The Big Picture

By Keith Kloor | November 7, 2011 7:25 am

Michael Levi, a climate and energy analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, shoots down Joe Romm and Real Climate in one post. I sense that it pains him to do this, especially with regard to the latter. More on that in a minute.

First, I want to point out that Levi’s argument about the Canadian oil sands oil issue and the proposed pipeline make perfect sense.  But there’s a reason why a main theme of the original Star Trek series was the tension between Dr. Spock’s clinical logic and Captain Kirk’s emotionally charged nature. These two essential human characteristics were brilliantly juxtaposed in every episode.

So I find it ironic that Levi titles his post, “Missing the Big Picture on Keystone XL,” because both he and the pipeline protesters are talking about two different big pictures. Yes, Levi is right that blocking the pipeline doesn’t change the demand equation of this problem. But Bill McKibben is a smart person. He recognizes that political action on global warming is severely constrained by the U.S. political landscape and the global dynamics of energy demand (Levi’s Big Picture).

McKibben also knows that the complexity of climate change offers few tangible symbols. So the Keystone pipeline has become an effective rallying point, with serendipitous tail winds coming from the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Keystone is now representative of McKibben’s Big Picture–which is about spotlighting the urgency of climate change and the need for action.

Levi seems not to grasp this, because he writes (my emphasis):

I’ve clearly failed in my previously stated goal of largely avoiding the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, which has somehow become one of the biggest energy issues in the United States.

It’s not an energy issue. It’s about climate change. And it has “somehow” become a focal point precisely because climate activists have nothing else to rally around. They are desperate. U.S. climate legislation has failed. Global climate treaty negotiations are Kabuki theater. President Obama is ramping up domestic drilling and Republicans spit when they mention climate change.

Yet Levi wants McKibben and his fellow pipeline protesters to understand that what they are doing does not make logical sense:

What is it about Keystone XL that will cement our oil addiction that nearly ten million barrels a day (and rising) of U.S. domestic production won’t? How will Keystone XL qualitatively alter U.S. dependence on the oil sands when other pipelines are already importing crude from there?

To McKibben and the protesters, though, that is irrelevant. Which perplexes Levi. As Spock has said:

Logic and practical information do not seem to apply here.

Indeed. McKibben might respond that using cold logic to tackle climate change at this juncture is useless. Additionally, countries are behaving rationally by putting their self-interest ahead of the planet’s. So, as Spock might also say, an appeal to something other than reason (such as emotion) makes total sense.

***

Finally, Levi slaps down Real Climate here:

A few people have asked me whether I plan to respond to the anti-Keystone post that went up at RealClimate last Friday. I probably won’t. The post is a mix of correct arithmetic concerning oil sands emissions and some pretty awful economic and political analysis. The bad economics assumes that Canadian production won’t affect what happens elsewhere in the world; the bad political science implies that the Keystone XL decision will determine what happens to the oil sands over the next thousand or so years. None of that has any support in reality, but adopting it makes the careful arithmetic irrelevant. I’ve gone through these arguments before, and don’t see much value in going through them again. I’m a bit worried, though, that by straying from good climate science into bad economics and politics, RealClimate ““ which I normally love ““ will hurt its brand and credibility.

Now that’s what I call tough love.

  • OPatrick

    “Additionally, countries are behaving rationally by putting their self-interest ahead of the planet’s.”
    Really? I guess this just shows that ‘rational’ is dependent on the scale and scope one chooses to work on. Perhaps we should be focusing on a better understanding of rationality.

    Also I’m unconvinced of Levi’s claim about ‘bad politics’, that the Keystone decision won’t affect affect teh future of the oil sands.. The Keystone issue is a symbolic one, but it isn’t just symbolic, as I think both Joe Romm and Ray Pieerehumbert both make clear, from skim readings at least.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @Keith Kloor:
    Finally, Levi slaps down Real Climate here

    He completely punted on a rebuttal. Calling something bad doesn’t make it bad. I’m more than willing to believe that the RC post in question is economic and politically wrong, but Levi doesn’t actually deign to show why this is so.

    His larger point- about not diluting their brand/credibility- is a good one, but it also hinges on the unbacked assertion that the post is wrong in the first place.

    Barry Brook didn’t get me on board with aggressive nuke policy because he dismissed renewable-only plans as wrong with no further justification.

    The RealClimate point (and something echoed by James Annan at his blog) that it’s letting the camel’s nose in the tent seems persuasive to me on a superficial level. What’s wrong with it? Levi doesn’t bother to say. I’m sure he has a good argument, I just wish he’d make it.

  • Keith Kloor

    Opatrick,

    I remain unconvinced that the pipeline opposition will dent the appetite for oil (sands). But I am am coming around to the idea of the Keystone pipeline becoming a significant climate change rallying cry. I was unimpressed in August, just as I was initially unimpressed by OCW. But I see the staying power of both and each seems to be striking a popular chord, which is what it’s all about when you’re seeking to build a movement. 

    TB,

    If Levi’s main point is about RC straying from its mission, then whether he’s correct or not in his assessment of that particular post is irrelevant (though I suspect he he is right).  

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Excellent observation Keith about the different perspectives on the significance and rationale for the Keystone protest.  Levi, Andrew Leach, and David Keith are all people that I play very close attention to.  And they are absolutely correct in their technical arguments.  However, where they fail is in appreciating the political  significance.  It reminds of one of my favorite quotes:

    “Economists should cease proffering policy advice as if they were employed by a benevolent despot, and they should look to the structure within which political decisions are made.”

    If you haven’t already, I really hope you’ll contact them for their thoughts on this post.

    @TB
    Agreed. 

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    Levi might be right, and in fact I’m very sympathetic to the idea that he is (I always, always, always want to believe that things aren’t as bad as they seem). 

    But if he wants to persuade people (besides those who will agree to any criticism of RealClimate irrespective of its merits), he should put a little effort into actually rebutting the parts of the post he finds problematic, or at least elaborating on which specific parts those are.

  • grypo

    Levi needs to discuss the political difficulties of sending the pipeline through western Canada.  All signs pointed to that being a very hard sell (as of a year ago) to political opposition.  Perhaps this discussion needs an update.  I don’t know why Levi doesn’t do that.  It would be helpful.

  • Sashka

    McKibben might respond that using cold logic to tackle climate change at this juncture is useless.

    If that’s the case the only conclusion is that climate change couldn’t be tackled.

  • BillC

    It’s hard to think the proprietors of RealClimate are well-served by the post regardless of the merits of its economic and political arguments. RealClimate should stay away from those issues. Regardless of the correctness of their argument, the subtitle of their blog is “Climate science from climate scientists” which is an argument from authority, and thus does not lend to other fields of expertise. It’s also a poor call given that at least Gavin and perhaps other of the blog proprietors are government employees, and as such should stay far away from political issues. I don’t mean to imply any actual misuse of time etc. – I really don’t – just the imputed association. Enough people have reasons to find stuff wrong with RealClimate – real and imaginary – they shouldn’t be given another easy one.

