Energy Nominee Moniz: We Need Carbon Price To Double Or Triple Cost Of Dirty Energy

Tuesday is the confirmation hearing date for Energy Secretary nominee Ernest Moniz. The MIT professor will face the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee (webcast here starts at 10 am ET).

I have known Moniz for 30 years. Turns out he was my professor for advanced electromagnetism in 1982. Then I worked with him again at the Clinton Energy Department in 1997 and 1998 (his full bio is here). I think he’s a fine choice for Secretary — and considerably better than many of the alternatives.

Some have complained that Moniz, like Chu, is not an energy deployment guy. True enough, but somehow U.S. renewable electricity supply managed to double under Chu. Of course, that’s also mostly a coincidence because the energy secretary doesn’t actually have much power over energy in this country.

For those worry about fracking, for instance, the EPA administrator nominee — Gina McCarthy — will play a much more salient role. And she’s the one who will be in charge of developing carbon regulations. She gets a confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Moniz is exceedingly knowledgeable about carbon issues. Just last year told the Switch Energy Project he supports a carbon price that would substantially increase electricity costs:

“If we start really squeezing down on carbon dioxide over the next few decades, well, that could double; it could eventually triple…. I think inevitably if we squeeze down on carbon, we squeeze up on the cost, it brings along with it a push toward efficiency; it brings along with it a push towards clean technologies in a conventional pollution sense; it brings along with it a push towards security. Because after all, the security issues revolve around carbon-bearing fuels.”

Here’s the video:

36 Responses to Energy Nominee Moniz: We Need Carbon Price To Double Or Triple Cost Of Dirty Energy

  1. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The talk of increasing electricity prices is ominous in a country like the USA, where income and wealth inequality is so marked and growing so rapidly. This will be exploited, for a while at least, I am sure, by the denialists, who will blame the hated ‘Greenies’, while, naturally, using the opportunity to divert attention from the real cause-the bi-partisan neo-liberal neo-feudal project to immiserate as many as possible while transferring wealth to the elite. In such a situation one wonders why the nominee is so keen to emphasise the coming ‘price shock’, particularly when solar is nearing price parity with fossil fuels?

  2. rollin says:

    So those LED’s won’t be saving me any money, neither will those efficient appliances. With all efficiencies in place we might pay the same bill we did before. Sort of kills the advantage. An austerity plan if ever I saw one.

    All I know is that everytime the public conserves, the power companies get a raise in price from the BPU.

    I hope that everyone realizes that this is a tax on everything and it gives the government lots of money. Who knows if it will be used properly.

    Just subsidize the solar and wind installations AND set an increasing limit on companies that sell carbon to be burned. Once they cross that limit, they get taxed or fined. Set a timetable of diminishing carbon sales. This would make the exporters pay also and pass the cost on to those using the coal, oil and nat gas shipped out of the country. A much more just system that would steadily make it more difficult to burn carbon or export carbon.
    Pass that one onto your friend, he needs an update from the old hackneyed general carbon tax on the public.
    Oh, and the tax breaks and environmental exemptions for fossil fuel producers/drillers need to be repealed.

  3. Henry says:

    Talking about tripling the cost of consumers electric bills is NOT the way to win support, especially with so many still out of work!
    At least he has the gumption to discuss where the real costs of a carbon tax will fall, on the little people. =\

  4. Paul Klinkman says:

    I wonder if it really matters which silk suit gets draped onto which chair. I think that power often corrupts people’s earlier intentions.

    I’m naturally pessimistic and assume that John Kerry, despite his rhetoric on the climate change issue, will approve the big fat Keystone pipeline. The facts on the ground are that Kerry got a plum job, and in Washington you sell your political opinions in order to receive such plum jobs.

    In the same way, I pessimistically assume that Dr. Moniz is grateful for his new found power, his prestige, his salary, his ability to turn the hot buck as soon as he goes back to MIT or onward to a grateful company. Carbon tax? What carbon tax? It must have been some other Dr. Moniz in an alternative universe saying such a thing.

  5. how about the tax & rebate idea?

  6. Sasparilla says:

    Joe, if you say he’s a good nominee, that’s good enough for me.

