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Video: The Price OF Carbon Requires A Price ON Carbon

By Ryan Koronowski on March 29, 2013 at 11:35 am

"Video: The Price OF Carbon Requires A Price ON Carbon"

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This video produced by the Climate Reality Project featuring Reggie Watts demonstrates the argument that because carbon pollution costs us money, the world should put a price on carbon.

It’s important to remind viewers that it should be the polluters paying for what their products cost all of us — that they should not simply pass on the costs to everyone else. These companies already know carbon emissions will affect their bottom lines. But it’s difficult to ask consumers to pay double for fossil fuel addiction when these large companies and utilities slow-walk toward renewable energy. Especially when polluters’ products cause so many dangerous and expensive impacts.

So what’s the answer? The Center for American Progress has a report detailing what a carbon tax should look like, including ways to “minimizing harm to vulnerable consumers and businesses, growing the economy with investments in clean energy infrastructure and other infrastructure that makes communities more resilient in the face of climate change, and reducing the deficit burden on future generations.”

What do you think a price on carbon should look like?

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9 Responses to Video: The Price OF Carbon Requires A Price ON Carbon

  1. What do you think a price on carbon should look like?

    How about $Infinity.00 per ton?
    But I am willing to compromise and come down 50% to meet in the middle.

  2. Michael says:

    Australia, California, the RGGI – we’re seeing that pricing carbon can work!

  3. Leif says:

    Corporations are “People” now, yet can still pollute the commons for profit. I, a flesh and blood “people” cannot do that. If I throw a paper cup out the car window, bingo, ~$100 fine. (A $1,000 in AK.) Corpro/People are allowed to throw hundreds of pounds of toxic stuff out my tailpipe and amass multi-billions of $$$. Guide lines here? You and I are even forced to subsidize the ecocide of the planet with our tax dollars without our consent, whereas the GOP do not fund abortion! Very strange.
    Stop Profits from the pollution of the commons. Distributed Green Energy brings both green power and money to “We the People” not profits to the polluters.

  4. DRT says:

    A price on carbon should be a price on GHGs, all human induced GHGs (except I presume water vapor) measured in CO2 equivalents. This means you too VOCs and N2O.

    A price on GHGs should include all human made sources of GHGs, from coal plants to cow farts.

    A price on GHGs should include the GHG content of all imports, from Chinese widgets to Canadian bitumen to Columbian Oil.

    A price on GHGs should be high enough to have an effect and go up from there.

    • Joan Savage says:

      I basically agree, even though I can imagine a huge controversy about air-conditioners.

      It might lead to policy on when something is taxed, not when it actually becomes a GHG.

      For air conditioners, the coolant is theoretically reusable, yet some is lost to atmosphere when recycling a unit, and even more if the AC unit rusts away on a landfill.

  5. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ours which hits less than 500 of the biggest producers for $23 per tonne, rises every year and compensates consumers (means tested) is working well but I worry about what will happen when the price floats in July 2015. Part of the $ raised is also placed into a fund for renewables and we must not lose that, ME

  6. Dick Smith says:

    You said:
    “So what’s the answer? The Center for American Progress has a report detailing what a carbon tax should look like, including ways to “minimizing harm to vulnerable consumers and businesses, growing the economy with investments in clean energy infrastructure and other infrastructure that makes communities more resilient in the face of climate change, and reducing the deficit burden on future generations.”

    You asked:
    What do you think a price on carbon should look like?”

    Well, my answer is, nothing like the CAP proposal at your link to December 2012. What an awful explanation of principles. And, it fails the two most fundamental tests—it’s not calibrated to what the science says we need to do, and it’s not politically viable with Republicans—whose leadership will be essential on this.

    So, here’s my statement of principles that any carbon tax needs to embrace.

    • It reduces emissions by 80% by 2050. The first test of any carbon tax is whether it’s big enough to do the job of reducing emissions. It needs to be based on our best science—literally the physics and chemistry of the earth. Right now that means is it big enough to get us an 80% emissions reduction by 2050. If you start small—you need to grow the tax each year. (NOTE: CAP’s one-time $25/ton CO2 is wholly inadequate—it fails the principle yardstick. It has no growth built in. It’s worthless.)