  • jeffn

    KK, you write: “It’s not an energy issue. It’s about climate change. And it has “somehow” become a focal point precisely because climate activists have nothing else to rally around.”
    But it is an energy issue to the governments that have a responsibility to review this thing legitimately- and not simply arbitrarily kill it just because Bill McKibben is grumpy that windmills and solar panels don’t work. Recall that even “climate activists” used the energy security angle in their press releases. Well, here’s a shocker- if there is energy from a stable neighboring nation and Bill and Joe are offering a pipe dream as an alternative, you’ll end up with the actual energy from the friendly neighbor. This is rather predictable.
    The fact is that “climate activists” have plenty to rally around but have been choosing futile gestures for political reasons instead. That causes people to wonder if “climate” is very important to the activists. But more importantly, if you guys are rallying around futile gestures out of ignorance, try not to sneer when Rick Perry’s followers treat the issue of climate just as seriously as you do.
    But true climate activists can rally around true issues. They remember that coal is the real problem and an effective alternative is available. Rally whenever you see climate as important as activism.

  • BillC

    @#9 – Jeff – what do you mean “coal is the real problem”. Can you clarify?

  • Sashka

    Excellent observation Keith about the different perspectives on the significance and rationale for the Keystone protest.

    Yes. And irrationale as well.

  • NewYorkJ

     the bad political science implies that the Keystone XL decision will determine what happens to the oil sands over the next thousand or so years.

    Resistance is futile!  Levi implies that efforts to block individual projects have zero long-term benefits or implications, presuming the same quantity of resources will be exploited no matter what.

    I think everyone involved in stopping the pipeline realizes it’s not one battle, although they differ on the “game over” assessment.  ANWR hasn’t been one battle and won’t be going forward.  Efforts to develop ANWR have been stalled for 40 years, even in the face of rising fossil fuel prices and massive oil industry power in the state.

    Effective delaying can give other alternatives a chance to take their place, which if happens, keeps the fossil fuels in the ground and prevents emissions.  It also at the very least brings the issue to the public and builds popular support, which was crucial to delaying ANWR for this long.  The fossil fuel industry loves Levi’s argument.  But I don’t see it based in any more “political realities” than the RC post.  One component to political reality is the people.

  • harrywr2

    which is about spotlighting the urgency of climate change and the need for action.
    This is the first I’ve heard of Keystone XL protests.  Apparently Justin Bieber has agreed to paternity tests,Carlos the Jackal is on trial in Paris, Brent crude is trading above $114/barrel and the Herman Cain seems to have another ‘sexual harassment scandal’ doesn’t seem to want to die.
    In other news former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam of India appears to be actively lobbying for a rapid expansion of nuclear power in India and India hopes to have a 300MW prototype nuclear reactor on line by 2020.

    Alas, Bill McKibbon wants President Obama to stop the Keystone XL pipeline less then 12 months from an election so that President Obama will OWN high heating oil prices(In a double dip LaNina winter) and gasoline prices going in the eyes of the electorate on election day.
    The Evil Karl Rove must be ecstatic.

     

  • Dean

    The political niche here is that this issues gives climate activists the opportunity to make common cause with a swath of folks whose concern is more in the NIMBY realm, and who wouldn’t normally give the time of day to climate concerns. The US political system gives outsized power to these modestly populated states in the middle of the country via the design of the US Senate and so this political coalition has a better chance of success than climate activists are likely to find in any other issue in the US. And one thing you learn in politics is not to turn your back on the chance of success. That doesn’t mean that stopping Keystone won’t have an actual impact on emissions, but even if that is considered arguable by some, a success would help the movement, strengthening it for other challenges. (PS – I’m still waiting on skepticalscience to do a piece on the claims that tar sands can be converted without having excess emissions over conventional oil)

  • Jarmo

    Keystone is now representative of McKibben’s Big Picture”“which is about spotlighting the urgency of climate change and the need for action. 

    Need for action…. I am also interested about the results of action. Here in Europe EU is willing to cut emissions by 30 % in 2020 instead of 20% if other countries join in. Now, what is that 10 % increase in cut emissions actually worth?

    The correct answer: it’s two weeks’ emissions by China right now. 

  • Eric Adler

    The fact is that fossil fuel production is deleterious to the environment, in ways that involve climate change, but also in the devastation wrought on the land.  Tar sands are similar to West Virginia Mt Top removal  in that respect. It is important to call public attention to this.
    The fact that Canadians are also objecting to the pipeline which would move the oil from the tar sands to the west is a significant asset to the argument that extensive exploitation of the tar sands can be stopped. Obama has taken control of the decision, and is probably not going to decide this before the election. 
    I like it because it keeps climate change and the need to reduce fossil fuel consumption in the news, and it exposes how the oil industry has penetrated the government to get its way.

  • Andy S

    My opposition to KXL is not because, without it, the tar sands will shut down, they won’t. But it will hurt the growth of the operation and it will be a blow to the Alberta Government, making them feel increasingly isolated from their markets. (The Plan B, export to the Pacific, is no slam-dunk http://www.salon.com/writer/michael_byers/) .

    If, as a result of this pressure, Alberta instituted a carbon tax and forced the bitumen producers to pay for their externalities, I would reconsider my opposition to KXL.

  • jeffn

    Bill, #10- happy to oblige: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aLy.KHzozKw0
    Not only is coal producing more CO2 than oil now, but in places like the US the best way to drop oil use is to electrify transportation – electric cars, trains, etc.
    If you charge your electric car from a socket powered by coal you have no reduction in GHGs. If your emissions strategy is designed to increase the cost of electricity and reduce it’s reliability (availability) – then you slow the adoption of electric transportation and you make it next to impossible for poor nations to accept your strategy.
    The only way to address emissions is by focusing on the cheapest, most reliable alternative for electric power generation. It’s the only way to eliminate coal’s impact on the climate, it’s the only way to get electric trains and cars, it’s the only way to get developing nations to participate. 
    Instead, climate activists like Joe Romm and Bill McKibbon focus on the most expensive, least reliable alternatives and protest the Keystone pipeline because they can’t think of anything else to rally around.

     

  • Holly Stick

    I think the protest against the pipeline is like hitting the mule with the two-by-four in order to get its attention. The politicians will not act to reduce emissions until they are forced to by the people. The people need to stop every new polluting development in coal and oil until the politicians learn to make the polluters pay and to start supporting clean energy.

  • jeffn
  • Marlowe Johnson

    @17
    Far be it from me to defend oilsands development, but Alberta has had a $15tC02e ‘compliance fee’ for large emitters since 2007.

