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Opinion

Opinion

Letter: Cutting carbon

October 26, 2013

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To the editor:

The U.N.’s fifth major Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out in late September. Top scientists from 200 nations reported four takeaways: The past three decades are the hottest since the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1850; in the past two decades the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic have steadily lost mass while glaciers are rapidly shrinking across the world; and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased to levels unprecedented in the last 800,000 years and sea levels are likely to rise three feet by the end of the century.

These peer-reviewed findings are what distinguishes science from opinion. The Nobel Prize-winning IPCC panel reported with 95 percent certainty that human activity is causing global warming, and 1,400 climate scientists have come out in support of the need to take action.

Powerful carbon producers promote deniers like pseudo-scientist Fred Singer of the Heartland Institute. He was also the expert scientific witness who denied the connection of smoking and cancer. Citizens Climate Lobby has a clear solution: increase the price of carbon. We work for one goal: revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend legislation. This means, tax carbon at the well, the mine and the port and return those revenues as a dividend payment equally distributed to all citizens.  Heavy users will not receive any more than moderate or miserly carbon users. The goal is miserly carbon use and more renewables.

Comments

George Lippencott 1 year, 1 month ago

Revenue neutral carbon tax??? That means that the middle class in Kansas takes a quadruple hit. They pay the tax through their carbon heavy utilities. They get back a smaller portion of the "dividend" because they are too wealthy. Their "dividend" is further reduced by the costs of administering the tax. They also have to pay to replace the carbon heavy utilities at a pace that will place a heavy drain on their resources.

The answer is a prioritized national program committing resources to the areas of the country generating the highest concentration of carbon. Nobody is evil in generating our carbon heavy economy. If it is public policy to reduce carbon emissions than it should be paid by a broad based, shared public tax.

Now if things go as in the past I will be attacked and educated (unneeded) on the emissions problem. We are not talking emissions but tax policy. What we have here are young people who do not pay taxes or pay utilities lemming like following an effort by the Democrats to avoid the objections of those of us they want to stick with the bill. This is just another major income redistribution program disguised as an environmental savior. If we want to do it - it should be done by all in a prioritized way without penalty to any segment of the country.

Chris Golledge 1 year, 1 month ago

Or, you could go with a system where those contributing more to the problem pay more, rather than giving more control to the government.

Ken Lassman 1 year, 1 month ago

Quadruple hit, George? I'm afraid you are wrong on all 4 counts, at least with the proposals that I've seen. While there are regional differences between carbon emissions to produce power, the differences are minor enough that regional adjustments in the fee could easily "level the playing field." If it is a straight refund returned to the taxpayer via the IRS, there is very little overhead involved as the mechanisms are already in place to do that, just as with the stimulus check we all received. And the amount received does not depend on the amount that the taxpayer earns, rather it is a lump sum that is divided by the number of taxpayers, with regional adjustments as described above. An alternative dividend discussed in some circles would be to use the fees to reduce payroll taxes, which would be income dependent, but if you earned more it seems that you would benefit more, not less. Furthermore, a reduction in payroll taxes would create an additional economic boost to the business community that certainly doesn't hurt.

I have no idea what you are talking about when you say that folks would have to pay to replace the carbon heavy utilities at a pace that will place a heavy drain on their resources. Folks can choose to use their dividends to invest in cost effective energy efficiency measures, and because the proposals I've read about are implementing the fee at a predictable, gradually increasing rate, this should stimulate the marketplace to gear up with cost effective ways to reduce energy waste and deploy renewable alternatives at a way that would be much more efficient than any other way of transitioning to a lower carbon future.

So we're talking about a market driven transition that finances the transition through a gradual increase in the price of carbon, or a top down approach of giving the money to the feds to come up with a solution for us all and then count on them to roll out their solutions somehow to transform the way we produce energy by fiat. I just don't see the attraction or feasibility there.

George Lippencott 1 year, 1 month ago

Yes, your argument is exactly what the zealots argue. Reality will be different.

The federal government, who must levy the tax, will be concerned with the poor who will be heavily impacted and will redirect resources to the poor. We in Kansas will pay a lot more because we are carbon heavy while those elsewhere not as carbon heavy will pay less but we will get the same dividend (whatever is left over after the government raids the pot). There will be absolutely irresistible pressures to raid the pot still, further for research and debt retirement.

Your theory while enticing, ignores the disparate impacts on different parts of the country as those people try to convert to "renewables" ( many of which are not ready for prime time).

The political reality is that the middle class will see the pot depleted by redistribution, research, administrative costs and debt reduction. We in Kansas will pay more tax, get little back and will still have to pay for the costs of converting to "renewables"!

I want to be simple and fair. If the country wants conversions than all of us should pay. Those who through no fault of their own are heavily carbon dependent should be subsidized by the rest who want this goal met. Punishing people for absolutely legal and appropriate decisions made a century ago is the notion of academics not politicians - who will get fired if they try.

A national program for a national problem funded by a national tax paid by everyone.

George Lippencott 1 year, 1 month ago

The worse part of this is that while we are arguing over silly academic solutions to a very big problem we are diverted from other more equitable, timely, tested and fair approaches. Just add a surtax to the income tax.

George Lippencott 1 year, 1 month ago

By the by, there is no market for the largest contributor to carbon - our utilities. Just about all of them are government run or government controlled. Trying to use a market solution for a product where no market exists is the height of stupidity.

They already tax us through our utility bills. That tax will increase to add renewables and gradually phase out heavy carbon generators. Regulation and public opinion will drive that 'Tax" as we try to balance bankrupting utility users while addressing the problem expeditiously. For some, like here in Kansas. the cost may just be too much - hence a national program to supplement those areas of the country where the impact of transition is punishing.

