Are Democrats dumb enough to support a “bipartisan” carbon tax that no Republicans support?

❝ The dream of a bipartisan deal on carbon taxes is evergreen in US political circles. Lately, it has taken on a somewhat more specific form. The Climate Leadership Council (led by emeritus Republicans George Shultz and James Baker III) and the libertarian Niskanen Center have both proposed various forms of a deal in which Republicans would agree to a carbon tax in exchange for Democrats agreeing to repeal regulations on carbon emissions and fuel economy (among others).

Reporter Amy Harder…points out that no Republicans support the deal. But she also says that environmental groups and Democrats will not accept it — and their refusal is “the logjam preventing any climate compromise.”

❝ Niskanen’s David Bookbinder…told Harder that green groups actually would accept the trade if the price was right, they just won’t say so. “Like most entities that have no experience in actual negotiations,” he said, “[environmental groups] believe that they can’t say publicly that they will make the trade until the R’s put the tax on the table.”…

❝ This is shaping up to be a classic Washington dynamic: Democrats being pressured to compromise in advance, with phantoms.

❝ There is zero authentic support from the conservative movement or elected Republicans for a carbon tax. So the “debate” mostly consists of journalists and pundits (who have received these proposals rapturously) pressuring the left to reveal what it’s willing to give away.

Bookbinder would have us believe that real, experienced negotiators blab about what they’re willing to trade away in advance not only of a concrete offer but of anyone to negotiate with.

It would be indescribably stupid of Democrats to fall for this…

❝ There’s nothing wrong with people pushing this idea, if they think it’s a good idea. But elected Democrats are surely aware that a) there is no actual support for it among the GOP and b) when it comes to carbon, federally speaking, EPA regulations are the only tool left on the table.

David Roberts concludes with “Showing your cards…in exchange for the approval of the DC cognoscenti … well, surely that’s a mistake Democrats won’t make.”

Um, I hope so. Meanwhile, read the whole article. Roberts has done his homework and there is much to consider – even if there’s damned little on offer from the rightwing side of our political spectrum.

When the Texas of Canada elects a government committed to the environment…


The starting line for the tar sands boondoggle

Alberta is sometimes called the Texas of Canada. It’s home to one of the largest rodeos in the world, a respectable number of annual tornadoes, and a plethora of oil and gas reserves. Falling in the not-quite-so-Texas category: blankets of winter snow, the way they pronounce their vowels, and most recently, a tax on carbon emissions.

The tax, which goes into effect January 2017, will add a few cents onto every dollar spent on coal, oil, and gas. When formerly cheap fossil fuels are forced to compete on even economic playing field with renewables, the thinking goes, people will choose sustainable energy…

A US Energy Information Administration study shows that a carbon tax like Alberta’s could reduce CO2 emissions by as much as half by 2040 (bearing in mind that comparing Alberta to the entire US is not quite apples to apples). You might recognize this strategy—using money to shape your behavior—from taxes on cigarettes, booze, and Keno. Pretty simple, pretty darn effective.

Cap and trade, the other economic climate strategy, is kind of like an inverted carbon tax. Instead of using taxes to reach a certain emissions goal, economists begin by deciding the maximum amount of carbon emissions they’ll allow. That’s the cap. But let’s think of it more like a pie, because then the regulators slice it up and auction the pieces off to energy companies.

“Some people look at tax like it’s a dirty word,” says Yoram Bauman, the economist who crafted British Columbia’s carbon tax. But taxes have their benefit, too. Many investors prefer a carbon tax because it doesn’t fluctuate along with external market factors. That stability lets them make long term plans. It’s also good for smaller economies, which is why Finland chose to implement the first in 1990.

Of course, given the choice most energy companies would choose neither tax nor cap—they’d just keep thrashing the commons. But the Paris climate talks are looming, and most world governments have already committed to some sort of emissions cuts. Heck, even Texas might come around.

But, uh, don’t hold your breath. The Democrats in Texas ain’t winning much and they don’t come close to the New Democrats in Canada.

Europe’s biggest energy companies say ditch coal, tax carbon


America’s corporate view of prosperity

The bosses of Europe’s six largest energy companies, including BP and Shell, have said gas should play a vital role in plans to tackle global warming, in a rare public intervention aimed at influencing UN talks.