    Now while that works out to a paltry 13 cents per gallon, it still is about 3x higher than what Lomborg and the TBI folks are calling for… 

  • NewYorkJ

    Politicians should indeed get real.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/true-cost-of-coal-power.html

    Wind power is already economical compared to coal.  Include external costs and it’s no contest.

  • Jarmo

    #19

    The politicians will not act to reduce emissions until they are forced to by the people. The people need to stop every new polluting development in coal and oil until the politicians learn to make the polluters pay and to start supporting clean energy.

    Holly, I got some news for you. The end user, a consumer like you, will always in the end pay the bill. The polluters fines, as well as green energy subsidies, come out of your pocket.

    Meanwhile, let’s just stop using motorcars, electricity produced by fossil fuels and commercial aircraft. That is, if the people really want to hit the politicians with a two-by-four. That would get their attention ;)
     

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @22
    it isn’t really kosher to compare intermittent wind sans storage with semi-dispatchable baseload generation technologies like coal. You run the risk of incurring BBD’s wrath ;-)

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @23
    my inner finn is disappointed. what’s wrong with full cost accounting?  

  • NewYorkJ

    Jarmo: Holly, I got some news for you. The end user, a consumer like you, will always in the end pay the bill. The polluters fines, as well as green energy subsidies, come out of your pocket.

    That would be news.  Good ol’ trickle-down theory.  You might want to take a look at how various carbon pricing mechanisms are set up.  In most instances, revenues are returned to the people, offsetting costs that are likely to be passed down.

    http://www.treehugger.com/economics/new-carbon-tax-means-1-million-australians-wont-have-to-pay-income-taxes.html

    Proposed U.S. legislation did the same thing, with most of the costs offset with flat rebates.  Lower income groups actually came out slightly ahead. 

    And of course not all costs are passed down.  Some are absorbed.  Fossil fuel companies would take a hit as other industries take their place and consumption is reduced.  Not good for some investors.

  • Eric Adler

    Jeffn @18
    In many regions, wind power is produced at night. Much of this power would be wasted if no storage mechanism existed. Electric cars are the ideal solution for this problem and produce zero emissions that way.
    I admint that  wind doesn’t always blow, so  if replacement power is needed to do this, some emissions may result depending on the source, but there would almost certainly be a net emissions reduction in in many areas.

  • Jarmo

    # 26

    NYJ, your assumptions are naive. You assume that big bad corporations pay money out of their endless coffers and poor people are given the money so they are better off.

    Seriously, why do you think the Aussie government has given a tax-break to low-income families? The answer is because carbon tax will hit the low-income households the hardest. Here is a paper of the impacts:

    http://www.une.edu.au/bepp/working-papers/economics/econwp11-2.pdf

    With a $23 tax, the most severe job losses are projected to be in “˜Intermediate production’, and “˜Labourer’ groups followed by “˜Managers & administrators’….Projections in Table 5 display that blue-collar workers (labourers) are more severely affected. This is consistent with the fact that industries that suffer from the carbon tax (e.g. coal mining and coal electricity) tend to have a higher blue-collar labour force.

    Most notably, the tax burden is unequally distributed among different household groups with low-income households carrying a relatively higher burden. This regressivity of the carbon tax is a major concern on equity grounds as the policy hits hard the low income segment of the community and any compensation to ease the burden needs to take this finding into consideration. Compared to the average household impact (0.9 per cent burden), the poorest four deciles show a much higher burden of tax (3.6 to 1.4 per cent). These groups are generally vulnerable in the society and may include pensioners, most of the unemployed who receive various forms of government welfare and low income earners.
    As a result of the rising costs of living after the tax, the annual dollar burden of carbon tax across household groups varies from $409 (poorest) to $1150 (richest) while the average income families are expected to incur $685 new expenditure. For an average household, approximately 50 per cent of this extra expenditure ($345) would be due to the increased cost of electricity. This share would be even higher (56 per cent) for the poorest household group (decile 1). Translated into weekly impact, the carbon tax on the Australian average household is expected to rise by $13.18 and the contribution of electricity cost towards this is projected to be $6.64. The Treasury modelling suggests that average weekly household budget impact would be a $9.90 rise per week with the weekly increase in electricity cost accounting for $3.305

    The study suggests that Aussie government projection of a 10% rise in the price of electricity is too low and I believe them. Here in Finland the price of electricity to consumers has doubled since 2000. A big hike came with emission trading and I still remember one imbecile politician explaining on TV that because carbon credits are given for free to power generators, there will be no electricity price hikes. What bullshit. The concept of opportunity cost was beyond this particular moron.

  • jeffn

    Eric #27- If also heard that one plan is to use the batteries in EVs as the “storage” mechanism for wind- which is great unless it’s your EV and you discover it’s “empty” after sitting on the charger all day. Which is highly likely- I live in Virginia, where the summers are hot, muggy and windless.
    I provided a couple of links- one showed that coal – used in electricity production – is the biggest emissions problem and the other showing that a country that dedicated itself to making wind work has discovered that wind doesn’t work.
    These are facts. You can examine actual invoices for electricity from actual people as well as actual energy produced figures. You can also examine actual number of coal plants produced in China and India. The claim – in other posts here – that we’ll “refund” the extra cost of wind/solar and/or we’re just factoring externals (not increasing the price) is beside the point- you will not achieve emissions reductions with any policy designed to increase the price and decrease the reliability or quantity of electricity. Period.
    Jarmo- #28. Take a look at the stories out of Italy and Greece this week. All of Europe and the US are broke. Despite the fairy tales, it is not possible to recover by raising taxes on “the rich.’ The US debt increased $1.7 trillion in 2010- if you billed that to “the 1%” it would require a tax increase of $567,000 per rich person per year. Just the increase in the taxes. And that would be just to break even for the year if, and only if, there are no spending increases. And it would still leave you $15 Trillion in total debt from past years.
    So… they don’t want to stop the spending. They can’t cover the gap with progressive taxation. They need a nice, fat, regressive tax in order to make their unsustainable spending chug along for a few more years. We’ve already doubled then tripled taxes on cigarettes, we’ve jacked up alcohol taxes as much as they can get away with. What, oh what, can we tack on a fat regressive tax to next? And since it would be absurdly unpopular, what excuse can we come up with?
    Let’s face it- the minute AGW stops being an excuse for regressive tax hikes – ie the minute the movement agrees with Lynas and Monbiot and Hansen re nuclear power – will be the minute that the political left drops the issue like a bad habit.

  • Jarmo

    #29
    jeffn, the people who come up with new taxes are quite innovative here. I can tell you an example.

    Finland is in EU so you can buy a car from other EU countries where taxes (and hence prices)of cars are lower. However, to make this unprofitable the taxman has a specifically designed vehicle tax on the imported cars. In addition, they charge VAT on this tax (22%). So, you pay tax for paying the tax.