A national program also will be needed to create a transmission system to enable those areas where renewables make sense with those areas where renewables may be cost prohibitive. Once we have a robust system then the market can take over.

Ken Lassman 1 year, 1 month ago

Your argument about zealots doesn't warrant a response as it is no more than name calling.

What is your point about the feds being concerned about the poor? Because they lead a less carbon intensive lifestyle, and because the the dividend is divided up by the number of taxpayers, not the amount of carbon you use, the average low income citizen will receive a dividend that will more than cover the increased costs of the carbon fee and they'll end up ahead. I've given you several analyses that show that regional differences turn out to be quite minor and could easily be adjusted to be eliminated if needed, but your only response so far is outright dismissal without anything to back you up, so without any evidence to the contrary, your argument falls flat.

You have concerns about how irresistible it will be to raid the pot for research (never has been part of the plan) and overhead (which will be minimal just as it was for the stimulus check sent out by the already existing IRS infrastructure) in a simple fee and dividend program, and yet you are advocating a new national tax to fund a new top-down federal revamping of the energy production and distribution system. Why you think the policy you are promoting would be less susceptible to these same pressures is beyond me--I can make a very strong case that the pressures will be much greater in your scenario.

I don't see why you think that the marketplace-driven transformation of our energy production and expenditures is so much less reliable than something that the federal government would develop. Most likely the infrastructure transformation will be a private-public collaboration, with private innovation being stimulated by the increasing carbon dividend that is distributed to the consumer, generating new jobs in the manufacturing and building sectors.

Furthermore you provide no evidence that there is any political appetite on either side of the aisle for a new federal tax to create a new centralized federal program. Talk about dead on arrival. At least the carbon fee and dividend concept is generating interest on both sides of the aisle, a real rarity these days.

You also seem to lack any real grasp of the potential for a much more energy efficient grid and distributed energy production network that is developing thanks to the new realities of renewables. I suggest you check out www.rmi.org and look at their "reinventing fire" section to get a better idea of how viable these options have become and where things are heading.

George Lippencott 1 year, 1 month ago

Well,

  1. You are advoicatiung not mne. I jus toffered an alternbative
  2. If there is no appetite for a normal tax approach top thios ntional pronbbblem perhaps you hav enotg convinced enough peopel thbta they need to invest in a solution
  3. Traiangualtiuon (Clinb ton) ie finding a concensus among those with no penalty in order to force those with a panmalty to do something . Goopd democratic peocess
  4. I gev eyou five reasons why a market based approach is not a good idea to include the fact - fact- that the bifggest carbo0n generator - our utilities - is not in a true market.

Do you deny thta we in Kansa will pay more an dghet back less then those in arteas of the country that are not carbon intensive. How do you knoe thta Congress will not redicrect resource to0 pat projects sinc ehistorically they almost always do Thje poor will ne impoacted by a carbon tax becasue they use energy6 and energy is in almost everythinbg they use. If we increse thje costs of energy artifically throeu a tax then it behooves us to protect thos epeople from the cosequences 0 and I assue you our politicians will be focused on thta.

What you prtopose ios a wonderful idea if this was truely a market and it would impact peopel more or less equally. It does not. Even on its'f face if the Congres soinly pased a tax it woulr be inequitable as thos ein carbon intensiv erares would ened up paying alot of un rturned money while those in less intense areas might get back more thna they paid. Why. The only reason I can imaginm eis ythta you want to punish the carbon intensiv epopulation as if theyh did sopmething wrong.

Coem out of academia and focus on consequences. The goal is to address a unevenly distributuion of heavy carbon generatores. A focues and prioritized approach that ionitially addess thos egenerators is the most practicalay and equitable way to go.

George Lippencott 1 year, 1 month ago

Well I see that my unedited rough typed version ended up here dispite my efforts to correct. Sorry.

Scott Burkhart 1 year, 1 month ago

Here we go again. The U.N. says this and the IPCC says that. The models and the conclusions on climate change are flawed because those that run these programs will only consider data that proves their predetermined conclusions. The international "climate change" cabal is only a power grabbing, wealth redistributionist enclave set out to take from countries that have and give to countries that don't. Save you breath Tony, more and more of us are no longer listening to the international lies.

Chris Golledge 1 year, 1 month ago

Scott, your understanding of the history is lacking. There was already strong agreement that humans were causing the climate to change before the IPCC was formed. You never answered my request to specify what was wrong with the history I gave you.
http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/global-warming-from-a-conceptual-standpoint/2013/jun/22/a-brief-history/ You are wrong to presume the climate models are the strongest evidence we have; the strongest evidence we have comes from studies about what the earth has done in the past. It sounds to me that you have bought into the lies being told by the ones telling you what you want to hear.

Tony Schmidt 1 year, 1 month ago

Joining the discussion late. I wrote this letter to the editor as a report of facts that to me are as close as science can provide. It has occurred to me that I should have started the post acknowledging that nobody wants to pay more for something they have come to take for granted. Climate change is a thorny issue. It reminds me of America's reluctance to become involved in WWII. Once we finally realized the severity of the situation, most American's got on board. In the 1940's people were judged by what they said in the 1930's leading up to the war. Charles Lindbergh was considered a national hero until his very public skepticism of the rise of Nazism. His views were discredited and it was the end of him. Climate change is like the rise of Nazism. It is a BIG problem. As suggested in one contrary comment that instead of a carbon fee, why not a broad based, shared public tax. Ugh, George,that dog won't hunt in this government hating, right leaning political environment. CCL is approaching this from the point of view of reality. A revenue neutral, carbon fee and dividend distributed equally to all citizens. Yes, the larger carbon users will get hit hardest. That is what it takes when we have the threat of a warmer planet due to their actions, whether intended on not.

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