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Bringing Per Capita Carbon Emissions Down to Below 1700s Levels.

The most dangerous proposal in the new budget is the institution of a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions. Indeed, the single largest source of new tax revenue in the budget going forward are these payments to be made by businesses for the right to emit excess carbon.

The goal is an 83% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

That would bring US per capita emissions of CO2 down to a level below what we had in the 1700s. As Steven Hayward wrote in the WSJ last April about an 80% reduction then on the table:

Begin with the current inventory of carbon dioxide emissions -- CO2 being the principal greenhouse gas generated almost entirely by energy use. According to the Department of Energy's most recent data on greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006 the U.S. emitted 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or just under 20 tons per capita. An 80% reduction in these emissions from 1990 levels means that the U.S. cannot emit more than about one billion metric tons of CO2 in 2050.

Were man-made carbon dioxide emissions in this country ever that low? The answer is probably yes -- from historical energy data it is possible to estimate that the U.S. last emitted one billion metric tons around 1910. But in 1910, the U.S. had 92 million people, and per capita income, in current dollars, was about $6,000.

By the year 2050, the Census Bureau projects that our population will be around 420 million. This means per capita emissions will have to fall to about 2.5 tons in order to meet the goal of 80% reduction.

It is likely that U.S. per capita emissions were never that low -- even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia.

Recognize that the cost of the cap-and-trade system far exceeds the tax collected from those who are willing to pay the money just to exceed the limits set by the government. The businesses that do not buy indulgences face the cost of the restrictions themselves.

If Obama succeeds in his quest to reduce carbon emissions by 83% by 2050, American business will be destroyed. Manufacturing in the US will essentially disappear to countries that do not have anti-business, anti-growth policies, mostly in the Far East.

It would be hard to imagine a government policy that is likely to be more destructive of jobs and economic growth than this one.

MatthewM (mail):
As I've said before, these people are nuts.

And they're in charge.
2.27.2009 12:27am
Vermando (mail) (www):
Yeah, that just seems foolish.

Fortunately he has a much more modest goal of a 14% reduction by 2020. This means that the 80%+ level is like every other proposal politicians makes to kick the burden to the next generation and should not be taken seriously.
2.27.2009 12:39am
Cornellian (mail):
Manufacturing in the US will essentially disappear to countries that do not have anti-business, anti-growth policies, mostly in the Far East.

Moot point, since all our manufacturing is already done in China anyway.
2.27.2009 12:45am
Steve:
If only we had elected John McCain, who only promised a 65% reduction! Then we could at least be living in small shacks instead of tiny huts by 2050.

Remember, if you predict that we will all drown from the melted polar ice caps by 2050, you're a raving nutjob, but if you predict that American business will disappear and nobody will be allowed to own a TV, you can get a job at the American Enterprise Institute.

I guess it's possible that we might achieve some technological advances in the next 40 years, or that we might revise our goals downwards if we haven't achieved any innovations and it looks like we might end up living in huts. Nah, we're just doomed.
2.27.2009 12:47am
James Lindgren (mail):
A more realistic goal would be to stop increases by 2020, not a 14% reduction from 2005 levels, a reduction that is not achievable without imposing massive costs on industry.
2.27.2009 12:49am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Moot point, since all our manufacturing is already done in China anyway.
Not true. I'm astonished at the amount of stuff we still make here. The vertical mill and lathe that I use to manufacture telescope accessories (which I sell around the world)? Made in California--and most of the raw materials and parts that I use are made in America. (One particular set of wheels comes from Germany, and some of the screws that I use are made outside the U.S., but the bigger components are made here.)

Astro-Physics, one of the premiere telescope makers, on a park with Zeiss, makes their scopes and mounts in Illinois.

Even stuff that you would expect to be made in China--is often still made in America. I bought a very clever and sturdy aluminum ladder recently--made in America.

I ordered up some rubber garage seals to keep rain from coming under my garage doors. In spite of buying them from Harbor Freight &Tool (which largely imports from China)--these were made in America.

America is not out of the manufacturing business. Proposals this crazy will put us out completely--and perhaps every other business.
2.27.2009 1:09am
PubliusFL:
How meaningful is it to talk about how realistic or absurd a goal like that is? 2050 is pretty far away. For all we know it could be like politicians in 1899 talking about setting goals for U.S. horse usage in 1940.
2.27.2009 1:19am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Oh yes, let us continue to quote that noted expert on science, the Wall Street Journal (and a right-wing economist from the American Enterprise Institute). They don't believe in man-made causes of global warming and only reluctantly and recently agreed there was any global warming, so I hardly find the WSJ or the AEI to be a credible source on the costs of reducing global warming.
2.27.2009 1:22am
Constantin:
As opposed to what, Cooke? A movement with its leader as a left-wing politician with no scientific training whatsoever? I hardly find him to be a credible source on the existence and causes of global warming.

When you guys decide whether it is getting hotter or colder, finally, start lecturing the rest of us.
2.27.2009 1:25am
Tony Tutins (mail):

When you guys decide whether it is getting hotter or colder, finally, start lecturing the rest of us.

Glacier National Park will soon need a new name, if that's any help to you. The 150 glaciers in the park in 1850 have dwindled to 26 today. Perhaps "Global Warming National Monument"?
2.27.2009 1:38am
Oren:

If Obama succeeds in his quest to reduce carbon emissions by 83% by 2050, American business will be destroyed. Manufacturing in the US will essentially disappear to countries that do not have anti-business, anti-growth policies, mostly in the Far East.

Because we have no idea how to make electrical power without burning carbon. Absolutely. None.
2.27.2009 2:01am
D.R.M.:
On the 14%:

Reducing emissions 14% by 2020 while not cutting total power consumption from current levels (which assumes a pretty big reduction in per capita use) means you have to be actively building very soon, which pretty much means the tech it has to be in prototype right now.

The only technology in prototype right now that has any chance of doing that without totally blasting away Obama's promise to cut the deficit in half from its current levels is polywell fusion, and even the people working on that don't know if it will work out, they just know that we haven't proven it can't. If we're willing to maintain current deficits in real-dollar terms indefinitely (and that would be an amazing financial feat), we might be able to do it with wind. Otherwise, the only possibility is a massive reduction in standard of living.

On the 83%:

PubliusFL — "For all we know" is, in fact, what makes it ridiculous. A goal in 1899 of reducing the amount of horse excrement in urban streets by 83% by 1940 would have been ridiculous. Either the automobile was going to become practical and give the historical-fact near 100%, or the auto wasn't going to work out and the demands of in-city freight wagons were going to make it impossible without destroying the economic viability of the cities. An 83% reduction target for carbon by 2050 is just as asinine as an 83% reduction target for horseshit by 1940 would have been.
2.27.2009 2:03am
D.R.M.:
Oren —

Fission is politically impossible, at least right now, unfortunately. If the people worried about global warming spent their effort lobbying for nuclear plant subsidies, it would actually be possible. I'll cover any bets as to when either Greenpeace will endorse nukes, or be openly denounced by the Sierra Club as an enemy of the planet (bets of "never" will be paid when the universe achieves heat death).
2.27.2009 2:09am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I stand corrected. Mr. Hayward is not an economist, he has a Ph.d in "American Studies." I am sure they covered climatology at his grad school (Claremont: see this
2.27.2009 2:10am
Frater Plotter:
Just a reminder: We have these things now that they didn't have in 1700, called nuclear power plants. We also don't burn coal in our homes, or pipe "town gas" (partly combusted hydrocarbons -- lots of carbon monoxide) into our houses, like we did in 1850. We don't slash and burn our fields like we did in ancient times, either.

There is no opposition between technological advancement and wealth, and a reduction of pollution. Advancements in technology can be expected to make our lives both richer and cleaner. We will accomplish reductions in pollution not by abandoning technology (which wouldn't work -- campfires put out a lot more pollution than your kitchen stove!) but by applying technology.

Think of how many windmills or nuke plants could be put up for the price of a few bombing runs.
2.27.2009 2:13am
Doofus:
How many nuke plants could we put up for the price of a bombing run? None. Because the pointy-haired morons running things here want to bet our economy and our national security on "green power", which is "any energy that is low-carbon emitting, except, you know the ONLY kind of energy that is 100% carbon emitting free, nuclear". I love this administration. Reduce energy dependence, but don't allow offshore drilling, and refuse to permit shale oil development. Cut the deficit, but quadruple it first. Champion green energy, but prohibit nuclear power.

