least.

On a semi-related matter, I don't support the idea of "tax gas/carbon to reduce road congestion". You should tax pollution for polluting and congestion for congesting. It makes no sense to charge a farmer using a truck 100% outside of dense traffic for congesting, nor for charging a minimal gas consumption car traveling downtown as if it polluted heavily. Tax the farmer for polluting and not congesting, tax the inner city fuel efficient car for congesting but not polluting.

Re:No. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016520)

I own a decently efficient car, I ride a train to work (well, I drive 10 miles to the train station each day), and I don't drive much on weekends.

Well if that's the case, you don't have much to worry about do you?

Or, maybe, your carbon footprint is greater than you realize, in which case your actions are incurring a cost that you're currently not paying for. A tax such as this only forces you, the consumer, to pay for your choices. If you don't like it, cut back your consumption or seek out alternatives.

car manufacturers (1)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015080)

If part of an industry that is (very) close to the cause of pollution suggests to take certain actions that mostlikely will cost them money in the short run, then you know something is wrong.
No sane man would shoot himself in the foot.

Re:car manufacturers (2, Insightful)

djones101 (1021277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015244)

No sane man would shoot himself in the foot.
Tell that to people who were drafted to fight in wars and shot themselves in the foot to get out of having to kill other people.

To get out of having to kill other people (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015592)

So, are you suggesting that perhaps the car industry is willing to shoot "themselves in the foot to get out having to kill other people"? You might be right! :)

Re:car manufacturers (2, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015562)

"If part of an industry that is (very) close to the cause of pollution suggests to take certain actions that mostlikely will cost them money in the short run, then you know something is wrong."

Or you know that car manufacturer runs a cleaner shop than their competitors and will benefit from such a tax. Don't ever think business has more than one goal. Sometimes it's worth it to pay a little more if it means your competitors will pay a lot more.

Tax machine labour rather than human labour (2, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015098)

At the moment, it's humans who are taxed, human work. Well, tax machine work instead. They do more of the work than we do and they have an unfair tax advantage over humans, never mind their ability to work so much faster.

http://www.whynot.net/ideas/2195 [whynot.net]

 

Sounds great, but... (3, Insightful)

s31523 (926314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015118)

how do you know how much CO2 is being dispensed by various companies? Do we seal plants in plastic baggies and measure the CO2 coming out? And what exactly would the tax revenue go towards?

Re:Sounds great, but... (1)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015422)

Tax the suppliers of coal, oil and other fossil fuels, and the shit will roll downhill.

Re:Sounds great, but... (1)

o'reor (581921) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015518)

Just put a flat tax on oil and coal. Problem solved.

Depends (0, Flamebait)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015204)

It depends on which you think is a greater threat:

  • global warming, which can only be stopped by decreasing atmospheric CO2, or
  • global cooling and the next ice age, which can only be stopped by increasing atmospheric CO2

Only one of those threats has occurred many times before, is certain to occur again, and is certain to wipe us out when vegetation falters. Guess which one?

Re:Depends (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015332)

The way I figure it, you can always put more clothes on/build more shelter if it gets cold. Harder to get more cool than "naked", though.

Re:Depends (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015438)

The way I figure it, you can always put more clothes on/build more shelter if it gets cold. Harder to get more cool than "naked", though.

And what, pray tell, were you planning to eat?

Certainly we could build greenhouses, develop cold-resistant plants, set up hydroponics, and so forth, but is it feasible to do that on a worldwide scale?

There are also other ways to cool the Earth. We've only just gotten started on the problem. Consider the recent proposals to spray sunlight-blocking particles into the stratophere, the way that recent planet-cooling volcanoes did.

Re:Depends (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015532)

Good point. Not much use sticking around anyway without steak.

Re:Depends (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015430)

I myself rather look forward to being your mammoth hunting overlord.

Kneel before me, or starve, worm.

KFG

Maybe... with caveats (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015284)

Redically reducing our use of fossil fuels is what we need to be doing. The local (and possibly global?) environmental implications are obvious, but for the West the elimination of a financial base of many unstable or anti-Western regiemes has political and economic benefits. I like Richard Branson's strategy to invest heavily in alternative fuels and transport technology.

Any tax should have extremely rigid rules about how the money would be used and accounted for. Extra cash in politicians coffers is the last thing we need. The money should be used to invest and subsidize productive research in alternative fuels.