    Everyone works for the President who determines energy and climate policy and Moniz has definitely been out there taking money from big Carbon (BP, Saudi Arabia)…so I sure don’t expect him to be out there battling climate change dragons for us…hopefully he won’t sell out the DOE to big carbon. The next big chance for real change in this administration would seem to be the next administration (with Clinton 2 vs Bush 3 seeming most likely, not much change there, God help us all)…

  7. Omega Centauri says:

    We’ve learned that any nominee who has got on one of the big money enemies list will be filibusters to death. I can’t imagine that Moniz will get through after saying something like that. We will waste a lot of time, then have to go back to the drawing board.

  8. Addicted says:

    Yea, you really think he was the first person who thought of this? Most carbon tax plans discussed simply return the money to the little people as tax refunds.

    This really isn’t that hard a problem to solve.

  9. Ed Leaver says:

    Carbon Tax has been studied extensively. It can be made “nearly neutral” with appropriate rebate and adjustments to other taxes. Here are some links:
    Understanding the Economics of Carbon Taxes
    Carbon Tax Myths
    While I realise AEI, IMF, and Brookings Institution are not everyone’s fondest of idea of tax-deductable charitable organizations, carbon tax is probably one policy that U.S. Republicans might eventually get behind. Politics is the art of the possible. Carbon taxes do not affect renewables, and in fact encourage them more efficiently than outright subsidy, and energy conservation as well. Those who fear rising electric prices are those with little faith renewables can substitute for coal and gas. But coal and gas must be substituted for.

  10. And he talks about rebating the money to consumers towards the end of the video.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Talk is cheap. I’d bet the house that the proceeds will go into consolidated revenue to pay off the deficit or make money available for more tax cuts for the deserving rich.Any compensation for the rabble will be inadequate and likely to be ripped off after the next financial meltdown.

  12. Spike says:

    Yes in the UK wind and other renewables and efficiency programmes add about 1% to an average bill, around £10 a year.

    This is blamed by the right for all the steep hikes caused by rising gas prices and by rent seeking and profiteering in the energy sector.

  13. Spike says:

    Tripling the cost of carbon does not equate to a tripling of electricity bills, unless used as cover for profiteering by energy companies as in the UK.

  14. fj says:

    Carbon tax is just part of a whole system preventing us from continuing the destruction of the natural services that support us.

    Ultimately good common sense design of things that work better will rapidly lead us away from ways of doing things now monopolized by the fossil fuel industry such as transportation and space heating and cooling.

  15. fj says:

    Education and availability of better options are also important.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Exactly the same process is occurring in Australia. No matter where it is that you turn over a rock, the scuttlers are always the same.

  17. Joan Savage says:

    Remember, the Obama administration asserts it will not seek a carbon tax.

    Moniz is willing to work with the current administration, so he’s already readjusted the views he expressed last year in the video interview.

    This is dejá vu of the other well-qualified candidates for whom we have had bright hopes.

  18. fj says:

    Just like the defaults on computer forms, defaults in the ways we do things should be realigned to the better ways.

    Currently, the default way to travel any significant distance is to use a one-ton vehicle and to heat and cool a building is supplied by energy from fossil fuels.

    This must change.

    Of course, it helps terrifically if it costs less which it should in most instances.

  19. fj says:

    Fossil fuel use has a very high overhead and dependency on fossil fuels even without considering the environmental externalities is extremely expensive.

  20. fj says:

    Dependency on fossil fuels is a huge drain on the economy monopolizing resources better allocated for the advancement of our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  21. fj says:

    The fossil fuel industry makes about five $trillion per year and costs civilization a lot more than this in $US.

    There have to be aliens up there somewhere laughing their fool heads off at us allowing them to get away with this.

  22. Mike Roddy says:

    Joan, those are my thoughts, too. I’m glad to learn that Moniz wants a carbon tax, but we haven’t heard Kerry mentioning it lately.

    Joe, does this mean that Moniz will reverse course, keep his mouth shut, or try to persuade Obama to enact one? Since you know him, you are well informed here.

  23. David Goldstein says:

    Wel, boys and girls, the latest Mauna Loa weekly Co2 (March 31) is, for the first time in history, (drum roll please)…over 398!: 398.08 precisely…almost a full 3ppm over same time last year. (continuing a recent trend). Everything is in place to bust 400 next month. Stay tuned!

  24. fj says:

    The fossil fuel industry might opt for a carbon tax to delay more dramatic action to limit emissions.

  25. NotFunnyMitt says:

    The idea is to put a fee on carbon (and therefore all energy and everything made with energy (!)) and return the fee to the public with an annual check.