Morons.
2.27.2009 2:23am
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Because we have no idea how to make electrical power without burning carbon. Absolutely. None. [ed: links to nuclear power in original]

Carbon emissions are not generated sole for electrical power generation -- much and most of our transportation infrastructure is carbon-based. Almost every car or truck or semi on the road today, and every railroad car, would need to be altered. Unless they can be produced to run off a non-carbon emission generating power source with no electrical requirement, it also makes electrical power generation vastly more difficult to upgrade in time, and many (electric batteries) have their own major environmental issues of concern or practicality issues.

It'd also require at least 300 new nuclear electrical power plants (assuming an equal decrease in non-electrical carbon emissions and no new demand) and vast changes to the infrastructure of the electrical grid. That's... a lot to build in that time, especially since we haven't built any in recent years. A lot of vital components have no American manufacturer, and have extremely limited international construction capability.

Additional construction of other alternative power sources could help, but even consuming the entire world-wide production of new wind, solar, and concentrated solar, are all drops in the bucket even before calculating their downtime issues.

Stuff like polywell fusion or similar scientific advancements, obviously, make the above assumptions false. If a polywell fusion plant works as well as Bussard thought it would, we're golden and can probably just pump those things out in a decade or so. I don't think it's reasonable to presume that they work as predicted without more evidence, though, despite how worthy of funding they are.
2.27.2009 2:27am
Melancton Smith:
Tony Tutins wrote:

Glacier National Park will soon need a new name, if that's any help to you. The 150 glaciers in the park in 1850 have dwindled to 26 today. Perhaps "Global Warming National Monument"?


Dang, I've been meaning to get out to that park. Guess I better hurry.

So tell me why you think the current state of ice pack and glaciers is the ideal perfect state? Having both poles locked in ice at the same time not necessarily the 'normal' state for our planet, at least not in the past.

Global Warming (er...Climate Change) alarmists might be a bit more credible if they took into account that monstrous glowing yellow object shining down on us. Hint, it rises in the east and sets in the west. The heat from this bizarre anomoly provides pretty much every single ounce of power we have ever had and ever will have.
2.27.2009 2:30am
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):
Tony Tutins:

Glacier National Park will soon need a new name, if that's any help to you. The 150 glaciers in the park in 1850 have dwindled to 26 today. Perhaps "Global Warming National Monument"?

Visited the place summer before last. You are indeed right that the glaciers there are receding.

As they have been doing since anyone has been around with the means and desire to measure them.

So, this is evidence AGW started in the mid-1800s?
2.27.2009 2:34am
Somedude127 (mail):
I'm sorry I must be missing something here but the numbers in the post seem off. If I'm reading it right (certainly no guarantee of that) we emit 20 tons of CO2 per capita right now. We have a population of 303,824,640 (July 2008 est). That means we currently emit 303,824,640*20= 6,076,492,800 tons of CO2.

If we shoot for the 80% cut that works out to, 6,076,492,800*.2= 1,215,298,560. Now I know once you get into the billions range a couple hundred million tons of CO2 isn't much to worry about, but it still amounts to a 20% under estimation of the US carbon emission cap if we hit an 80% reduction. Of course we know 80% is an unrealistic figure. It's likely that that number will fluctuate.

If it goes War on Poverty well, then we've got something like 30-40% cut. If it goes War on Terrorism well, (from the standpoint of the homeland from 2001-2009) we might expect a 40-50% cut. If it goes War on Drugs well, then we're looking at 20% increase in emissions.

So who knows. Maybe I should invest in that space based solar power company.
2.27.2009 2:46am
Ursus Maritimus:
"The heat from this bizarre anomoly provides pretty much every single ounce of power we have ever had and ever will have."

Except for fission, which is stored supernova power.
And fusion, which is stored big bang power.
2.27.2009 3:07am
Tony Tutins (mail):

So tell me why you think the current state of ice pack and glaciers is the ideal perfect state? Having both poles locked in ice at the same time not necessarily the 'normal' state for our planet, at least not in the past.

The question was, is the earth cooling or warming. I provided evidence of warming.

As to the ideal perfect state of the ice caps: I wouldn't buy any Florida real estate if I were you. Consider an nice oceanfront place in Asheville, NC, instead.
2.27.2009 3:08am
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):
I provided evidence of warming.

The kind of evidence that has heck-all to do with the "reason" behind an 80% carbon reduction.
2.27.2009 3:17am
James Gibson (mail):
Somadude your not alone regarding issues with some of the statements made in this post.

First though, Tony, stop trying to sound smart and pushing the Global Warming stick. Your begining to remind me of a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) who I regularly debated on Scotus Blog before the Heller verdict. He tended to make statements that always sounded good until alittle research was thrown in. Like the fact that article you linked to was written in March of 2006. And the guy writing it did his research in the summer of 2005. And the video on the same subject run recently by CNN was also made back then and just rerun as a filler.

Now as to the other issues, lets note that until about 1910 people didn't have cars, they heated there homes with Coal, and lighted their homes with either oil lamps or gas (in most cases Coal gas). Coal gas was a bi-product of coking to make the fuel used in Blast furnaces (meaning they were utilizing and other wise waste material). But that being said it means the use of coal for heating and lighting was extensive until after world war 2 when electricity finally reached the rural areas of the United States and cleaner natural gas replaced coal gas.

So where are we. Today, we use only electricity to light our homes (minus the environmentalists and their meditation candles). We have extensive utilization of fluorescents in all government of public buildings (hell in the 1970s they were shutting down tubes in my school to save energy). We began insulating back in the 70s and the Carter Administration to save on energy and today any new home comes with extensive insulation. My parents present large car burns less gas per mile then the car they drove in the 1970s and the oil crunch (my car gets twice what I got in college). The furnaces in homes are better then they were in the 70s and 80s and we no longer have pilot-lights in most water heaters, furnaces and ovens.

The only way to achieve the numbers they are talking about will mean a total transition to LED lighting, replacement of every gas furnace, oven, dryer, and water heater with electric, replace every car and truck with electric and then the construction of as many nuclear plants as we can since Geothermal power only exists in certain areas, wind is too intermittent, hydro-electric has already been developed were possible (and hated by the Green crowd), and Solar takes up too much land for only limited return.
2.27.2009 3:34am
MCM (mail):
If Obama succeeds in his quest to reduce carbon emissions by 83% by 2050, American business will be destroyed. Manufacturing in the US will essentially disappear to countries that do not have anti-business, anti-growth policies, mostly in the Far East.


Absolutely! No one will try to invent a source of energy that doesn't emit carbon! There will be no incentive to do it WHATSOEVER.

I'm pretty sure the precipitation in Chicago today was rain, not the sky falling around you.
2.27.2009 3:50am
BGates:
There will be no incentive to do it WHATSOEVER

What we need is more smart lawyers to tell the engineers what physical constraints they need to observe. Want to eliminate carbon-based fuels from the transportation sector? Pass a law. Want to reduce health care costs? Make disease illegal.

Just let the "reality based community" decide what parts of thermodynamics they want to repeal, and all sorts of problems will disappear.
2.27.2009 4:45am
DiversityHire:
Doofus, you forgot repair our 'crumbling" infrastructure while banning use thereof through crippling carbon taxes.

President Obama is a very smart, very gifted man. He's gotta be to to craft this kind of through-the-looking-glass absurdist humor. My only regret is that 60% of the population doesn't get the joke.
2.27.2009 4:53am
DiversityHire:
It would be hard to imagine a government policy that is likely to be more destructive of jobs and economic growth than this one.

Please, give the man time. He's only had 37 days. I'm sure his best and brightest are working on it…
2.27.2009 5:38am
Nuclear?:
I used to be a big fan of nuclear. Then I started reading quotes like this one from the World Nuclear Association:


Thus the world's present measured resources of uranium (5.5 Mt) in the cost category somewhat below present spot prices and used only in conventional reactors, are enough to last for over 80 years.


Note that this number is calculated at TODAY's rate of consumption. Were we to massively increase our use, as is suggested by the posts above, this number would certainly decrease. Here's an article that suggests a 12 year supply.