Re:Maybe... with caveats (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015390)

That never works. Once they get the money they spend it however they want. How many states passed lottery approval initiatives under the guise they would go for education, and then later had the money taken for the general fund, with small increases for education.

Re:Maybe... with caveats (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016002)

That's kind of my point... if we can prosecute CEOs because they misuse funds and mislead investors we should also be able set strict guidelines in place for public funds and prosecute politicians who do not use them correctly.

I agree with you though, right now we give them money for one thing and they use it on another.

Re:Maybe... with caveats (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016100)

It doesn't work that way with government. The people support taking the money and spending it on other things. When you give the government the coercive power to steal from its citizens in the form of taxes, subsets of the populace will leverage that power for their own gain at the expense of others. It's the natural state of taxation and socialism.

Re:Maybe... with caveats (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016232)

Ah, good point. You would have to lock in the spending with a requirement of massive majority to change it... but you're still right. I'm arguing from utopia... not reality.

Screw the politicians.

man vs. nature (1)

condition-label-red (657497) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015288)

The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere can vary widely between man-made and natural sources. For example:

Granted, man is basically behind the burning in Borneo...

Enforceable? (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015296)

The first question that comes up in my mind is how this will be enforced. Are we going to send inspectors _everywhere_ to measure carbon emissions?

Re:Enforceable? (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016858)

The first question that comes up in my mind is how this will be enforced. Are we going to send inspectors _everywhere_ to measure carbon emissions?

The most logical thing to do would be to tax all carbon based fuels. If in the future a reliable carbon dioxide capture and sequestration technology becomes economically feasible, rebates could be offered to companies that install those technologies.

Whatever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17015304)

I'm not holding my breath.

Yep ... except (5, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015346)

Environmentalists hate the only real solution (nuclear power in case you're doubting that) even more.

It supposedly costs even more, because it costs "infinite" because of the supposed need to maintain storage infinitely. But that way of thinking just ignores progress completely.

And have you seen the movies about nuclear power ? Obviously it's evil !

At the very least, nuclear power can bridge the gap in energy supply until fusion power becomes available.

Have you ever lived in Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17015522)

in ... say 1986 ? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Have you ever lived in Europe (2, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015898)

Actually I have.

No I did not get sick.

Neither did anyone who lived at more than 20 km from the plant. About 50 people lost their lives, due to completely disregarding safety procedures. Some number totaling about 2000 was "affected" in some way.

In comparison, when the Karahnjukar hydroelectric dam broke in China, 60000 people lost their lives, and the region is STILL not back to normal.

Accidents happen. Chernobyl happened because of massive disregarding of safety procedures, not because inherent "unsafety" of nuclear power.

Re:Yep ... except (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17015572)

Its expensive as hell to build, a real drag to maintain, and you end up with tons of stuff that there is no other way to discard then buring it deep down and hope for the best.

Add to this that mining for the fule that power these dinosauries requires _allot_ of energy.

There is allot of options that is way better then nucelar power, and have the potential to open up a new industry that produces not only clean energy in the end, but also work for allot of people.

Re:Yep ... except (2, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015974)

"Its expensive as hell to build, a real drag to maintain, and you end up with tons of stuff that there is no other way to discard then buring it deep down and hope for the best."

And still provides the cheapest power available from any technology with ZERO carbon emissions.

"There is allot of options that is way better then nucelar power, and have the potential to open up a new industry that produces not only clean energy in the end, but also work for allot of people."

Potential, potential, potential. We were talking about options available NOW. There are 2 :
-> nuclear power
-> fossil fuels (& coal) power
(-> in some, very limited, places hydroelectric power)

That's it. No amount of crying foul is going to change that list, no amount of campaigning is going to change that list. This list is given by physical facts. Deal with it. And then take your pick between your 2 only options.

Re:Yep ... except (1)

Peden (753161) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016278)

"And still provides the cheapest power available from any technology with ZERO carbon emissions." This is only because you offset the use of carbon fuels to the mining of the uranium which is very energy demanding.

Re:Yep ... except (2, Informative)

scum-e-bag (211846) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016016)

This is a major debate in Australia at the moment. The government ordered a study be undertaken into the future role of Nuclear Power for Australia. The greenpeace crew are all against Nuclear Power. It takes a lot to shift their view. Even when I confront them with Page 79 Figure 7.5 of the resultant report and explain to them that a Nuclear Power plant generates half as much greenhouse pollution as a Solar Power plant, 10 times less than gas power and 20 times less than coal... they are still against Nuclear power... go figure...