    Somebody took this to EU courts but by then the tax authorities had changed the name of VAT in this case to non-VAT and argued that it is not the same as VAT but an additional vehicle tax, although it’s levied exactly as VAT. They won.

    It’s like something out of Kafka. You just can’t win….

     

  • jeffn

    Jarmo, the level of taxes over in Europe continues to amaze. I especially like the 100% tax on cars the Dutch face (or faced, I don’t know the status).
    Funny how the ‘great issues of our time” become less interesting when they lose their usefulness for left politics. When I first went to Europe in the mid-80s, nuclear proliferation and worry about “the bomb” had everyone out in the streets. Of course the worry was about Ronald Reagan. Now that the discussion is about Iranian nukes…? Meh, who cares other than those “climate of fear” Republicans?
    On climate, the left is already moving to “luke warm,” simply because the only real solutions are antithetical to the left (gas, nuclear power). I wonder what they’ll turn to next? Can’t do the bomb anymore, “the homeless” can’t be a “crisis” because of the party in the White House. Maybe “income inequalityTM.” Yeah!

  • Nullius in Verba

    #31,
    “I wonder what they’ll turn to next?”
    They appear to be trying to get banks and bankers outlawed at the moment.

    It makes as much sense as anything else they’ve done.

  • NewYorkJ

    Jarmo: Seriously, why do you think the Aussie government has given a tax-break to low-income families? The answer is because carbon tax will hit the low-income households the hardest.

    Thanks for making my point.  The low income tax breaks are not included in your cited analysis (perhaps done before it was included in legislation), and in fact your analysis argues for a consumer rebate at the end.  The income tax relief mitigates the effect, and in fact refutes your claim that “the end consumers like you will always pay the bill”.  This would only be the case if there were insufficient rebates or offsets to return revenues to the average people.  If you’re interested, I can point you to some useful online calculators to estimate your net financial impact (if you’re Australian).

    The other point you help make is the fact that Australia’s carbon tax will be both effective at reducing emissions and have limited negative economic impact.  From your citation:

    Our general equilibrium calculations show that an environmentally valuable reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in Australia through a carbon tax is achievable without major disruptions to the Australian economy. In particular, the government’s target of reducing Australia’s emissions to 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 seems plausible with a $23 tax with minimum adjustments.

    Contrast this to Australian media spin.

    Lastly, if all of the costs were simply passed down to the end user, then perhaps you should write to industry executives and tell them to cease spending so much money to stop cap and trade, since it won’t cost them anything.  I find your argument to be both simplistic and naive, in addition to somewhat alarmist, although for now you’re well short of declaring a beginning of the Dark Ages.

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/11/australia_passes_carbon_tax.php

  • harrywr2

    #27
    <i>Electric cars are the ideal solution for this problem and produce zero emissions that way</i>

    There are currently 250 million registered motor vehicles in the US.(More then 1 per licensed drive). Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf sales are averaging a combined 2,000 cars a month. At a sales rate of 25,000 units per year it will take 100 years to ‘electrify’ the US automotive fleet.
    Even if you electrified every car, truck, train and airplane you are still at 28% of total energy demand. Cars only account for 31% of ‘transportation energy’.
    http://cta.ornl.gov/data/tedb30/Edition30_Chapter02.pdf
    Good luck convincing someone that works in construction that a Nissan Leaf will meet their transportation needs or figuring out how to power a long haul tractor trailer truck with batteries.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @harry
    how much V2G capacity could you get for load balancing if every car in the U.S. had a 16 kWh battery? How about a more conservative 10%? Oh and do you think it’s realistic to assume a linear growth curve for EV market penetration? And why mention the energy share for passenger transportation? what relevance does that have to V2G enabling higher % of renewables? It looks to me like you’re throwing out random factoids and dubious assumptions to justify your preferred technological preferences…

  • harrywr2


    #35 marlowe,
    Battery Powered cars will contribute nothing to ‘peak load’ ZERO,NADA,ZIP. Presumably they will need to be ‘fully charged’ by 6 AM when ‘peak load’ begins for the ride to work, and whatever ‘remaining charge’ will have to be saved for ‘the ride home’ in the evening before ‘peak load’ ends. The idea that  people would allow their ‘battery’ to be siphoned off to meet peak load while they are at work is a bit far fetched to me unless the ‘peak’ is going to end well before they need to be drive home.
    Peak load generally begins at 6 AM and Ends around 8 PM. In the US PNW it ends at 11 PM.
    Transportation accounts for 28% of total  energy. Cars(not trucks,buses,trains and airplanes) accounts for 31% of that.
    So cars only account for 8.68% of total energy. If we make 10% of them electric then we have less then 1% of total energy in electric cars.
    Electricity accounts for 41% of total energy.
    The ratio of peak to off peak is generally 2 to 1.
    lets make another calculation.
    California has 35 million residents. Lets give 10% of them electric cars with 16Kwh batteries. So 3.5 million cars X 16kwh = 56GWh. That is enough to run the Californian grid on a hot August afternoon for 1 hour.
    When you read over at ‘renewable energy world’ about utilities using batteries to ‘load balance’, they are only talking about balancing ‘intra hour’ variability. I.E. Wind gusts and dropouts happen faster then one can safely ramp a thermal power plant without risking snapping off the drive-shaft. So the grid-operator has to buy batteries to handle the intra-hour variability of wind.  Yeah if you had a bunch of electric cars plugged into a ‘smart grid’ you could do ‘intra hour’ balancing with them. But as battery life expectancy is based on ‘charge-discharge’ cycles how many people are going to take a chance on ‘wearing out their car’?
    In the US PNW we have hydro with Francis turbines that are capable of fairly rapidly adjusting. Bonnevile power charges 68 cents per month per kw of installed wind for ‘intra-hour’ wind balancing. http://transmission.bpa.gov/Business/Rates_and_Tariff/documents/WI-09_Record_of_Decision.pdf
    Wind promoters frequently confuse Intra-hour balancing problems with ‘peak/off peak’ balancing problems.
    Without hydro the intra-hour problem with wind is difficult because the fossil fuel plant owners aren’t interested in snapping a crankshaft. So we hear all sorts of stories where grid operator’s are buying batteries and capacitors and all sorts of ‘storage’ to solve the intra hour problem.













     

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The low income tax breaks are not included in your cited analysis […] and in fact refutes your claim that “the end consumers like you will always pay the bill”.”
    The end consumers always do pay the bill. If you do things less efficiently, everybody pays. You can shuffle the paperwork as much as you like, move it to somewhere less obvious; but producing fewer goods for more effort, as is inevitable when using more costly energy sources, destroys jobs and raises prices.