Look, I'm as conservative as the next guy, and I want to believe that nuclear is the way to go, but this sounds a little dicey to me. I'm not all that ginned up on the idea of uranium wars.
2.27.2009 5:46am
Mike S.:
Actually, the reduction by 2020 would be very easy to achieve if they would change the environmental laws to stop allowing the NIMBYs to block solar and wind projects and the required transmission lines and stop allowing the left and the state of Nevada from blocking nuclear power. If we generated all our electricity from nuclear and renewables we would far exceed the short term goal. While the costs of those are higher, that is principally because of regulatory costs and delay, not the inherint costs of the equipment.
2.27.2009 6:31am
greyarcher315 (mail):
The problem is that politics has nothing to do with reality. Realisticly we need to spend the next ten years developing clean poer sources that work and are reliable. Wind is not reliable(the wind is not always blowing fast enough or consistant enough). Solar is not effient enough yet, and even once it is it will probably not work in some areas, as it is hard to use solar when the panel is under two feet of snow and ice. Nuclear has the whole waste probablem, although that can be reduced by recycling the waste. We need to spend the time and money to develop the means to be cleaner, not do something for the sake of looking like we are fixing the problem.
2.27.2009 7:07am
FantasiaWHT:
(a) Ok, you've shown me some evidence that one place on the globe is warming. You can show me lots of such places. I can show you just as many places that are cooling. Maybe more, who knows? Prove to me that we can accurately get a real global average temperature (should we be considering air temperatures at various atmospheric heights? how about water temperatures at various oceanic depths?) and then prove to me somehow that comparing that data to data from 100 years ago when we had probably a few hundred or thousand data points, provides a scientifically accurate change in global mean, then go even farther and try to compare that data to data from thousands and millions of years ago when all we have is ice core samples that provide a few handfuls of data points that BY DEFINITION are only from places that have been locked in ice since that time. Yeah, you can't do it.

(b) This reminds me of a great "Wondermark" cartoon from the Onion around a year ago. Two English gentlemen are standing around these two incredibly poor-looking Africans, praising their horrible way of life - no industry, eating mice and grass, dying at 35 - all resulting in the lowest per-capita footprint on earth. The last panel is the same Africans sitting next to a giant gold trophy.
2.27.2009 7:21am
Chris-guest (mail):
FantasiaWHT, assume for one second (purely hypothetically, of course) that man-made climate change is absolutely real, and everything that the most hysterical proponents of it have said will come to pass within the next 50-100 years.

Under your point (a), what possible method is there of convincing you and your ilk? I can't see one. Which means that under this hypothetical scenario, your best (only) option is to continue with business as usual, and sayonara humanity!


(by way of saying I think your point (a) is unreasonable...)
2.27.2009 7:44am
Brett Bellmore:
Nuclear?, keep in mind that that's what they're poised to dig up any time somebody places an order, after a decades long glut in the Uranium market, it's not a realistic measure of what's physically out there in terms of economically recoverable fuel.

AND it assumes we're throwing away most of the fuel in the form of 'waste'.

The WNA actually has a quite coherent explanation of this, of which you only quoted a bit, and somewhat contrary to it's context, too.

Bottom line, taking everything into account, we could run our entire economy, world-wide, off nuclear, and still be set for thousands of years. But it would require opening new mines, new (But not very speculative.) reactor types, and most importantly: Getting rid of some rules which were adopted with the specific aim of making nuclear power impractical.
2.27.2009 7:45am
Matt E:
But sir this does not make any sense, aren't these same people the most vocal advocates of America having a manufacturing base again? Surely you must have made a mistake in your reporting.

I sincerely wonder if cap and trade won't someday be responsible for cutting or eliminating between 3 and 4 million jobs.
2.27.2009 7:54am
Anon1111:

An 83% reduction target for carbon by 2050 is just as asinine as an 83% reduction target for horseshit by 1940 would have been.


I once ran for congress on an "83% reduction in Washington horseshit" platform, but the goal was too unrealistic, so I scaled it back to an 8.3% reduction, but people still called me a starry eyed dreamer, so I dropped out of the race.
2.27.2009 8:05am
pireader (mail):
Professor Lindgren --

If the US economy had to suppress 80% of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using today's techology, we could do so at a cost of a few percent of GDP by:

* moving away from coal-fired power plants to natural gas and/or nuclear, with some help from renewables
* sequestering the remaining stationary-source emissions
* moving to smaller cars with hybrid (or plug-in hybrid) powertrains

It would be very expensive ... but a much lower percentage of GDP than the Federal government poured into its Cold War defense budget in the 1950s [~10%]. That didn't "destroy" American business, and neither would such a crash program today.

But of course, Mr Obama hasn't called for any such crash program. The whole point of a 40-year transition is to minimize cost by:

* replacing existing equipment gradually as it wears out, and

* taking advantage of the next 40 years of technological advances in such areas as separation membranes [for emissions sequestration], batteries [for vehicle powertrains], photovoltaics [for solar power generation], etc.

As to American manufacturing moving to countries that don't control GHG emissions. If the US adopts controls, and supports a global controls regime, why would it allow other countries to export their non-compliant products to the US? Seems unlikely.

You've built a well-deserved reputation as a thoughtful and skeptical scholar. Don't squander it echoing the blind ideological fanaticism of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the American Enterprise Institute. Both have shown themselves to be unreliable fear-mongers.
2.27.2009 8:10am
common sense (www):
That's the problem with catering to so many different interest groups with conflicting goals. Both parties do it-its the inevitable consequence of a two party system. Why not impose enough of a tax on gasoline so that it makes sense to push hybrids and electric cars? Because you hit the poor much harder than the rich. Why not push nuclear? Because not even all the environmentalists can agree on policies. Its hard to come up with a potential solution when you always have to hamstring yourself to make some other group happy.
2.27.2009 8:28am
DiversityHire:
Both have shown themselves to be unreliable fear-mongers.

As opposed to the climate change alarmists who fear-monger pretty reliably.

There's no point to wasting even "a few percent of GDP" on the ego-stroking, grant pimping, virgin-whore mythos of AGW.
2.27.2009 8:36am
martinned (mail) (www):

Recognize that the cost of the cap-and-trade system far exceeds the tax collected from those who are willing to pay the money just to exceed the limits set by the government. The businesses that do not buy indulgences face the cost of the restrictions themselves.

Huh? Can someone please explain that one in wikisimple terms?

Carbon trading is by far the most efficient and liberty-friendly way of reducing carbon emissions. Libertarians of all people should recognise that.
2.27.2009 8:51am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
gibson:

My parents present large car burns less gas per mile then the car they drove in the 1970s


Which is not saying much.

Someone I know drives a 1995 Honda Civic VX. You probably never heard of this model. It gets mileage comparable to a Prius (45-50 mpg) while using no exotic technology whatsoever. I find it interesting to wonder why no one (even Honda) is willing to sell a car like that in the US today. I think it's because Americans are not yet ready to give up things like power windows and power door locks (to a great extent this car achieves high efficiency by deleting features like that).

============
bgates:

Just let the "reality based community" decide what parts of thermodynamics they want to repeal, and all sorts of problems will disappear.


There was once a time when people thought that walking on the moon was just too hard, and wasn't going to happen anytime soon, because of "thermodynamics."

But a bunch of "reality based" people in the government decided there was no limit on human ingenuity. And the result was that "all sorts of problems" did indeed "disappear."

But please keep it up with the "no we can't." The country is definitely in the mood for that.

All the major technologies we currently take for granted (air travel, computers, communications etc) all went through a stage where someone like you confidently stated that it was just too hard, and only a fool would try.

============
diversity:

you forgot repair our 'crumbling" infrastructure


You seem to think that it's not, but it is: "the nation is falling apart."
2.27.2009 9:00am
Hannibal Lector:

It would be hard to imagine a government policy that is likely to be more destructive of jobs and economic growth than this one.


How about the President's immediate plans to cripple exploration and new drilling for oil by re-imposing all kinds of taxes and other disincentives. They're all described in detail in his new budget.
2.27.2009 9:08am
deathsinger:
Somedude127

Steven Hayward's paper is based on an 80% reduction from 1990 levels (Kyoto targets), not 2005 levels. It appears the Tribune article is an 83% reduction from 2005 levels.
2.27.2009 9:09am
DiversityHire:
Oh, geez, jukeboxgrad, I didn't know Bob Herbert was an expert on civil engineering, transportation, and energy… oh wait, he's just a washed-up journalist with a column in a failing media outlet. You're right, I should really listen to his paen's to FDR in considering the state of US infrastructure...

Do you think maybe the anti-development quacks that support AGW might have something to do with the prohibitively-high cost of building and maintaining infrastructure? Do you think Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are going to fly in the face of everything the AGW eco-frauds stand-for to improve infrastructure, crumbling or not?

Americans are not yet ready to give up things like power windows and power door locks

They will be in a few years. We're preparing them now. Break-out your cardigan, too, Jukie, we're going down the killer-rabbit hole.
2.27.2009 9:09am
Cardozo'd (www):
This blog is getting more idiotic by the day. Stick to legal analysis boys. Orin is the only one left I respect.