Please, read the report, especially page 79 figure 7.5 and see for yourself.

report link [dpmc.gov.au]

Re:Yep ... except (1)

inonit (309889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016332)

I was a staffer for an environmental group (mid-1990s) and was frustrated with the reflexive anti-nuclear instincts, when it seemed to clearly be the solution to the problems.

I left disgusted after a while, at least in part because of the rigid orthodoxy. Another orthodoxy was an opposition to any sort of emissions trading scheme.

But it seems as though the movement as a whole has been coming around. I was doing some reading a couple of years back and it seems like cap-and-trade is now a mainstream position within the movement and there are even some thinkers advocating more nuclear power (see, e.g., The Whole Earth Catalog guy [technologyreview.com] , who also lists others such as Lovelock).

So there may be hope.

No, because ... (1)

Programmer_Errant (1004370) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016612)

The problem with nuclear power is that even though in theory it can be done safely, the nuclear power industry has consistently proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted to adhere to even minimal safety standards. They like to cut corners especially in personnel. Homer Simpson is not entirely a work of fiction. Go research all the news articles about undertrained staff and staff caught sleeping on the job. I remember one case there they traced some contamination back to some retard of a truck driver handling low level liquid waste who was just sloshing it all over the place while loading and unloading his tanker truck. Basically he didn't believe it was dangerous. There's a whole class of people who believe if something doesn't kill you instantly on the spot that it's not dangerous. They're stupid, work cheaply, and are the ideal nuclear industry worker as far as the industry is concerned.


Plus there's the slight problem of what to do with all the nuclear waste. It's going to be a burden on generations upon generations to come. But if you're the kind of moral slime mold that believes in taxing your children and grandchildren by borrowing to maintain your lifestyle, then sticking it to even later generations is an easy choice.

Market base mechanisms work (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015350)

The EU ETS is badly implemented at the moment, but it really just needs tweaked a bit. Reduce the caps, allocate on a per capita basis rather than allow governments to decide how much to allocate.

 

Here's the Plan: Set a personal carbon ration. (3, Interesting)

7times9 (955358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015406)

One of the leading campaigners in this area is George Monbiot [monbiot.com] , he has thought [turnuptheheat.org] about how industrialised countries can make a 90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

In a recent article entitled Here's the Plan [monbiot.com] he set out 10 steps to achieve this while changing our every day life as little as possible.

Instead of carbon tax he suggests:

...set a personal carbon ration. Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If he runs out, he must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his quota(2). This accounts for about 40% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The rest is auctioned off to companies. It's a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the Emissions Trading Scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful incentive to demand low-carbon technologies. Timescale: a full scheme in place by January 2009.

This scheme would not penalise the poor as carbon taxes might because they would be able to sell off their surplus rations.

Re:Here's the Plan: Set a personal carbon ration. (1)

JLennox (942693) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015606)

This scheme would not penalise the poor

Correct, but it does punish small(er) companies by them not being able to compete in the auctions.

Re:Here's the Plan: Set a personal carbon ration. (1)

JamesTRexx (675890) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016340)

Then also include the amount of plants that one has in the house/garden as extra on top of the quota.
I have 28 plants of various sizes in my apartment, even had 52 two summers ago so I've probably been attributing to more oxygen and air filtering than I used personally. (a mandatory qouta of plants in every apartment is also an idea I've been thinking about as a small part of a sci-fi novel)

Biofuels (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015428)

I believe in biofuels. Grow crops, optionally process them, and you've got fuel that's carbon neutral when you burn it. If you choose your crops right, this can be cheaper than burning fossil fuels. Harmful emissions are also reduced (there's loads of crap in fossil fuels).

The biggest problem with biofuels at the moment is that we aren't choosing our crops right: we're using crops with low energy yields (soy, maize, rape seed), and heavily subsidizing them and/or taxing (foreign) alternatives (e.g. sugar cane) to make our crops "competitive". The effect is, of course, that it costs society money (even those who don't use the crops we grow) and keeps other countries poor. That's no way to go.

If we get serious about biofuels, produce them at their real cost using crops with good energy yield and/or the ability to grow on marginal land (algae, switchgrass, sugar cane, sweet sorghum), that will be a good step in the right direction. If fossil fuels are still cheaper at that point (which I could well imagine being the case for coal), we could always impose a environment tax at that point. However, let's look at the real costs, without taxes, subsidies, and foreign policy, first.