  • NewYorkJ


    Niv: The end consumers always do pay the bill. If you do things less efficiently, everybody pays.  You can shuffle the paperwork as much as you like, move it to somewhere less obvious; 

    This is false, even when assuming a static economy.  If one imposes a $100 flat fee on everyone, then gives the bottom 90% a $100 rebate, the only ones paying are the top 10%.  Underlying your claim is thus the old trickle-down assumption, which dictates that costs taken on by the wealthy will not cost the wealthy anything but hurt everyone else.  Strangely, trickle-downers never make the reverse claim (higher costs by working people hurt the wealthy), even though that has stronger evidence to support it.  

    Higher income individuals taking on more of a cost burden in practice has little impact on everyone else.

    Carbon taxes and rebates work similarly, but the fee isn’t flat.  It’s based partly on personal choices for energy usage.  Those who reduce their energy consumption, through efficiency or other choices, may come out ahead after the rebate.  Lower energy consumption also reduces energy demand, which results in downward pressures on energy prices.

    Niv: but producing fewer goods for more effort, as is inevitable when using more costly energy sources, destroys jobs and raises prices.

    More effort often means more jobs and more revenues.  Lower energy consumption often means savings – more money to spend.  Renewable industries are more labor intensive than traditional carbon industries.  Incentives for clean energy and efficiency also creates jobs and promotes advancement of new industries and economies of scale, which means more jobs and eventual lowered costs.  There are many examples of this throughout history.  Lower pollution also has a large degree of economic and human benefits, including lower negative health effects.

    The anti-clean energy nuts never see more than one side of the coin, nor are able to see beyond a static supply and demand chart, unless it involves a narrow trickle-down doctrine.

    Highly recommended reading…

    Saving Energy, Growing Jobs: How Environmental Protection Promotes Economic Growth, Competition, Profitability and Innovation

    David B. Goldstein 

     

  • Jarmo

    #33 NYJ

    The analysis was indeed done before the Australian government decided on how much money they would pay back of the carbon tax. Also note that the analysis predicts that electricity price will rise 26 % while the government says it will only rise 10 %. If these guys are right, the compensations will not cover the costs.
    We will see whe outcome in a couple of years. At least this scheme does not seem as stupid as e.g. British solar power subsidy. Over there the solar power companies installed the solar panels for free and collected the subsidy intended for homeowners. Of course only  the better off households could afford to pay for the panels themselves and collected the money. Well, that ended in tears…
     

  • Nullius in Verba

    “If one imposes a $100 flat fee on everyone, then gives the bottom 90% a $100 rebate, the only ones paying are the top 10%.”
    Who raise their prices to compensate, hitting everyone.
    All these schemes to apparently balance impacts work by only considering part of the picture. Everything you do cascades through a chain of further interactions. The effect may ultimately appear a long way away, or many years later, or spread out over thousands so it is less obvious.

    “Strangely, trickle-downers never make the reverse claim (higher costs by working people hurt the wealthy)”
    Taxing the rich hurts the poor. Taxing the poor also hurts the rich. People tend to say the former more often, because the idea that taxing the rich doesn’t hurt the poor is the more common misunderstanding. But yes, it works both ways.

    “More effort often means more jobs and more revenues.”
    “Green jobs” are a variant on the broken windows fallacy – they ignore the opportunity costs. It’s always very easy to create more jobs by employing twice as many people to do produce the same amount of goods, but how do you pay them? If you take the money to do so from elsewhere, then you destroy a greater number of jobs across the economy than you’ve just created.
    I recommend reading Bastiat’s Sophisms. It speaks against abuses of the free market by the rich manufacturers as well as those on behalf of the poor, so don’t assume you won’t agree with any of it.

  • NewYorkJ

    Jarmo: Also note that the analysis predicts that electricity price will rise 26 % while the government says it will only rise 10 %.

    Do you have a source for the 10%?  It’s a bit of a moot point, since the study was conducted before legislation was complete, and there may have been various modifications other than the income tax reduction.  I recall some concession being made to industry.

    NiV: Who raise their prices to compensate, hitting everyone.

    A wealthy individual having to shoulder a larger burden has little to do with price.  It typically means a bit less money for them to invest, in bonds or equities for example.

    NiV: All these schemes to apparently balance impacts work by only considering part of the picture. Everything you do cascades through a chain of further interactions. The effect may ultimately appear a long way away, or many years later, or spread out over thousands so it is less obvious.

     

    The fundamental flaw in most of the analysis is that they don’t consider the benefits of reduced pollution, reduced reliance on fossil fuels (which can include reduced military costs), climate change mitigation, or the dynamics of what further incentives will have on innovation.  So we usually get a net effect that is modest and negative.

    NiV: Taxing the rich hurts the poor. Taxing the poor also hurts the rich. People tend to say the former more often, because the idea that taxing the rich doesn’t hurt the poor is the more common misunderstanding. But yes, it works both ways.


    It also works the same with tax cuts targeted at certain groups in terms of increased deficits.  The indirect effects of tax policies on other groups are small.  Rebates can be adjusted accordingly.  For instance, instead of a 100% rebate, go with 110%.
    NiV: “Green jobs” are a variant on the broken windows fallacy ““ they ignore the opportunity costs. It’s always very easy to create more jobs by employing twice as many people to do produce the same amount of goods, but how do you pay them? If you take the money to do so from elsewhere, then you destroy a greater number of jobs across the economy than you’ve just created.

    Nonsequitur.  If resources come from a less labor-intensive industry then it could be a net gain.  Most of those promoting clean energy don’t ignore opportunity costs.  Industry groups that publish material criticizing clean energy only consider losses to their industries, and grossly exaggerate them, ignoring the effect that the inherit market incentives have on innovation.
    NiV: I recommend reading Bastiat’s Sophisms. It speaks against abuses of the free market by the rich manufacturers as well as those on behalf of the poor, so don’t assume you won’t agree with any of it.

    I’m not arguing on behalf of the poor or are concerned about the “abuses” of the wealthy.  I’m disputing a few specific assertions, such as any mitigation schemes will result in all and only end users paying the bill, which is not the case.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #41,
    “A wealthy individual having to shoulder a larger burden has little to do with price.  It typically means a bit less money for them to invest, in bonds or equities for example.”
    Reduced investment impacts business and raises interest rates, affecting prices. Yes?

    “The fundamental flaw in most of the analysis is that they don’t consider the benefits of reduced pollution, reduced reliance on fossil fuels (which can include reduced military costs), climate change mitigation, or the dynamics of what further incentives will have on innovation.”
    The (argued) benefits of reduced pollution/climate change mitigation are the basic justification for the measure. I’m not arguing with that. (Not because I agree with it, but because there’s no point). It’s all the other justifications as an economic benefit, to try to persuade those who don’t believe in the pollution argument, that I’m discussing here.