The response to this post is simple. Who cares about jobs and economic growth when you can't live on the planet anymore?

The all might bottom line...the spark of every empires collapse.
2.27.2009 9:10am
deathsinger:
preader,


* sequestering the remaining stationary-source emissions


I have worked with Alstom on their CO2 sequestration project. In a word, forget it. Basically you turn a 100 MW plant into a 65 MW plant. Which means to just keep pace, we would need an additional 50% power generation for all the fossil fuel generation facilities that we currently have. Never happen.

Second, when you devise where we put all of that CO2, let someone know. EOR works great, but is not available in the Northeast and very little in the Midwest.
2.27.2009 9:14am
DiversityHire:
There was once a time when people thought that walking on the moon was just too hard, and wasn't going to happen anytime soon was a really great way to squander taxpayer money

So we strapped some fools on a beefed-up ICBM, flew-em to the moon and promptly lost interest. The Apollo program was cancelled, another government boondoggle—a cool boondoggle, but so was the XB70.
2.27.2009 9:15am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
diversity:

I didn't know Bob Herbert was an expert on civil engineering, transportation, and energy


I'm not quoting Bob Herbert. I'm quoting Felix Rohatyn. He's the one who said "the nation is falling apart." I'll take his word over the word of some guy on a blog. Let us know how your resume compares with his.

Do you think maybe the anti-development quacks that support AGW might have something to do with the prohibitively-high cost of building and maintaining infrastructure?


No.

Break-out your cardigan


I never took it off. As a result I have more money in my pocket than the people who did.

So we strapped some fools on a beefed-up ICBM, flew-em to the moon and promptly lost interest. The Apollo program was cancelled, another government boondoggle—a cool boondoggle, but so was the XB70.


I'm sure you have something equally flippant to say about the uselessness of the interstate highway system.

Try learning something about the history of the technology you're using: "The Apollo Guidance Computer was the first to make use of integrated circuits, and NASA's use of ICs helped make the integrated circuit commercially viable." ICs are now everywhere, and they've changed the world.

The Apollo program is one of the main reasons you're not using a steam-powered computer. And since you know nothing about that, I guess you also have no understanding of how the internet started, and the government's role in helping that happen. And yes, Al Gore's important role.
2.27.2009 9:25am
Ariel:
martinned,

Carbon trading is by far the most efficient and liberty-friendly way of reducing carbon emissions. Libertarians of all people should recognise that.

Libertarians would probably be more in favor of a carbon tax than cap and trade, if they had to choose. Relative to cap and trade, it has the libertarian advantage of being transparent to the consumer/taxpayer. It also has the paternalistic libertarian advantage of encouraging savings by taxing consumption.

***

Questions for the pro-AGW folks:
- I've read that even if we go through with this, the effect on CO2 levels will be less than a fraction of a percent and ditto for global warming. Why bother?
- The US has done better in reducing carbon emissions than the cap-and-traders in Europe, at least since the Bush administration. Again, why fix it if ain't broke?
2.27.2009 9:30am
Joe T. Guest:
The president says that the new health programs aren't going to cost anything because they will be offset by new revenues from cap and trade. Where does the $680 million for the cap &trade come from? My understanding is that when you stick it to corporations, they pass the cost on to customers.

So in reality, we will be paying ~$500 billion for the "downpayment" on a new health care system, along with $680 billion annually for the cap &trade system that is going to 'offset' the cost of the health care system. Unless unicorns are going to deliver this money from HopenChangeland, somebody has to pay the bill for both programs. I suspect that the Administration considers taxpayers to be unicorns. That works out to $1.18 trillion in new annual spending (minimum; it doesn't take into account future baseline increases) that we will have to cover through direct or indirect taxes each year. That's a $25% increase in the budget. It doesn't include all the other insane new programs started up by Porkulus.

You know, I almost don't even care at this point. As all my liberal friends very intelligently point out, "shut up, we won." I feel malice toward them and at this point care more about seeing the people who have foisted this disaster on us destroyed, than I do about my own prosperity, since my modest middle class life is about to be wiped out. I'm particularly looking forward to hearing my left wing big firm partner / Obama donor friends bitching about this. They don't realize that they just voted themselves into the enemy class. Good for them. I hope they enjoy it, the stupid bastards.
2.27.2009 9:30am
martinned (mail) (www):

Libertarians would probably be more in favor of a carbon tax than cap and trade, if they had to choose. Relative to cap and trade, it has the libertarian advantage of being transparent to the consumer/taxpayer. It also has the paternalistic libertarian advantage of encouraging savings by taxing consumption.

On the other hand, the "trade" part of cap-and-trade gives citizens the choice between reducing emissions and buying an emission quota, which is a good thing in its own right, not to mention that it tends to put the quotas in the hands of those who have the highest marginal cost of carbon reduction, increasing efficiency. The incentives associated with a carbon tax are much less efficient, since they tax high cost reducers and low cost reducers equally.
2.27.2009 9:33am
Eli Rabett (www):
The UK met office has put out a nice 9 page (actually only seven of text and one of them is very large print) pamphlet about climate change. Eli thinks there is one mistake

This is a pretty good discussion. The group has moved into the third stage of denial, can't do anything about it, from the first two: it doesn't exist, too small to worry about.
2.27.2009 9:39am
Oren:

Fission is politically impossible, at least right now, unfortunately.

That's the beauty of cap and trade or carbon tax (preferred, but meh) -- the increased costs of fossil-fuel based power will make nuclear power more attractive by comparison.

What do you think the nuclear risk premium is, in terms of $/KWH -- i.e. at what relative prices will consumers want to switch?
2.27.2009 9:44am
Oren:

The incentives associated with a carbon tax are much less efficient, since they tax high cost reducers and low cost reducers equally.

The European system leads me to believe that this added efficiency is washed out by the bureaucratic inefficiency and regulatory capture (e.g. the decision of how to dish out the permits in the first place).

Link
2.27.2009 9:48am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
joe:

My understanding is that when you stick it to corporations, they pass the cost on to customers.


My understanding is that this righty talking point is getting a bit stale.

Whether or not a given cost is effectively passed on to customers depends on a lot of factors that are hard to predict. Unless the product is quite unique, or unless the company enjoys some kind of monopoly, competitive pressures often require the company to absorb extra costs. This means the cost is passed to shareholders, not customers.

Most corporate wealth is owned by the top 1% of households (link). So to a great extent that's the group what will suffer the burden of the extra cost. My heart bleeds for them.

That works out to $1.18 trillion in new annual spending


Which is not much, compared with the $8 trillion that was added to the national debt by Reagan, Bush and Bush. Also not much when compared with the $2 trillion cost of Bush's tax cuts for the rich. Or the $3 trillion for a war we didn't need, paid for by money we didn't have.

You should remember what Cheney said: "deficits don't matter." But you spoke up and complained when he said that, right?
2.27.2009 9:54am
DiversityHire:
I'm quoting Felix Rohatyn
Who is a retired banker and diplomat. What, he has a hobby inspecting bridges and tunnels?

Don't rely on the NASA propaganda site for your "facts". NASA didn't invent the IC. But they did give us Tang! I don't have a problem with space flight, I have a problem with government-sponsored manned-space flight: it's pointless and wasteful beyond the short-lived PR. Except that every so often a space shuttle blows-up for a new generation of school children, teaching them a good lesson on relying on the government for your o-rings or styrofoam.


The Apollo program is one of the main reasons you're not using a steam-powered computer

Nonsense. Missiles and planes need guidance systems, too. Apollo was pure marketing, dwarfed by the military industrial complex from which it sprang. Without Apollo, useful, unmanned missions could have been undertaken instead to further basic research and understanding at less cost. I won't underestimate the importance of the military in accelerating technological development, but neither would I claim that it was or is necessary for technological progress to be made.

The interstate highway system is another boondoggle, with a "national security" justification. The hub-and-spoke system created soulless edge cities with little hope of ever being integrated with a more efficient mass transit system. Long haul freight shifted from railways to truckers. Millions of acres of land were needlessly carved and paved. Why?

Big, dumb-ass solutions to big problems inevitably produce bigger, more intractable problems.

As a result I have more money in my pocket than the people who did.