    This is actually progressive, because the poor use less stuff and less energy so they end up ahead. they also have a check with which to buy LED bulbs or a new AC system, or insulation and get even further ahead of the game.

  26. fj says:

    A carbon tax is just a bean counter trick while we nust get what we can we will nevenet zeroet what we are losing by not doing things the right way.

    We are much better that.

    We must start reinventing civlization with help from our better angels.

    We must go net zero and net positive as quickly as possible and restore and rebuild our planetary home.

  27. fj says:

    A carbon tax is just a bean counter trick while we must get what we can we will never get what we are losing by not doing things the right way.

    We are much better than that

    We must start reinventing civlization with help from our better angels.

    We must go net zero and net positive as quickly as possible and restore and rebuild our planetary home.

  28. fj says:

    The really important financial instruments will provide the tens of $trillions to reinvent our cities making them net zero, make a just equitable society, with universal healthcare, universal advanced education, poverty eradication . . .

  29. Climate Hawk says:

    I have great respect for you, Joe Romm, but Moniz is an “all of the above” horses ass just like his boss. And I can’t recall the last time somebody raked in big fossil fuel money who didn’t ultimately do their bidding.

    Most respectfully,
    Climate Hawk

  30. Roni Bell says:

    What is the problem?

  31. Joe Romm says:

    And what was Chu? Moniz will do and say what Obama wants him too and that is all he or any Secretary can do. What folks fail to realize is that the secretary has very little power.

  32. “And what was Chu? Moniz will do and say what Obama wants him too and that is all he or any Secretary can do. What folks fail to realize is that the secretary has very little power.”

    Ah, Joe! If the Secretary has so little power, then why are we fussing over who becomes Secretary? Presumably, if the President, a lawyer, hires a brainiac physicist from MIT to be his energy secretary, he would listen to the man on matters of energy. If he just wants a Yes man, he could hire anybody — why not Anthony Watts?

    Andy Revkin asked his readers who the next energy secretary should be, and Mike Roddy answered “Joe Romm, let’s stop screwing around.” If Obama were interested in addressing climate change, he’d take that advice.

    But I think screwing around is just what this administration is all about. Obama wants a sophisticated Yes man — somebody who agrees with his “all of the above/more of the same” nonsense but can give the promulgations and policies the imprimatur of a High Priest of High Tech.

    The knock on Moniz I’ve heard is that he’s pro-fracking (which means he’s pro “bridge fuel”) and pro nuclear (which means he’s pro lobbyists, huge government subsidies, decades of delay, pushing out renewables, pollution, insane water consumption, private profits and public penalties, radioactive waste, etc. — all handily rationalized by “fighting climate change.”)

    I believe in your integrity, Joe — you’ll be the same Joe Romm this time next year. So I hope Moniz doesn’t disappoint you, because I don’t think he’s the same guy wish he is.

  33. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Agreed. A secretary is chosen to serve the president’s policy – he/she doesn’t write policy.

    But in addition, and equally under-recognised, a secretary is chosen both for appearance sake for some lobby that Potus wants to quieten (e.g. La Clinton supporters), and also to silence potentially awkward high profile dissenters – such as Kerry (?) on grounds that its better to have them inside the tent pissing out, rather than vice versa.

    I hope I’m wrong about Kerry, but I doubt that he or Moniz have been chosen without their clear agreement to acting precisely as instructed.



  34. Joe Romm says:

    “Ah, Joe! If the Secretary has so little power, then why are we fussing over who becomes Secretary?” The point is we shouldn’t. We had Nobelist Chu for 4 years, a champion of climate action. But where was the climate action? Again, that’s my point.

  35. Sorry. I guess I missed your point. I though it was that Moniz would be a great secretary of energy. Upon rereading the article, I find: “Of course, that’s also mostly a coincidence because the energy secretary doesn’t actually have much power over energy in this country.”

    OK. In that sense, neither does the president. Energy investment will follow opportunity. Still, it seems like policy has something to do with it the outcome.

    Perhaps people like Chu and Moniz should reexamine their own premises before taking the job. Nobel prize and pedigrees aside, it seems pretty obvious that we can’t keep doing all of the above or we’re dead meat.

    How can someone want more natural gas development and a carbon tax? Sooner or later, Muniz will have to change one of his tunes. Unfortunately, I have a pretty good feeling which one it will be: all sung to the tune of non mea culpa!

  36. fj says:

    3 Ways to Unlock Climate Finance — World Resources Inst (@worldresources)