    • It’s revenue neutral. The second test of any carbon tax is political viability. CAP’s tax is dead on arrival with Republicans. You can’t use the money to subsidize alternative energy. What you need is carbon tax that high energy users (that means high income households folks—energy use is directly and incredibly highly correlated to income) pay. If you rebate 100% to households on a per capita basis (for all adults) 2/3 of Americans would break even or come out ahead—primarly the lowest 2/3 by income. Further, with 100% of the taxes going back to individual Americans (government doesn’t keep a nickel) you aren’t taking any money out of the economy. That means there’s no way to argue it will kill the economy or kill jobs.

    • It’s progressive. Discussed above. Again, If you had a 100% revenue-nuetral tax returned in equal per capita checks, most Americans (the 66% lowest income) would break even or come out ahead. Their monthly refunds would match or exceed what they paid in carbon taxes.

    • It’s comprehensive. This is true of any carbon tax—even CAP’s proposal. With a carbon tax, markets sort the entire economy based on carbon use, which spurs innovation. It doesn’t just tax large, fixed stationary sources like cap and trade. It reaches into every nook and cranny of long, complex supply chains, and lets the market decide whether conservation, efficiency or alternative energy makes the most sense.

    • It protects business from unfair domestic and international competition with border taxes and credits. If China and India don’t play (by enacting comparable emission reductions systems) they pay the import fees. No need for treaties.

    • It’s capital neutral. Government should not try to pick (and risk “locking in”) winning technologies. Let’s not have arguments about hydrogen cars or Solyndras. CAP’s proposal is dead-on-arrival with Republicans because it skims money for alternative energy favorites. You don’t need to subsidize your favorites if you make the carbon tax actual reflect it’s true costs—which are a lot more than $25/ton. And, without Republican support, we will never act big enough or fast enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. So, why not go with 100% revenue neutrality as your starting principle.

    • It starts small. $10/ton is about 10-cents-a-gallon and a penny per kilowatt hour. That’s fine to start. You don’t need to shock the economy. You could even delay the implementation date a few years. The important thing is not the initial price—it’s that it grows steadily and predictably—so that individuals, businesses and utilities can all see the handwriting on the wall. And, Wall Street won’t lend money to utilities and businesses that don’t get serious about how they’re going to power their needs decades from now.

    • It increases predictably until we hit our emission goals—that is—as dictated by the best science—which right now is an 80% reduction from 1990 levels. Businesses need predictable energy prices, not market fluctuations as with cap and trade permits.

    • It’s easy to administer at home and to copy abroad. That means impose the tax way upstream—one time–at the first point of sale—the mine head, wellhead or border crossing. Government already collects sales taxes from these businesses (and banks don’t get to skim a fee like with tradable permits). It doesn’t repeal, prevent or discourage any other private, state, regional, national or international strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with other taxes, tradable permits, regulations or subsidies to alternative fuels. And, it works in countries with widely different economies.

  7. Joan Savage says:

    I’d like to see carbon tax applied in three phases.

    The first phase would be a carbon tax applied to extraction: coal, crude oil, natural gas, even if the extractor claims the material will be stockpiled and not sold immediately.

    Second phase would be a carbon tax on industrial sales of material as well as their emissions. That means refineries, electric generation by coal, etc.

    Third phase would be a carbon tax on small commercial ‘retail’ and household and personal use emissions. This point would pick up on embedded carbon costs in products or services that are imported from outside the US tax system.

    Example would be the carbon footprint of a plastic item like a detergent or shampoo container that was stamped out in a mold operating on coal-fired electricity in a foreign country.

    The three phases should add up like a VAT (value added tax), so no one taxpayer feels they are paying overmuch for someone else’s decisions.

    Places where residential populations depend nearly exclusively on coal-fired electricity or oil transport should be given the means to change their ways.

    Overview of sources and users is available in a convenient graphic from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

    Estimated U.S. Energy Use in 2011: ~ 97.3 Quads

    https://www.llnl.gov/news/newsreleases/2012/Oct/NR-12-10-08.html

    We’d have to work something else out for taxing other GHG emissions.

    • Joan Savage says:

      Basically, don’t kill the economy while saving it.
      A carbon tax system can steer the economy towards energy efficiency, and pick up other bonuses that might emerge along the way, like public transportation on safe bridges.

      I agree with others that the revenues of a carbon tax could go into a general fund.

      If carbon tax follows the history of the tobacco industry and cigarette taxes, then put the revenues towards an array of public works and services that reduce dependency on fossil fuels. That can scale from major public transport improvements to subsidized solar roofs on residences.