Good, you're going to need it to help pay my neighbor's sub-prime mortgage on his mcmansion while he commutes 40 miles each way on the interstate highway system in his Cadillac Escalade to his job monitoring the superfund site rockwell left behind after they no longer had the Space Shuttle teat to feed off of.
2.27.2009 9:57am
NaG (mail):
Why is anyone getting worked up over a policy goal set by a politician for 40 years into the future? This is a complete waste of time for the following reasons:

1. Arguing that the goal is impossible under current technology forgets that technology will progress over those 40 years and may even generate some new development that would make the goal feasible.

2. The argument that a policy goal, if reached, would have results that are politically unpalatable (the drastic reduction of business and wealth in America), forgets the fact that there is no way that the politically unpalatable result will be reached before someone changes the policy's course. Does anyone really think that American politicians will allow the American economy to be "destroyed?" They are already falling all over themselves to find a way to stop the current downturn. There is simply no way that the 40-year policy goal will politically win out over the day-to-day performance of the economy. Any policy goal that leads to politically unsustainable results will be scrapped.

It's not just the skeptics making these logical mistakes. Global warming alarmists consistently pretend that humans are too dumb to come up with technological solutions to the perceived global warming problem, and that we'll just stand there looking confused while ocean levels rise instead of doing something about it. Of course, the alarmists aren't interested in practical solutions as much as they are interested in changing (punishing?) human behavior. If we developed a way to counteract the effect of human emissions without having to decrease those emissions at all, you can bet that Al Gore and his ilk aren't going to be too excited about it. But that, in fact, is far more likely to happen than a wholesale coversion of our energy usage, especially throughout the world.
2.27.2009 10:06am
DiversityHire:
You should remember what Cheney said: "deficits don't matter."

"Bush was a crazy deficit spender,too", is no argument for enabling our same behaviors under a new president. Although it does align nicely with the argument that the best way to deal with a nation of debt-laden spendthrifts is to centralize all the debt in one giant federal spendthrift so the spendthrifts can get back to borrowing and spending their way out of the crisis they wrought.
2.27.2009 10:07am
martinned (mail) (www):

The European system leads me to believe that this added efficiency is washed out by the bureaucratic inefficiency and regulatory capture (e.g. the decision of how to dish out the permits in the first place).

Whether the current European system is the hallmark of what cap-and-trade should look like is a conversation for another day. I was just wondering something else: How efficient and unpolitical do you think a (carbon) tax is?
2.27.2009 10:10am
David Drake:
JBG:


There was once a time when people thought that walking on the moon was just too hard, and wasn't going to happen anytime soon, because of "thermodynamics."


Do you know what 'thermodynamics' means?
2.27.2009 10:37am
Tony Tutins (mail):

Tony, stop trying to sound smart and pushing the Global Warming stick. ... Like the fact that article you linked to was written in March of 2006.

And the significance of that fact would be?

My Swiss friend tells me that, since the sixties, their glaciers have disappeared so much they are trying to tarp up the remaining ones to preserve them. There's been no glacier regrowth -- anywhere around the world -- that I know of.
2.27.2009 10:41am
Joe T. Guest:
My understanding is that this righty talking point is getting a bit stale.

Who pays for products and services? Seriously. Do corporations just print money to pay for the things they have to purchase to create goods and services?

I guess the nature of how business operates - that the end user ultimately pays for all the inputs into a product - is just a stale tired old righty talking point.

Please do me one favor. While we're discussing imaginary right wing notions, could you please tell me how a carbon tax is going to offset a tax to build a new health care system under the budget? Because in the imaginary stale right wing world of double entry bookkeeping - something we stale right wingers tend to adhere to - a cost doesn't offset other costs. They tend to be sorted into the same column.
2.27.2009 10:43am
DiversityHire:
My Swiss friend tells me…

My medieval Viking friend says it's still too cold for him back home, he's staying in Mallorca 'til things are back to normal.
2.27.2009 10:47am
martinned (mail) (www):

I guess the nature of how business operates - that the end user ultimately pays for all the inputs into a product - is just a stale tired old righty talking point.

Unfortunately I couldn't find a good Wiki page to enlighten you, so I guess you'll have to DYODR. Any good microeconomics text should have a section on the influence of various kinds of taxes, like lump-sum taxes and sales taxes, on the efficiency of various types of markets. Under perfect competition, profit is zero before and after the tax, so the adaptation runs through the number of firms supplying and the size of demand, with the price in the long run going up by the size of the sales tax. Under some degree of market power, on the other hand, the fact that individual firms face a downward sloping demand curve means that some of the tax will be paid out of the firm's profits. I.e. the introduction of a tax leads to a lower quantity traded at a higher price, but also to lower profits.
Under either type of market, by the way, an emissions tax or a cap-and-trade system would have the effect of giving firms an incentive to innovate to reduce their emissions, so as to reduce their tax burden and increase their profits.
2.27.2009 10:57am
Tony Tutins (mail):

how a carbon tax is going to offset a tax to build a new health care system under the budget?

The same way tobacco taxes are funding health care for children -- addicts have to pay only as long as they remain addicted.
2.27.2009 11:02am
Eli Rabett (www):
Oren raises half a good question


What do you think the nuclear risk premium is, in terms of $/KWH -- i.e. at what relative prices will consumers want to switch?


The other half is what the risk premium is in continuing to burn fossil fuels.
2.27.2009 11:24am
Joe T. Guest:

The same way tobacco taxes are funding health care for children -- addicts have to pay only as long as they remain addicted.


Oh, so we only need to give up carbon, and the 680 billion expenditure for cap &trade programs will stop paying for the 520 billion expenditure for health care. Okay. And corporations will give up carbon because the cost of doing so will be covered by their presumably windfall profits from trading carbon credits, and find plenty of room in those windfall profits to generate transformative energy and power technology. I presume we're really close to major breakthroughs in non-carbon based power and energy generation, which are both cost feasible and environmentally friendly (e.g. easy on the rivers unlike hydro, not massively expensive and weather dependent like large scale solar and wind, and not messy to clean up like nuclear). So my utility bills wont rise because the local utility will develop a substitute for coal, gas, or oil power generation out of their profit margins, and we can count on them not to pass the cost on to moi.

Excellent.

Thanks for explaining how I won't be paying for either expenditure. I'd thought they would amount to tax hikes related to increases in federal outlays, assessed either through income or a new corporation-directed carbon tax. But it makes perfect sense now, that corporations will pay taxes (and capital development costs) out of profits and not pass on their costs to consumers. I guess the reality of that is just too difficult for me to understand.
2.27.2009 11:26am
martinned (mail) (www):

I guess the reality of that is just too difficult for me to understand.

Reality often is. That is why I prefer not to second guess the IPCC.
2.27.2009 11:33am
Elliot123 (mail):
"so I hardly find the WSJ or the AEI to be a credible source on the costs of reducing global warming."

What is a credible source?
2.27.2009 11:41am
martinned (mail) (www):

What is a credible source?

How about dispassionate academic research?
2.27.2009 11:44am
DangerMouse:
I feel malice toward them and at this point care more about seeing the people who have foisted this disaster on us destroyed, than I do about my own prosperity, since my modest middle class life is about to be wiped out. I'm particularly looking forward to hearing my left wing big firm partner / Obama donor friends bitching about this. They don't realize that they just voted themselves into the enemy class. Good for them. I hope they enjoy it, the stupid bastards.

This situation has been a long time coming, at least from the conservative side. Liberals have long viewed conservatives as "the enemy" that "should be destroyed." Why else would they preach continuously against the American way of life? Bashing traditional Americanism, dead white men like the Founders, traditional morality, individualism and capitalism, what you eat, what you drive, how you live, etc. Libs are revolutionaries that see all of us as objects to be played with. They inherently dehumanitize you. You're just an object to them and it's about time you realized it.
2.27.2009 11:47am
Elliot123 (mail):
"Thus the world's present measured resources of uranium (5.5 Mt) in the cost category somewhat below present spot prices and used only in conventional reactors, are enough to last for over 80 years."

The first sentence of the next paragraph says:

"There was very little uranium exploration between 1985 and 2005, so the significant increase in exploration effort that we are now seeing could readily double the known economic resources."

The fourth paragraph of the study says:

"Changes in costs or prices, or further exploration, may alter measured resource figures markedly. At ten times the current price, seawater might become a potential source of vast amounts of uranium. Thus, any predictions of the future availability of any mineral, including uranium, which are based on current cost and price data and current geological knowledge are likely to be extremely conservative."
2.27.2009 11:54am
Oren:

How efficient and unpolitical do you think a (carbon) tax is?

Well, a revenue-neutral carbon tax has a lot of appeal to conservatives now that Mass v. EPA and Obama have guaranteed that something will happen and they want it to be something they can get behind.