    Reduced reliance on fossil fuels is already mostly factored in to fuel prices. And is in any case partially cancelled by increased reliance on rare earth mineral mining, which is so fantastically dirty and polluting that developed countries don’t allow it, forcing manufacturers to import from abroad. And giving incentives for innovation in certain directions draws attention and resources from innovation in other directions that would otherwise have been more profitable.

    “Nonsequitur.  If resources come from a less labor-intensive industry then it could be a net gain.”
    Did you mean a more labour-intensive industry? Taking people from a low intensity industry has an even bigger impact on productivity.

    Simple example: say you need $1000 worth of electricity per day. Fossil fuel can generate 100 $/man-day of electricity, for which the 10 workers receive 100 $/day. Renewable energy can generate electricity at a rate of 2 $/man-day, and the 50 workers needed would again take home 100 $/day. Your other industry is a factory making 1 $/item goods worth 500 $/man-day, (which is much less labour-intensive,) and we employ 100 people earning 300 $/day at that and use the rest to pay off capital loans (the factory had to be built and its builders paid before business could start) as well as other costs like electricity at 20,000 $/day.
    Now suppose the 40 extra people needed to convert generation to renewables came from the factory. Instead of producing 50,000 $/day in goods, the factory only produces 30,000 $/day. With $20,000 going to pay off loans, there is 10,000 $/day divided between 60 staff, giving each 167 $/day. Average salary was previously (300*100+100*10)/110 = 281 $/day. This has fallen to (167*60+100*50)/110 = 136 $/day. Salaries have halved. The population can no longer afford to buy all the goods produced at the original price, so either the price must fall, feeding back on salaries, or sales must fall, meaning the factory must lay off another 10 workers to match supply to demand. This again has knock-on costs – taxes to pay welfare, further reductions in demand for goods, reduced demand for electricity, etc.

    Green accounting would say that we have created 40 new jobs. There are 40 more people employed in the renewable energy sector than were employed by the old fossil generators. In actuality, we’ve destroyed at least 10 jobs, halved salaries, and reduced production and average wealth by 40%.

    You can play with the numbers in many different ways. But as a general rule, doing things less efficiently costs society. And because the rich can afford the means to protect themselves, costs on society fall disproportionately on the poor.
    It is true you can artificially counter that, with a sufficiently redistributive tax/welfare system, but the resources have to come from somewhere, and that ends up further depressing the economy. Push this sort of policy far enough, and eventually the economy can no longer sustain the load, and you have to borrow heavily to keep it all working. Eventually you run out of money to borrow.
    With a healthy economy you can afford a little ‘waste’ in a good cause, and for some things people think the benefits of doing it a different way are worth the price. I think it’s good that we can. But you can’t go thinking that ‘the rich’ are a bottomless pot of money and that you can do all this wonderful ‘caring’ stuff without paying for it. As they say, such policies do traditionally make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.

  • NewYorkJ

    Reduced investment impacts business and raises interest rates, affecting prices. Yes?

    No.  High interest rates tend to suppress inflation.  Low interest rates spur inflation.  Changes in investment per dollar tend to have a very limited impact downstream, however.

    The (argued) benefits of reduced pollution/climate change mitigation are the basic justification for the measure. I’m not arguing with that. (Not because I agree with it, but because there’s no point). It’s all the other justifications as an economic benefit, to try to persuade those who don’t believe in the pollution argument, that I’m discussing here.

    Whether or not one “believes” in the reduced pollution benefits does not make them go away, so they are relevant to the discussion, especially one that involves arguing policy changes have indirect effects.

    Now suppose the 40 extra people needed to convert generation to renewables came from the factory.

    This is where you lost me, and your example falls apart.  The extra jobs required for renewables doesn’t simply get “taken” from some other business, but let’s assume that’s the case.  40 workers have been snatched up by a new industry.  Rather than reducing output, a leader with a minimum degree of competency would seek to fill those positions to meet the labor demand required for equilibrium output.  The factory (if in the U.S.) still has a 100 million worker pool to hire from.  The chain eventually makes its way down to the unemployed.  In the U.S., unemployment is at around 9% (there’s no shortage of workers here!)  Eventually, unemployment is lowered as a result of the new job supply. 

    Now I understand the energy price argument as higher prices indirectly mitigating some of the on-the-surface increase of 40 jobs at the macro level, but the net effect from what I’ve seen is still positive.  Moreover, with the added market incentive to produce clean energy, large private investments in R&D are made, potentially accelerating efficiencies of the technology, and ramped up production potentially increasing economies of scale.  Some good examples of this are in the book I recommended above.

    There are other indirect positive effects.  Higher energy prices (assuming clean energy is more expensive) tend to depress demand for energy overall, which reduces prices.  This is the case whether or not one receives an income tax rebate, as the financial incentive to use less energy is still there.

    And because the rich can afford the means to protect themselves, costs on society fall disproportionately on the poor.

    Other than tax evasion, which is illegal, there’s not much a rich person can do to protect herself from a policy that shifts costs away from an ordinary end user towards them.  For example, when marginal tax rates were much higher in the U.S. (from the Great Depression through the 1970’s), the wealth gap was much lower, and average annual economic growth was actually much higher.  Marginal tax rates are now near the lowest they were since the late 1920’s, and we know how that turned out.  As partially a result of that, today we have a depressed economy and a massive growing budget deficit problem.

    To summarize, whether or not pollution regulations or carbon mitigation policies effect an ordinary end user depends largely on how its structured in terms of rebates, and individual energy choices.

  • jeffn

    “Other than tax evasion, which is illegal, there’s not much a rich person can do to protect herself from a policy that shifts costs away from an ordinary end user towards them. ”
    Actually, that’s not true at all in this case. Only wealthy people can afford a Volt or to slap solar panels on their roof (and enjoy the massive “rebate” they get for doing that). So, only wealthy people can afford the movement-approved steps necessary to avoid higher coal and oil prices.
    There are three other flaws:
    1. a policy that truly “rebates” the extra price will not cause people to reduce the use of the fuel – meaning there is either no pollution benefit, or you don’t really rebate the money. Most, understandably, believe the latter and so do not support the policy.
    2. Higher energy prices disproportionately harm rural or suburban dwellers. Waitresses in northern Virginia already subsidize the Metro for Washington DC, they won’t appreciate you sending the rebate check for gasoline purchase to DC as well.
    3. Higher energy prices affect the price of everything manufactured or grown. This inflationary affect will disproportionately affect the poor and middle class no matter how hard you try to “rebate” your way out of the problem and presents an opportunity for the wealthy to recoup their tax hit- fuel cost adding 10% to the cost of your widget? No problem- add 11% to the price, pocket the difference.