Re:Biofuels (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016608)

The biggest problem with biofuels at the moment is that we aren't choosing our crops right: we're using crops with low energy yields (soy, maize, rape seed), and heavily subsidizing them and/or taxing (foreign) alternatives (e.g. sugar cane) to make our crops "competitive". The effect is, of course, that it costs society money (even those who don't use the crops we grow) and keeps other countries poor. That's no way to go.

Aha! I see your confusion. You see, you're looking at biofuels as a solution to global warming, pollution, etc. Politicians and lobbyists, however, see it as yet another way to pump more money into the declining farming industry in places like the United States.

Smart move by Toyota... (1)

thrill12 (711899) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015464)

1. Make hybrid car with less carbon-exhaust
2. Promote hybrid car, get people interested
3. Lobby for law that taxes carbon-exhaust
4. ???
5. Profit !

(smug mode on)Lucky I already drive one :) (smug mode off) Prrrt... snifff... ah... [wikipedia.org]

no - paying the wrong people (1)

lucychili (987345) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015470)

carbon tax is a way for centralised power broadcasters which are producing polution to effectively be paid to further their activities. fuel, car, power industries are resisting change and using doublethink to persuade people that a carbon tax is an investment in change.

i would be far more interested in a carbon free tax which invested in distributed power generation (with less loss of power over distance to deliver) which provided people with investment in developing and applying better technologies for contributing to the power grid themselves. solar, wind, tidal.

it might take a while for these distributed meshes of power to be self sufficient for all purposes, but thats where the investment should be. a distributed powergrid has less single point of failure issues
less wastage as power is used closer to where it is generated, and uses energy which naturally persists.

Yes, but... (5, Informative)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015478)

What I'd really like to see is this:
  1. A carbon tax, levied on the f*ng idiots who drive SUVs in the city. Ideally, I'd like this tax to be paid each year, and it's amount to be directly proportional to the oil consumption of the car? Own an SUV? Fine, that will be 50% of its price, every year, as long as you own it. Own an hybrid/highly efficient/electric car? Fine, that will be 5% of its price every year. Don't own a car? Using your feet/your bike/ mass transit? OK, no taxes for you.
  2. A carbon and pollution tax, levied on the industries that pollute the atmosphere, water and soil. Same principle as above: send an (independent) team to assess the damage and tax the company accordingly. The more CO2 and pollutants are released, the higher the tax. Inefficient industries will go under and/or will be forced to streamline their productions pretty fast unless they want to pay enormous taxes.
    And let me tell you one thing: most big companies can afford to lose money for a couple of years in order to lower their pollution rate -- sure, it's going to be painful, but everyone will benefit in the log term. Oh, and no outsourcing polluting plants to poorer countries either: the tax should be levied globally, if necessary by using estimates. Outsourcing to, say, India, in order to pollute freely? Sorry, bub, all your plants in India are now considered as "high" or "extremely high pollution": that will US$ 45 million. On the other hand, extremely efficient and non-polluting industries will win.

Still ideally, I'd like the revenue from these taxes to be used to plant trees, create recycling and de-polluting plants, and optimize natural resource usage. Other worthy uses are scientific and technical: developing renewable resources and developing the technologies needed to clean behind us most of the pollutants we have been dumping on Earth for the past 100+ years.

The key point is this: whether you believe in Global Warming or not (I do) the fact is that the Earth is Dying(tm). If we don't force the big companies -- and the individual citizens -- to face up to this fact, all solutions we'll apply to this problem will be too little, too late. There are solutions available right now . Carbon Tax is one of them, and it's probably one of the most effective.

And... Wait for it... Creating new technologies and optimizing our resources consumption may actually increase the wealth of everyone, by creating new jobs and improving/cleaning our habitat.

Of course, I am not holding my breath: most politicians will never have the guts nor the gonads to sign a Carbon Tax into law. We'll probably come around to it once the Earth is so polluted and the climate so out of whack it will taxation or death.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015638)

It seems to me that you're overcomplicating things. Once you start introducing brackets and reduced rates for things that meet certain criteria. you introduce opportunities for loopholes, backdoors and malicious acts. Consider the whole SUV thing where 50k hummer owners can get a 38k tax break because the hummer meets some critieria outside of the spirit of the tax law. Also consider big "farm trucks" and other vehicles that get reduced penalties because they'll be used commercially, or on a farm, when in reality the wife drives them to town to play bingo, go grocery shopping and go to the mall.