Of course, it goes without saying that if Bush &Co. had passed a sensible carbon control scheme, it would be much more palatable to conservatives as well. Their preference for temporary inaction means they will have to live with long-term policies that run against their preferences.
2.27.2009 12:01pm
Oren:
Elliot, reprocessing spent fuel into plutonium could easily power us for 1000 years at current levels of growth. Just because one ignorant peanut farmer decided to ban the process doesn't make it a dead letter.
2.27.2009 12:02pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"How about dispassionate academic research?"

Your link is to the main page of SSRN. Is it your contention everything on SSRN is dispassionate academic research?
2.27.2009 12:02pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@Oren: My point was that I don't see why a carbon tax would be more transparent, less costly to operate or less vulnerable to all sorts of politicking than a cap-and-trade system, once you get it running. In carbon-trading, many liberal tree huggers see a free pass for anyone to buy their way out of contributing, but the more sensible perspective I'd expect from various conservatives and/or liberaterians is that it is a mechanism to ensure that abatement takes place where it can be done most cheaply. Why would anyone on my side of the political spectrum prefer the tax?
2.27.2009 12:07pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@Elliot123: The thing wouldn't link to the search results page. My contention is that you're encouraged to find dispassionate academic research on SSRN using whatever yardstick you trust. (Affiliation, conclusions, academic discipline, etc.)
2.27.2009 12:09pm
Michael Ejercito (mail) (www):
Would it not be much, much easier to simply detonate the entirety of the American nuclear arsenal at the Nellis testing site?

According to the TTAPS study, this will
reduce worldwide temperatures. Unlike global warming theory, TTAPS is based on the soundest of sciences.


Of course, the alarmists aren't interested in practical solutions as much as they are interested in changing (punishing?) human behavior

This is true.

The alarmists would no doubt claim that the TTAPS study was a hoax.
2.27.2009 12:11pm
Dan Weber (www):
Carbon emissions are not generated sole for electrical power generation -- much and most of our transportation infrastructure is carbon-based. Almost every car or truck or semi on the road today, and every railroad car, would need to be altered.

How will we ever replace all our cars by the year 2050? I know I had to swerve through a bunch of 1968 cars on my morning commute.

(Ack, Sarcastro is getting to me.)

It'd also require at least 300 new nuclear electrical power plants (assuming an equal decrease in non-electrical carbon emissions and no new demand) and vast changes to the infrastructure of the electrical grid.

If cars charge at night, the current grid, right now, is ready to accept some 80% of the population switching to electric cars.

As far as running out of uranium, even if we couldn't dig any more up or mine it from the ocean, there are breeder reactors, which most other countries use perfectly well.
2.27.2009 12:23pm
Steve H (mail):

This situation has been a long time coming, at least from the conservative side. Liberals have long viewed conservatives as "the enemy" that "should be destroyed." Why else would they preach continuously against the American way of life? Bashing traditional Americanism, dead white men like the Founders, traditional morality, individualism and capitalism, what you eat, what you drive, how you live, etc. Libs are revolutionaries that see all of us as objects to be played with. They inherently dehumanitize you. You're just an object to them and it's about time you realized it.


Wow.

Sarcastro, I think you used the wrong name on your post.
2.27.2009 12:48pm
Oren:

Why would anyone on my side of the political spectrum prefer the tax?

I don't know what side is yours, but I would accept the inefficiency of the tax (due to not moving abatement to where its cheapest) if the alternative was a cap and trade system where the permits were allocated based on which industries lived in a District/State in which the Representative/Senator was on the Energy Subcommittee instead of by any rational means or auction (just as an example of the most horrible result).
2.27.2009 12:49pm
martinned (mail) (www):

I would accept the inefficiency of the tax (due to not moving abatement to where its cheapest) if the alternative was a cap and trade system where the permits were allocated based on which industries lived in a District/State in which the Representative/Senator was on the Energy Subcommittee instead of by any rational means or auction (just as an example of the most horrible result).

Apart from the fact that this sounds more like a good reason to push for a proper cap-and-trade system (or for Proportionate Representation), how about a carbon tax that is too low to actually do anything, that is full of exemptions for industries who don't really have an alternative (because they're the ones who would buy the quotas in a cap-and-trade system and/or because they're the ones who employ a lot of people in the chairman's district) and that is never ever going to be budget neutral?
2.27.2009 1:09pm
Kazinski:
If Obama really does care about GHG emissions then his infrastructure based stimulus plan is exactly the wrong thing to do. Concrete production is emits enormous amounts of CO2:

The manufacture of cement produces about 0.9 pounds of CO2 for every pound of cement. Since cement is only a fraction of the constituents in concrete, manufacturing a cubic yard of concrete (about 3900 lbs) is responsible for emitting about 400 lbs of CO2.
2.27.2009 1:11pm
Oren:

Carbon emissions are not generated sole for electrical power generation -- much and most of our transportation infrastructure is carbon-based. Almost every car or truck or semi on the road today, and every railroad car, would need to be altered.

Low hanging fruit first, then the tougher ones. Switching the 50% of our electric power that comes from coal to nuclear is (a) feasible with given technology and (b) economical with a very mild increase in the price of power.
2.27.2009 1:14pm
Dan Weber (www):
Making a good carbon tax is at least as easy as a good cap-and-trade. And they are a lot easier to figure out when they have been packed full of loopholes.

A carbon tax is pretty easy to set up by just taxing oil, gas, and coal companies. It gets a little trickier when you have to deal with things like firewood companies, but it's still a walk in the park compared to setting up cap-and-trade on all of them.

The only advantage I see for cap-and-trade is that it gives power to our trading and regulatory classes.
2.27.2009 1:23pm
FWB (mail):
The total industrialized emissions of C per year are around 6 billion tons. Sounds like a lot. Each human produces 0.5 tons by breathing. Every cow, etc.

The atmosphere contains over 820 billion tons of C at any given instant. The annual output of C from industrial sources amounts to 0.73% of atmospheric. The daily output is 0.002% of atmospheric.

The oceans contain 42,000 billion tons of C much as carbonates and bicarbonates, with some as frozen methane. The partitioning factor is 0.0196 to 1 (atm to ocean). Simply warming the top 10 cm of the oceans by 0.1 degree releases a couple hundred thousand tons of CO2 due to temperature affects on solubility.

The only thing occurring in the area of carbon taxes is a desire but those in charge to grab more power. Science by consensus is not science. After 30+ yrs as a scientist (PhD environmental chem) I am appalled at the lack of knowledge, wisdom, and professionalism exhibited by scientists today. As I continue to read and study the claims of the "Chicken Littles" I see a mix of outright lies and ignorance in the dynamics of the Earth as a system.

Dominus providebit!
2.27.2009 1:25pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
What NaG said. Everyone on both sides is hyper for nothing.

O also promised to cure cancer. He made many, many promises, many of which are in conflict with each other.

Events also have a way of getting in the way. See President Bush's humble/no nation building
foreign policy for example.

The world of 2050 will no more resemble O's plans than the RocketPack I should have used today resembles my car.
2.27.2009 1:34pm
martinned (mail) (www):

A carbon tax is pretty easy to set up by just taxing oil, gas, and coal companies.

Actually no, that's no good. If you tax oil, gas and coal instead of the emissions, you remove any incentive to innovate in the direction of less emission per quantity of fuel.
2.27.2009 1:34pm
Piano_JAM (mail):
There's been no glacier regrowth -- anywhere around the world -- that I know of.
Well Tony, one learns something new every day. Here are some places where glaciers are growing:

http://www.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF16/1678.html
http://www.thestar.com/News/World/article/457637

NOte, as google search of glacier growing has 1.3 million hits. Guess there are 1 or 2 growing.
2.27.2009 1:55pm
Dan Weber (www):
A carbon tax is pretty easy to set up by just taxing oil, gas, and coal companies.

Actually no, that's no good. If you tax oil, gas and coal instead of the emissions, you remove any incentive to innovate in the direction of less emission per quantity of fuel.
Huh?

I'm not talking about taxing those companies based on their profits or market cap. It's a flat tax on the amount of carbon that will be released from the fuel they sell.

If one unit of gasoline makes X tons of CO2 and the CO2 tax is 10 cents per ton, then a company that sells a million units of gasoline pays $100,000.

There's not much to be done to "innovate to less emission per quantity of fuel." When the energy is extracted from gasoline, it emits a given amount of CO2. You can't really change the basic chemistry.