  • NewYorkJ

    jeffn: Only wealthy people can afford a Volt or to slap solar panels on their roof (and enjoy the massive “rebate” they get for doing that). So, only wealthy people can afford the movement-approved steps necessary to avoid higher coal and oil prices.

    You make an excellent case for the types of tax relief that Australia put in place as part of their carbon tax program.

    1. a policy that truly “rebates” the extra price will not cause people to reduce the use of the fuel ““ meaning there is either no pollution benefit, or you don’t really rebate the money.

    Incorrect.  The rebates under discussion are not dependent on fuel usage.  They are generally a flat rebate or tied to income or payroll tax reductions.  The incentives to reduce consumption or switch to clean energy are independent of this.

    2. Higher energy prices disproportionately harm rural or suburban dwellers.

    You should take a look at the extra incentives Australia is giving to farmers.  Rural-area representatives also negotiated in this area before Waxman-Markey made it out of the committee.

    On #3, that’s already been refuted.  The prices of widgets are scarcely dependent on whether or not a wealthy person has 1% less stocks and bonds bubbling up the economy.

  • Jarmo

    #41 NYJ

    The 10 % electricity price hike figure by Government (Treasury) modelling has been mentioned in several sources:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/8821415/Australias-carbon-tax-factfile.html

    The Australian government docs confirm them, see electricity sector in this:

    http://www.treasury.gov.au/carbonpricemodelling/content/update/Modelling_update.asp 

  • NewYorkJ

    Jarmo (#46),

    From the report in your second link, regarding household electricity prices, it states:
    Previous Treasury climate change mitigation modelling projected a 20 per cent increase over the period 2010 to 2015. The projected increase is now lower largely due to higher retail prices in the global action scenario. This reflects strong growth in network costs to pay for upgrades of existing infrastructure.

    This seems to further indicate your previous analysis needs to be updated to reflect current conditions and legislation. 

    I actually think both reports might be overestimating price increases a little.  Have you seen how rapidly solar power costs are being reduced?  Further incentives from a carbon pricing system, if anything, would tend to accelerate that.  Australia is a prime location for solar power too.

  • harrywr2

    #NewYorkJ,
    strong growth in network costs to pay for upgrades of existing infrastructure.
    That’s  for the cost of dealing with the intra-hour variability’ associated with intermittant’s and multi-directional power.
    Normally if I have a whole house generator then I have to put in a breaker so the power doesn’t feed back to the grid…so a lineman can safely work on the lines know he cut the breaker on the neighborhood transformer.
    Not with solar panels…they are designed to feed back into the grid. So additional stuff has to be added so the lineman can safely work on the lines.

    Have you seen how rapidly solar power costs are being reduced?
    Panel costs have reduced…the associated costs haven’t changed much. The associated costs are the bulk of the costs.





     

  • jeffn

    “Incorrect.  The rebates under discussion are not dependent on fuel usage.  They are generally a flat rebate or tied to income or payroll tax reductions.  The incentives to reduce consumption or switch to clean energy are independent of this.”
    — The price hike is the incentive to reduce consumption or switch (switching costs money that poor people do not have.) You are  confirming here that the waitress stuck with a 1996 Chevy will get hammered by a carbon tax – ie the rebate isn’t tied to usage so as a high-user she will not get a “rebate” that covers her extra cost. If she does get a rebate that covers her extra cost, of course, she has no incentive to do anything that reduces her use- it won’t affect her rebate and it is, of course, too expensive to “switch.”
    Her boss, the owner of the restaurant, will be able to afford an electric car to cut her exposure to the tax and, when the price goes up for electricity at the restaurant she’ll just cut the waitress’ hours to make up the cost.
    I have not examined the contortions Australia is going through in an attempt to make its unpopular carbon tax look better. The history of such things is that regressive taxes really do end up being regressive despite the promises of their advocates. I’m sure the huge population in cities in Australia will be very eager to maintain the tax breaks for the small populations in rural areas. ;)
     

  • NewYorkJ

    harry (#48): That’s  for the cost of dealing with the intra-hour variability’ associated with intermittant’s and multi-directional power.

    No.  It represents a higher estimate for upgrading existing legacy infrastructure in a no Australia mitigation scenario.  Rolling out clean energy has its own costs, but subtract from that costs savings of letting some of the legacy fossil fuel stuff die.  Thus the change in estimate.

    jeffn (#49): The price hike is the incentive to reduce consumption or switch (switching costs money that poor people do not have.)

    No.  Let’s say your electric bill is $1000 per year.  You can reduce consumption by 10%.  You decide it’s not worth the $100 savings.  If your bill is doubled to $2000, reducing consumption would save $200.  You have an extra $100 incentive to switch.  This is independent of any income tax rebates, rendering incorrect your claim.

    You are  confirming here that the waitress stuck with a 1996 Chevy will get hammered by a carbon tax ““ ie the rebate isn’t tied to usage so as a high-user she will not get a “rebate” that covers her extra cost.

    While energy choices do matter on an individual basis, which I’ve noted above, poorer people on average tend to consume less on a per dollar basis (more public transport, smaller homes or apartments), and since the rebates resemble flat dollar amounts, poorer people on average come out ahead.  Check out the CBO analysis of Waxman-Markey, for example.  The lowest income quintile has a net gain.

    Her boss, the owner of the restaurant, will be able to afford an electric car to cut her exposure to the tax and, when the price goes up for electricity at the restaurant she’ll just cut the waitress’ hours to make up the cost. 

    Interesting spin.  In the first part, you confirm that higher carbon price will provide incentive for her boss to reduce her gas usage.  Less pollution, less emissions, less energy demand – all good things.  In the 2nd part, you make the same basic economic mistake as NiV.  She could cut waitress hours, but lose profits in the process.  She could raise prices, but lose customers.  Using your assumption that her boss is wealthy, the extra cost (over the amount reduced from energy efficiency savings) gets absorbed in the form of less savings.  Maybe her boss will have to work a few more months instead of retiring early, which is always a good thing for the economy.

    too expensive to “switch.” 

    On the contrary, it’s not too expensive to switch from an old gas guzzler to an old efficient vehicle.  There are cheaper options to driving as well.  If energy costs increase, it can be too expensive not to switch.

    The history of such things is that regressive taxes really do end up being regressive despite the promises of their advocates.

    Circular argument.  The system with rebates are not necessarily regressive (the 2 example given aren’t). 

    Messaging has been pretty weak.  All you hear is “carbon tax”.  They could call the bill “clean energy promotion and income tax relief” and it would be just as accurate.  Instead, we have media trying to scare people with stories of the poor Chevy driver being taxed by evil government, which resonates with certain people.  But nothing resonates more than seeing your income tax bill lowered.  I suspect that will pleasantly surprise many Australians.