It's my opinion that you need a tax on each unit. Some percentage or amount of tax per lb of coal, and the like. In this way, it's much harder to cheat the spirit of the tax.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015958)


You have a point, but consider this: we know how much a car (SUV, truck, etc) consume gas -- on average -- in a given year. From this gas consumption, we can deduce what kind of pollution is going to be released. Let's say, 10 or 20 tons of CO2 par year. That's the number we will use. No ifs, no buts, no loophole. All you need is a standardized government lab (Government can be a good thing in this case) to test the consumption and pollution of every car. And cars that are not sold anymore -- but are still used -- will simply be taxed in the highest category.

I don't want loopholes, but I still want people to migrate to cars that are more efficient and less polluting. That's the whole point of creating bracketed taxes: rewarding "good" behaviour and punishing idiots who drive SUVs.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

Peden (753161) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016366)

Relax dude, stop with the SUV hating. What you propose is a tax on gas, it would meet all the demands you set. If you drive an inefficient(fuel wise) vehicle you pay a bigger tax, than if you drive a Prius or a bicycle. But the real problem here is: How are you going to control the tax? Who's getting all that money? Greenpeace? The windmill companies? Solar power plants? The children? How are you going to control that they will not just be what every other tax is, an excuse for power and cashgrab from the elected officals, and special interest groups.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

bcattwoo (737354) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016644)

You are still making it more complicated than it needs to be. For instance, why are car owners taxed on the basis of the value of their car if the goal is to target gas usage? That will more likely just drive down the price of SUVs. Plus it doesn't take into account that grandma's 15 mpg Lincoln driven 10 miles a week is doing a lot less harm than Joe-environmentalist's 400 miles a week in his 50 mpg Prius.

If you want to discourage the burning of carbon based fuels, then tax the fuels themselves. Thus eliminating the need for complicated measurements and metrics, which ultimately would prove unreliable and prone to manipulation.

No. Also, measure China fairly (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015508)

The whole idea of basing China's output using a "per person" formula is just dumb. Its being done to mask the amount of pollution China is creating, supposedly they will exceed the US within 2 years (finding that citation should not be too hard)

A "tax" won't do anything but pass the costs to the consumer indirectly. Worse most schemes invented allow for corporations to buy and sell "pollution credit" with other companies. In other words, a tax just furthers the activity. Instead of stopping it you just make it slightly more expensive to maintain.

No tax. Just set reasonable emission's goals based on the industry involved. There is no real point in forcing a computer manufacturer to pay penalities just because their power supplier isn't green. Now you can hit them up if they refuse to use better alternatives for creating boards and such (reduce mercury usage is a start). This is the logic that needs to be followed for each industry. Get on to it for what it produces, not what it consumes. If you hit it on the consuming side then you are just passing the regulatory buck. Your hitting them for something they may have no actual ability to control. Of course most governments are only concerned with revenue so its a wash. They will portray and financial loss to a corporation as the cost of doing business while convienently ignoring the fact that any "penalty tax" paid by the corporation is ultimately paid by anyone buying their product or engaged in businees with someone using their product (the old idea of - no business pays taxes, they merely collect them for the government)

Re:No. Also, measure China fairly (1)

thona (556334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015626)

::The whole idea of basing China's output using a "per person" formula is just dumb. Its being done to mask the amount of pollution China is creating, ::supposedly they will exceed the US within 2 years (finding that citation should not be too hard)

And brutually speaking, given that they are multiple times the amount of people in the US (what are we talking here? factor of 4? 5?) they have every damn right to produce pollution similar to the US.

Grandfather clause (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015668)

So, basically, you're suggesting a grandfather clause? Countries that are already industrialized get to continue benig industrialized, but those who aren't can't become industrialized because you set their emission goals based off them not being industrialized? You are familiar with the history of grandfather clauses [wikipedia.org] , aren't you?

Screw taxes, stop subsidizing consumption (3, Insightful)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 7 years ago | (#17015556)

Before anyone starts on about the need for a carbon tax, we need to address the Billions that go into subsidizing our consumption habits. I'm speaking of Americans in particular, beyond the war on "terror", highway funding, and preferential tax status of oil companies, we also directly subsidize these companies that are taking us for billions in retail.

I say eliminate all of the special subsidies, odd tax loopholes, and other artificial advantages that make Fossil fuel desireable. And then the market will finally be able to sort it all out.

bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17015752)

carbon trading is just a way for the wall street swindlers to get their middleman skimming fingers into other pies. We have more than enough derivatives gambling now. Let them go get real jobs. Work to de-parasite the economy, that will do the most to help...