(Okay, you could do sequestration, but if that ever happens it will happen at very large facilities.)
2.27.2009 2:18pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@Dan Weber: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I would imagine the emission per unit of gasoline (to stick with that example) depends greatly depending on how you use it. AFAIK, turning oil into plastic produces virtually no carbon emissions. Beyond that, I'm admittedly out of my area of expertise, but I would imagine it matters whether the oil gets turned into kerosine, gasoline or diesel fuel, and in what circumstances it is burned. I would imagine the ratio of energy obtained to CO2 produced to be more fixed than the ratio of either to the volume of fuel consumed.

In the end, though, the problem is still that it involves some bureaucrat deciding from behind his desk how much CO2 is produced by a gallon of gas, instead of giving companies the opportunity to prove they can do better.
2.27.2009 2:26pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Piano jam has put my worries to an end:

MOUNT SHASTA, Calif.--Global warming is shrinking glaciers all over the world, but the seven tongues of ice creeping down Mount Shasta's flanks are a rare exception: they are the only known glaciers in the continental U.S. that are growing.

To get a perspective on the size of Mt. Shasta's glaciers, an Alaska scientist at the meeting figured all the ice on Mt. Shasta equals about what Alaska's Columbia Glacier calves into the ocean every two or three days.
2.27.2009 2:31pm
Dan Weber (www):
Okay, I think I see where you're coming from.

My thesis is that the tax should happen as soon as its clear what is becoming of the product.

If I'm a refinery selling gasoline for gas stations, we know exactly what CO2 will come out of that output.

From each barrel of crude oil I will also make other products, which might become plastics and lubricants and the such. We can treat those as separate products if we wish.

(These issues exist even with cap-and-trade.)
2.27.2009 2:46pm
autolykos:

The argument that a policy goal, if reached, would have results that are politically unpalatable (the drastic reduction of business and wealth in America), forgets the fact that there is no way that the politically unpalatable result will be reached before someone changes the policy's course. Does anyone really think that American politicians will allow the American economy to be "destroyed?" They are already falling all over themselves to find a way to stop the current downturn.


Yeah, um, I like your optimism, but experience suggests the contrary. Politicians (American or otherwise) are like teenage drivers. When they see another car barreling towards them, they rarely adjust course as soon as possible. They wait until the last possible second, either wreaking the car or at least giving everyone a big jolt.

I could give you any number of examples (our current economic crisis (largely brought on by the collapse of a massive housing bubble), the pending social security disaster (is there any doubt that anybody knows it's going to be a mess and that the more politicians will wait, the more painful it will be to fix?), the rise of national socialism (thanks Neville!), the collapse of Argentina's dollar-peso peg, etc., etc., etc.), but, to continue the analogy, I'd rather the driver not start on the collision course in the first place than worry about how jolted I'm going to be when they finally (i) figure out it's a problem and (ii) decide to do something about it.
2.27.2009 2:57pm
Steve H (mail):

If I'm a refinery selling gasoline for gas stations, we know exactly what CO2 will come out of that output.


Are you sure that's true? Don't some cars have lower emissions than others, even accounting for gas mileage?

Or are those differences dealing with pollutants other than CO2?
2.27.2009 3:04pm
Dan Weber (www):
Steve H:

CO2 is CO2. It must go someplace.

There are indeed other pollutants, like NOx and CO, that a catalytic converter takes care of. (It changes the CO into CO2, for the irony-minded.)

We've also got the category of "particulates" which can be a real PITA to deal with, and some theorize that particulates are more responsible for GW than CO2.

And I haven't even gotten to diesel and the trade-offs it creates.
2.27.2009 3:14pm
Eli Rabett (www):

"The oceans contain 42,000 billion tons of C much as carbonates and bicarbonates, with some as frozen methane. The partitioning factor is 0.0196 to 1 (atm to ocean). Simply warming the top 10 cm of the oceans by 0.1 degree releases a couple hundred thousand tons of CO2 due to temperature affects on solubility. "

Is one of those mathematician things, you know the joke where a bunch of guys in a balloon are lost, spot someone down below and ask him where they were the answer being "Up in the air in a balloon" They know he is a mathematician, the answer is perfectly true and perfectly useless.

However, it is even better than that, packing enough deception into a few lines to save us from nuclear war.

Carbon in the ocean is partitioned into the surface layer and the deep ocean. In the surface layer, the amount of CO2/carbonates are about the same as in the atmosphere (look up carbon cycle on google if you want numbers)

Almost all of the carbon is in the deep ocean, and it takes thousands of years for it to come into equilibrium with the three smaller surface sinks soil, atmosphere and upper ocean.

And oh yes, a couple of hundred thousand tons, just how does that compare with the billions of tons emitted by combustion each year. Worse, try and fit the amount of energy needed to heat that top 10 cm of ocean, even if you could do it without warming the entire upper ocean underneath. Convection is a bitch if you don't sleep with George Will.
2.27.2009 3:14pm
erikjay (mail) (www):
The same kind of folks developing all the computer models of our doom also predicted we'd be dead by now, remember? Which brings up another (tangential) point: Why does anyone listen to Paul Ehrlich anymore, anyway? I am reminded of W. Pauli's famous remark apropos of membrane theory, or some tributary of the superstring research funding stream ... to the effect that it's so bad, it's "not even wrong." The continuing attempts to predict the future will, of course, fail. Where's Julian Simon when we need him? Oh, I forgot. He was lucky enough to die and miss all this crap. A last thought: This site is home (hostel?) to the cognoscenti, right? Consider the confusion, then, among hoi polloi regarding any of these issues. They've tuned out. They're watching Oprah. Sigh.
2.27.2009 4:00pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
diversity:

Who is a retired banker and diplomat. What, he has a hobby inspecting bridges and tunnels?


What, you have a hobby posting baloney on the internet? When you demonstrate that your resume is comparable to his, then I'll consider your opinions as credible as his.

Don't rely on the NASA propaganda site for your "facts".


Yes, it's obviously a much better idea to rely on undocumented claims presented by an anonymous blog commenter.

NASA didn't invent the IC.


I didn't say they did. I said they played an important role in the early development of the IC. And that's a fact.

You can read about the early history of ICs at the Computer History Museum: "NASA's Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was the most significant early project."

More about the government's role in the development of ICs, from Caltech:

[MIT] Instrumentation Laboratory engineers first began designing the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) in August 1961. Digital computer design was an exciting and relatively young discipline, while integrated circuits using silicon transistors had only just arrived on the marketplace. The most significant buyer in that marketplace was the federal government, which, besides procuring integrated circuits for explicitly military digital computers, spent millions of dollars to help MIT and Raytheon explore these radical new technologies for peaceful space exploration.


By the way, many other technology spinoffs from the space program are listed here.

"Bush was a crazy deficit spender,too", is no argument for enabling our same behaviors under a new president.


That's not my point. My point is about separating the people making sincere complaints from the people who are just indulging in the usual partisan whining. Those who sat on their hands while Reagan, Bush and Bush added $8 trillion to the national debt are in the latter category.

================
drake:

Do you know what 'thermodynamics' means?


Do you know what "metaphor" means?

================
joe:

I guess the nature of how business operates - that the end user ultimately pays for all the inputs into a product - is just a stale tired old righty talking point.


I guess you live on one of those perfect, theoretical planets where a company never chooses to sell a product under cost, or is forced to sell a product under cost, for all sorts of short-term and long-term reasons.

No, it is not always the case "that the end user ultimately pays for all the inputs into a product." That describes the way things should be, but in the real world it often doesn't work that way. If all companies were always successful at conveying all their costs to their customers, then companies would never fail.

As martinned said: "some of the tax will be paid out of the firm's profits." Which means that shareholders, not customers, are paying that portion of the cost.

in the imaginary stale right wing world of double entry bookkeeping - something we stale right wingers tend to adhere to


You mean as demonstrated by what you "stale right wingers" did while Reagan, Bush and Bush added $8 trillion to the national debt?

================
Sarcastro, I think you used the wrong name on your post.


I've noticed that sarcastro and dangermouse have never been photographed together.

================
piano:

as google search of glacier growing has 1.3 million hits. Guess there are 1 or 2 growing


Here's an example of the kind of sentence that will be returned as part of those "1.3 million hits:"

While there is a small percentage of growing glaciers, the overwhelming majority are shrinking. And more importantly, the shrinking trend is increasing (eg - 77% in 2002, 94% in 2003).


That was the second link.