  • harrywr2

    #50,

    You really should spend some time at bravenewclimate before figuring out how the ‘australian’ system is going to work. It helps to have the view of australians, who study energy in the australian context.
     

  • jeffn

    “Let’s say your electric bill is $1000 per year.  You can reduce consumption by 10%.  You decide it’s not worth the $100 savings.  If your bill is doubled to $2000, reducing consumption would save $200. ”
    This must be the new “progressive math.” You would not “save $200″ you would pay $800 more than you were paying (secure in the knowledge that you will never see that $800 “rebated” by a congress that spends like a drunken sailor).
    Once you are paying $800 more per year just for electricity – note this is even after “reducing consumption by 10%, ie shivering in the dark – you have less disposable income, so you notice your lost standard of living.
    Without disposable income in hand, tt is harder to save the money up for that more expensive apartment near public transit, or replace your old beater car with a more fuel efficient one that just jumped in price due to law of supply and demand. Meanwhile, if your bill went up $800 then the restaurant where you work just saw a $4,000 increase in their power bill, which has to come from somewhere. If the boss raises prices at a time when everyone’s power bill went up, you’ll have fewer customers and lower tips and you lose money. If the boss cuts your hours, you’ll have fewer tables and less money. You lose either way.
    Now, there is one way to save some money- giant SUVs are cheaper than your beater now as well as apartments far from bus and subway stations, so you snag an SUV and move further away and all of a sudden you’ve reduced the damage from the tax hike but doubled your GHG emissions. Since all five of the waitresses at The Happy Oyster did the same thing, their one boss’ decision to buy an electric car has no net effect on emissions at all.
     

  • harrywr2

    #52
    Having been both ‘poor and struggling’ and relatively affluent your summation is how a I remember things.
    The rich don’t get richer just because they are ‘exploiting the poor’. The rich get richer because they can afford the capital expenditures that reduce their costs.
    My wife and I socialize with a young couple. Our energy costs are 1/4 of theirs despite the fact that we keep the thermostat higher. They can’t get credit at less then 18% so that can’t manage to buy the ‘energy efficient’ things that would allow them to live more comfortably at a lower cost. The husband has to drive about 500 miles a week for his job. He wants a Chevy volt but there is no way a bank is going to loan him the money. Their incomes barely cover the debt they are carrying now.
    There are more effective ways to encourage energy conservation then an un-targeted ‘tax and rebate’. When CAFE standards were first introduced the auto companies ended up having to subsidize ‘econoboxes’ in order to meet the standard. The rich could still have the ‘land yachts’ but they had to kick in some so the waitress could afford an ‘econobox’.
     

  • jeffn

    #53- I hear you, I’ve been both and the fact is that when you don’t have money you go for the cheapest whether that “saves” you in the long run or not.  An energy tax really is a tax on everything. There’s no way to avoid it entirely – you can only avoid little bits of it: a marginal reduction in lighting costs, more efficient appliances. All those things you can do require money. When you reduce disposable income by increasing the price of everything, you reduce the number of people who will be able to take the approved action – the “switch.”
    The result then is purely a reduction in standard of living- cold house in winter, Ramen Noodles for dinner again. Or no reduction in GHG emissions. Take your pick.

  • NewYorkJ

    jeffn: This must be the new “progressive math.” You would not “save $200″³ you would pay $800 more than you were paying (secure in the knowledge that you will never see that $800 “rebated” by a congress that spends like a drunken sailor).  Once you are paying $800 more per year just for electricity ““ note this is even after “reducing consumption by 10%, ie shivering in the dark ““ you have less disposable income, so you notice your lost standard of living.

    Creative.  Now we’re hitting the tinfoil hat part of the argument.  If you can’t rise above silly claims like “you will never see that $800 rebated”, you’re done.

    harry (#53),

    You make a good argument for low-income energy efficiency incentives.  You’re correct to note that many don’t make the investment that will save them money in the long haul because they don’t have the money or credit initially.  So we have many excellent programs like these:

    http://www.fypower.org/feature/lowincome/

    Of course, rebates used in carbon pricing can and have been structured to be higher than the average energy cost increase.  With Waxman-Markey, poorer households come out ahead by $125 annually on average.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=308

     

  • jeffn

    . It’s now “tinfoil hat” territory to doubt that higher energy costs will be rebated at a time when governments are screaming for new revenue streams? Sigh.

  • harrywr2

    #55
    Of course, rebates used in carbon pricing can and have been structured to be higher than the average energy cost increase.  With Waxman-Markey, poorer households come out ahead by $125 annually on average


    My Utility already offers ‘energy efficiency rebates’, as I assume mist utilities do…under the cheap power plant to build is the one you don’t have to build theory. In the case of my utility the rebates are much more targeted then a ‘tax credit’. I.E. Switching from a ‘least efficient’ appliance gets a larger rebate then switching from a ‘moderately efficient’ appliance. Someone who doesn’t have any insulation in the attic gets a larger rebate then someone who already has quite a bit.
    A ‘non-directed’ $125 rebate to the poor isn’t going to contribute to energy efficiency. Coal already isn’t the cheapest way to generate electricity east of the Appalachians and it’s impossible to get an NOx permit West of the Rockies.
    In 2005 Coal accounted for 49% of electricity generation.  Last year it was 45%. So far this year coal accounts for 43% of electricity generation.
    One of my core beliefs is that a centrally planned economy can not be sufficiently nuanced to be efficient. I suspect it is a core belief of my tribe as a whole. One of the reasons we don’t like the federal government because it is too clumsy.
    As an example…there were tax credits for replacing central air conditioning systems a few years ago. The only criteria was it had to be energy star.
    Is it more efficient to offer a $1500 credit to replace ‘any’ air-conditioning system with an energy star air conditioner. Or should be say replacing a SEER 8 air condition with a SEER 24 Air Conditioner gets a $2000 credit and replacing a SEER 16 with a SEER 24 Only gets a $1000 credit.  Does it make any sense at all to offer any credit to areas where the number of ‘air conditioning days’ is limited.  I.E. In Seattle the number of 85+ days per year is extremely limited.
    We also have Federal Tax credits for solar panels. The tax credit is the same if the panel is installed in Southern California or Fairbanks Alaska. In Southern California maybe the Tax Credit actually moves us closer to some sort emissions reduction. When the Solar Panel Tax Credit is used in Fairbanks Alaska it’s just a complete waste of tax dollars.
    Should the people and industry in South Carolina and Georgia, who are patiently waiting for the US NRC to approve their new nuclear plant construction be penalized with a ‘carbon tax’ while they wait?
    How about the people in North Carolina, who are waiting to see how things work out in South Carolina before they make a final decision on a new nuclear plant?
    Then on the other end of the stick…for a Carbon Tax to change the economics of burning coal in Wyoming and Montana is needs to be $40/ton of CO2.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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