I am pro environment, pro alternative energy, pro sustainable living as much as possible, etc, but man I don't want to see global carbon trading as we don't need any more global unelected bureaucratic government or fascist corporate pirates running things, take the power back from those goons. Look at the mess the WTO is, or the IMF for some more examples. Carbon trading is a way to make millionaires into billionaires, that's it.

If you as an individual or business want to "go green", there's nothing stopping you. You can buy solar in various forms, solar PV or solar thermal, you can arrange for bulk buying of alternative vehicles (employee credits perhaps, or tell your local dealer you might go for a small fleet as soon as they have PLUGIN hybrids for sale, etc, help send that message up the car food chain), you can go buy stock in alternative energy companies, you can buy green electricity by making sure the big windmill guys get their cut, you can actually slap a few solar panels on your own roof, or get the remodelers in and do better windows and more insulation in your home, etc. Just do it. Plant some shade trees on the south side of your house. Lobby your local governmental authority to get building codes change that require better insulation and stronger construction. All sorts of stuff you can do. Support your most local farmers, buy from them or the local co-op instead of the big chains. Plant a veggie garden. And so on. Skip the home theater this year and put up a small wind charger. Whatever loats your boat. Vote with your wallet and your actions. Early adopters get the benefits of being early adopters.

Re:bad idea (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016386)


carbon trading is just a way for the wall street swindlers to get their middleman skimming fingers into other pies


While nobody can dispute that this is an internally consistent way of looking at carbon trading, it really sheds no light on the question of whether carbon trading would work.

It seems to me that carbon trading and carbon taxation work by very similar mechanisms: they turn carbon emissions into a cost. The difference is the nature of that cost. In the case of carbon taxation, it is a direct cost; in the case of carbon trading it is an opportunity cost: that carbon emission could have been sold rather than used. In either case the level of internalized cost can be regulated, either by tax increases, or by adjusting the total supply of credits.

From a global environmental standpoint, I doubt the effects of trading are distinguishable from the effects of taxation, provided the costs are set in ways that are designed to achieve the same overall goals. The differences are local. Under trading, some carbon emissions that would be economically unfeasible under taxation will occur. This is offset by the fact that some carbon reductions that would be economically unfeasible under taxation also occur. Arguably trading is more economically efficient, but I reserve judgment on that. It is clearly more politically acceptable.

For a global polllutant like CO2, the political advantages and practical comparability of trading make it a good idea, in my opinion. Higher internalization of externalized costs can be imposed before opposition becomes impossible to surmount. It is not necessarily a good idea for pollutants whose impact is more localized.

IFF _every_ nation is required, perhaps.. (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016392)

... No exemptions for China or Russia or any other nation, some form of emissions trading that can be setup as a global framework ala Bretton Woods, is politically and economically tenable. Each nation would be allocated a certain tonnage of carbon-based gases, and they'd choose how those allocations are parceled out.

Oh, and a commitment to converting 50% of the world's coal-fired power plants to nuclear by 2020 is a must.

With all taxes, the question is... (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17016478)

With all taxes the question is not whether it is good or bad. Almost all taxes have a negative influence influence on the economy seen in isolation. On the other hand, almost all government spending has a positive influence on the economy. And obvious and popular combination, spending without taxing, is very positive on the short term, but undermines the entire system on the long term.

The real question for any tax is therefore, are the consequences of the tax worse or better than other taxes.
It is quite simple to analyse: Which actions does the tax encourage, and which actions does the tax discourage.

A good frame of reference for other taxes is income tax since it constitute such a large fraction of the whole tax income. So the question becomes: Is the tax better or worse than income tax. Income tax happens to be a particularly harmful tax, it basically punish people for working. It is the last thing any government with an interest in a sound economy should be interesting in discouraging.

A carbon tax takes money out of the economy, which is harmful the way all taxes are. It also discourage the use of fossil foil, which may or may not have some beneficial effect on climate, but certainly lessens the economy's dependence on political stability in the middle eastern region. And it encourage research and development in alternative energy and conservation to happen earlier than a simple supply and demand curve on the fossil fuel reserves (known and hidden) would suggest.

All in all, as taxes go, a carbon tax is far from the worst.

PS: A common argument against any new tax is that it encourage enlarging the budget, which is a very valid point in any country with a tradition for having a balanced budget.

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