Guess you need to review some basic concepts of how language works, and how google works.
2.27.2009 4:15pm
Dreadnaught (www):
With any luck we will bring our economy back to pre-1700 levels.
2.27.2009 4:32pm
DiversityHire:
What, you have a hobby posting baloney on the internet? When you demonstrate that your resume is comparable to his, then I'll consider your opinions as credible as his.

Huh, i'm not real comfortable with arguments from authority. I have no doubt infrastructure in the US needs development and improvment, but it's not "crumbling"—I hate that phrase. And I don't think the environmentalists who have thwarted development are suddenly going to roll over and play dead, no matter who asks. If the bulk of infrastructure spending doesn't end up in brick, steel, mortar, and asphalt, then its just a waste.

I didn't say they did. I said they played an important role in the early development of the IC. And that's a fact.

OK.

The trip to the moon was a side-show, diverting funds to space tourism that could have been spent on real research and development. We would have got to the microcomputer with or without Apollo. How many hubbles, voyagers, mars rovers, could be funded for the cost of the manned space program?

I'm not saying going to the moon wasn't great, cool, useful. But was it really the best use of taxpayers' dollars? No. Not narrowly in relation to other space exploration projects or broadly in relation to other concerns. Does it matter? Not a lot one way or the other. Like I said, we went there, the public quickly lost interest, the program got shut down. If only every government boondoggle followed the same path :)
2.27.2009 4:46pm
DiversityHire:
... partisan whining. Those who sat on their hands while Reagan, Bush and Bush added $8 trillion to the national debt are in the latter category.

But you're playing the same partisan game, aren't you? If you think its a bad thing that Republicans ran-up the national debt, then shouldn't you acknowledge that Clinton shouldn't have and Obama should not run up the national debt. If you think its not such a big deal to run up the debt when Obama does it, shouldn't you acknowledge that you agree with Dick Cheney? And that Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama are playing the same game?

Or do you just want partisans on one side to shut up so that partisans on the other can enjoy Obama's moment in the sun?
2.27.2009 4:56pm
D.R.M.:
If it goes War on Poverty well, then we've got something like 30-40% cut.

Actually, no.

Using the observed poverty rate data from here (1947 through 1996) and here (1959 through 2006), create two regressions of poverty rate as a function of the year. For the first, use the 1947-1964 rates, for the second, 1965-2006. (Note that in all cases, this uses the constant-dollar fixed poverty level.)

You know what you find? From 1949 to 1964 (the year the War on Poverty started), poverty was declining at a rate of -0.89 percentage points a year, with an incredibly high correlation coefficient of -0.98 between the year and the poverty rate. At that standing rate, poverty, as defined, would have been wiped out in America in 1984.

Now, in 1964, we started the War on Poverty. The 1965-2006 regression indicates an annual decrease in poverty of 0.00%. So, ever since the War on Poverty started, there has been no decline in poverty, just fluctuation around the level that existed when the War on Poverty came into effect.

The most generous assessment of the War on Poverty, then is that it has done nothing to reduce poverty, but at least we've made the lives of the poor more comfortable. The least generous assessment is that the War on Poverty, by instituting subsidies for poverty, made poverty-related behaviors more attractive enough that it preserved poverty against its natural extinction.
2.27.2009 5:14pm
Suzy (mail):
No hyperbole here at all. I fully expect American business to be "destroyed". Luckily I'll be very old by then and my kids can inherit the problem. I can fathom no other possibility aside from this outcome.
2.27.2009 5:18pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Any geologists here? Do volcanos release carbon? How much carbon would be released by an average sized volcano eruption? How many years worth of Obama's carbon savings could be replaced by a volcano?
2.27.2009 5:30pm
Eli Rabett (www):
The USGS (you know, the guys that Bobby J dissed) have a really good website on volcanoes certainly worth poking around on

Comparison of CO2 emissions from volcanoes vs. human activities.
Scientists have calculated that volcanoes emit between about 130-230 million tonnes (145-255 million tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (Gerlach, 1999, 1991). This estimate includes both subaerial and submarine volcanoes, about in equal amounts. Emissions of CO2 by human activities, including fossil fuel burning, cement production, and gas flaring, amount to about 27 billion tonnes per year (30 billion tons) [ ( Marland, et al., 2006) - The reference gives the amount of released carbon (C), rather than CO2, through 2003.]. Human activities release more than 130 times the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanoes--the equivalent of more than 8,000 additional volcanoes like Kilauea (Kilauea emits about 3.3 million tonnes/year)! (Gerlach et. al., 2002)


This is under the tag "Effects"

Given that we are emitting over 100 times more than volcanoes, if we had a reduction of 80%, folks would still be emitting 20x volcano. (BTW, if you are new at this, the question is an evergreen)
2.27.2009 6:13pm
PQuincy1:
Elliot, I don't know the answer to your question, but I do remember an anecdote from the 1980s. You may recall that Mt. St. Helens blew its top in 1980, and then-President Reagan opined that ",i.I have...a suspicion that that one little mountain has probably released more sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere of the world than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind that people are so concerned about."

As reported at the time, Mount St. Helens at its peak activity emitted about 2,000 tons of sulphur dioxide per day, compared with 81,000 tons per day by cars. [widely cited in sites hostile to Reagan, so to be taken with care]

Volcanos really do emit pollution, including carbon in various forms, and it probably matters. But we tend to overlook the effect of the huge number of human beings on this planet, whose individual small contributions to all sorts of processes add up to very very large numbers.

Quoting the Seattle Times, in a 2002 article: "Compared to man-made sources, though, volcanoes' contribution to climate change is minuscule...Mount St. Helens produces between 500 and 1,000 tons a day of carbon dioxide...[T]he Centralia coal plant puts out about 28,000 tons a day. Statewide, automobiles, industries, and residential and business heating systems emit nearly 10 times that amount."
2.27.2009 6:31pm
PQuincy1:
Jim's "pre-1700" levels requires a bit of thought, and is quite interesting.

In 1700, of course, energy used per capita (or total) was much much lower than in any modern industrial society, so at first glance, the claim that we would need to return per capita emissions to such a level sounds frightening.

But HOW did humans produce and consume energy in 1700? They heated by burning wood, mostly, or peat or (rarely outside England) coal. They generated transportation energy with horses or oxen -- the latter, in particular, notorious CO2 producers, especially when measured compared to their unit output of motive power. Metal production relied on charcoal, which was produced by inefficiently burning wood, then burning it again. In short, while energy use was low, the forms of production were grossly inefficient and concentrated on methods that had very highly negative carbon consequences -- not just combustion, but deforestation (most of Europe was deforested in 1700).

It would be, for me, a genuinely interesting exercise to reflect on the divergent quotients for amount versus carbon efficiency. (Anyone who wants to get a quantitative handle on wood as an energy source around 1600 should read Paul Warde's 2006 book; more broadly, on pre-modern energy sources, probably Ken Pomeranz's _Great Divergence_.)
2.27.2009 6:38pm
Tim Fowler (www):
Cornellian - Re: "Moot point, since all our manufacturing is already done in China anyway."

Not true. The US manufactures significantly more than China, or any other country, and also much more than we did decades ago. We just employ a lot less manufacturing workers to do it.
2.27.2009 7:33pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Gogling a bit brought this interesting bit:

"Within three weeks of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, the largest volcanic blast of the century, a band of sulfur aerosol had encircled the globe. By early 1992, the volcanic gases and aerosols had diffused through the stratosphere, veiling the earth. During that time, global carbon dioxide levels fell more sharply than any other decline on record."
2.27.2009 8:09pm
bluecollarguy:
If carbon dioxide is a nasty GHG then dihydrogen monoxide is the devil of all GHG's. Any word yet on when SCOTUS will weigh in?
2.27.2009 9:03pm
Eli Rabett (www):
The USGS site has the data on SO2 emissions from Mt St Helens
An estimated 1.5 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide gas was discharged by Mount St. Helens during the explosive eruption of 18 May 1980. Thus, approximately 2 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide was released during the whole eruption sequence.


You can see world SO2 emissions here There are detailed data bases for the interested
2.27.2009 9:54pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'My Swiss friend tells me that, since the sixties, their glaciers have disappeared so much they are trying to tarp up the remaining ones to preserve them. There's been no glacier regrowth -- anywhere around the world -- that I know of.'

Tony, read Le Roy Ladurie's 'Times of Feast, Times of Famine,' which proves with incontrovertible evidence (like medieval chapels being uncovered as the glaciers retreat) that glaciers were even more absent in the eastern Jura a thousand years ago.

Even if the glaciers are retreating today, the implications for carbon in the atmosphere are 0.
2.27.2009 10:50pm

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