In a letter to the Financial Times, the energy companies also called for “widespread and effective” carbon pricing to be part of the solution that emerges from crucial climate talks in Paris taking place at the end of the year.

The letter is signed by Ben van Beurden, the chief executive of Shell, Bob Dudley, the chief executive of BP, as well as their counterparts at BG Group, Eni, Statoil and Total…

Noticeable by their absence are any US firms. ExxonMobil and Chevron, the US’s two largest oil companies, last week ruled out joining any corporate alliance on climate.

The letter from the European energy companies is an unusual departure for the big energy firms, which usually prefer to work behind closed doors. The six energy bosses said they have written to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that convenes the international talks between 196 nations.

No, they’re not adding solar panels to their corporate palaces, they’re not stacking wind turbines atop their gas drilling rigs. But, by the same token, they face an organized environmental movement on their home turf that actually has meaningful Green Parties that contest elections at every level. They force incumbent parties to rethink subservience to out-of-date politics and policies.

Until we build independent political action in the United States, creeps like ExxonMobil and Chevron will remain in charge. Their pimps in government will continue to do their bidding.

The carbon tax in British Columbia works just fine

A carbon tax is just what it sounds like: The BC government levies a fee, currently 30 Canadian dollars, for every metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions resulting from the burning of various fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and, of course, coal. That amount is then included in the price you pay at the pump—for gasoline, it’s 6.67 cents per liter (about 25 cents per gallon)—or on your home heating bill, or wherever else the tax applies. (Canadian dollars are currently worth about 89 American cents).

If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the BC carbon tax totally works. Since its passage, gasoline use in British Columbia has plummeted, declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas, according to a recent study by two researchers at the University of Ottawa. That’s apparently because the tax hasn’t just had an economic effect: It has also helped change the culture of energy use in BC. “I think it really increased the awareness about climate change and the need for carbon reduction, just because it was a daily, weekly thing that you saw,” says Merran Smith, the head of Clean Energy Canada. “It made climate action real to people.”

It also saved many of them a lot of money. Sure, the tax may cost you if you drive your car a great deal, or if you have high home gas heating costs. But it also gives you the opportunity to save a lot of money if you change your habits, for instance by driving less or buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. That’s because the tax is designed to be “revenue neutral“—the money it raises goes right back to citizens in the form of tax breaks. Overall, the tax has brought in some $5 billion in revenue so far, and more than $3 billion has then been returned in the form of business tax cuts, along with over $1 billion in personal tax breaks, and nearly $1 billion in low-income tax credits (to protect those for whom rising fuel costs could mean the greatest economic hardship). According to the BC Ministry of Finance, for individuals who earn up to $122,000, income tax rates in the province are now Canada’s lowest.

RTFA. Long, detailed, convincing. Half of anyone quoting the details in the American press will only quote the part about the outbound costs. You already know who.

But, the intricacies aren’t especially difficult, didn’t require an excess of negotiation excepting with the most overtly bought-and-paid-for politicians in Western Canada. Might be worth the effort in some of the leading edge cities and counties in the GOUSA.

French nuclear plant profits to help fund alt-energy goals


Hollande and Ayrault

France will use some of the proceeds from its nuclear power plants, alongside a new carbon tax, to help fund an overhaul of the country’s energy policy, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Saturday.

He did not specify the size of the contribution from nuclear power or how it would be applied…

In addition to the flagship carbon tax, to be levied on fossil fuels from next year and which should raise 4 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in 2016, Ayrault said the government would raise funds from nuclear plants…

“For the remainder of our plants’ lifetime and while ensuring the highest possible security of course, our nuclear fleet will be made to contribute,” he said, referring to funding of so-called energy transition goals…

State-owned electricity group EDF operates France’s 19 nuclear plants, which house 58 reactors…

France is currently the world’s most nuclear-reliant country in its electricity supply.

Hollande reiterated on Friday an election promise to cut France’s dependency on nuclear power from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025…

Hey – every little bit helps.

As I’ve previously noted, after more than a half-century supporting the building of nuclear power plants I’ve done the math and switched to support for solar and wind power. The cost of building and maintaining nuclear power never diminishes, continues to increase. The opposite is the case at least in the near and medium term for many alternative systems.