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Biotech The Almighty Buck

Is a Carbon Tax a Good Idea? 238

Posted by Cliff
from the emissions-into-dollars dept.
.-.-.- (aka Fullstop) asks: "Cosmos Magazine is reporting that the rate of carbon dioxide emissions has more than doubled since the 1990's. Several researchers fear increased levels may be unstoppable. Australia's national science agency, CSIRO flatly states that current carbon reduction efforts are just not working. Add to this heady mix the fact that Toyota is pushing for a carbon tax and Australia, and the UK, are currently considering one, and a trend begins to emerge. If current reduction methods are not working what will? The United States currently employs a voluntary carbon reduction scheme based on market trading, with very limited corporate participation. Is a carbon tax a good way to stabilize emissions in the face of heretofore failed efforts at stabilization?"
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Is a Carbon Tax a Good Idea?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:10AM (#17014988) Journal
    I was watching the Colbert Report the other day and the CEO from Timberland was on there explaining his carbon neutral stance [nytimes.com] and he sounded quite avid about it. He was clearly agitated from Steven's persona of a right wing nut who couldn't understand. It was more awkward than funny.

    But it caused me to wonder what would happen if I urged the big company I work for (and it is multi-national) to go carbon neutral. Well, on the surface, we don't burn anything. But I thought harder about the thousands of computers we must operate and the kilowatt upon kilowatt of power that is most likely used by each facility. Ok, so (since we can't assume the power company is adjusting for it) we offset [wikipedia.org] the power consumption through planting some trees. Well, how many trees and how much land would this cost? And what about the thousands of computers we buy yearly from Dell or IBM? What about the plastics that go into the casings? And what about the companies that they buy the chips from and where do they buy the ore that's refined to make the silicon chips?

    The more I taxed my brain with this possible carbon neutral proposition, the more it looked like this was going to require a lot of resources. Resources being money. And while we're doing this, some other IT company isn't and we're competing with them to do business with our customers. So my proposition might be passed around at the office as a joke until the CTO got ahold of it and thought about the shareholder and rejected it.

    So before any of you say a carbon tax is stupid because consumers will start to buy the most environmentally friendly products, you're simply wrong. The only way they'll buy it is if the environment is having direct negative impacts on their business. And the irony is that if it does negatively affect their business that means lost profits. And lost profits means they'll have less money to spend on their solutions. So our environmentally friendly services with a carbon neutral company will probably be out of the question if they're more expensive. Tell me, when you buy your computer or your Xbox360/PS3/Wii or your new processor, does carbon neutrality figure into your pricing at all? I'll bet it doesn't.

    And at the end of the day, my coworkers will tell me that there's X number of companies that are worse than us so I shouldn't even worry about it. Or that we don't even need to worry about that because it's the people who make our tools that should be conscious. But we do need to at least think about it. We might even need to worry about it more than others because we're the least obvious target yet the largest base of carbon output. Take Wal-Mart for example. Just look at the trucks they use for their distribution centers. 500 distribution centers across the states with probably thousands of stores--all of those places being supplied regularly from the coasts and producers by truck. Such an easy thing to overlook--especially if they contract those truckers because then it's not their fault, it's not their conscious and they can have articles hailing them as the greenest distribute in the world while the contractor doesn't care because they're doing business with the largest distributor in the world.

    I'm not going to tell you whether or not a carbon tax is a good idea. I'm just going to ask you to tell me what scenario would have to go down for an entire industry to collectively switch to being carbon neutral. And I mean that everybody has to be on board because it will affect price. And when that price goes up, if it doesn't go up across the board, consumers will on average opt for the cheaper product. What would have to be happening to make that consumer stay away from non-carbon neutral compa
    • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:49AM (#17015398) Journal

      The only way they'll buy it is if the environment is having direct negative impacts on their business.

      The whole central problem behind the "carbon" tax is that with the lack of consensus over whether or not fossil fuel emissions are increasing the Greenhouse Effect and producing global average temperature rise -- and frankly, I don't see how it couldn't be having some impact -- there is little or no "tangible" effect that anyone can point to. You can tax alcohol, gasoline, roads, and the like, and people are comfortable with that because they are things they can see. Businesses are not going to hop on the carbon tax bandwagon because most of those who are doing most of the emitting are not convinced it's doing any harm, and those that aren't aren't strong enough to take on the ones who are.

      The carbon tax is a good idea; I just don't think there's enough conclusive evidence that is going to make anyone agree to it.

      • Lack of consensus? (Score:4, Informative)

        by benhocking (724439) <benjaminhocking@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:02AM (#17015528) Homepage Journal
        The whole central problem behind the "carbon" tax is that with the lack of consensus over whether or not fossil fuel emissions are increasing the Greenhouse Effect and producing global average temperature rise -- and frankly, I don't see how it couldn't be having some impact -- there is little or no "tangible" effect that anyone can point to.

        If you subtract those people who are receiving money from fossil fuel companies, then as far as I know there is a total consensus on this issue. In fact, even among those people who DO receive money from the fossil fuel companies, you'll find several scientists who admit that fossil fuel emissions are increasing the Greenhouse Effect. (Go to the bottom of this article [c-ville.com] and see Pat Michaels arguments against Global Warming. Basically it's that "That number [the amount of global warming] is significantly low, and it suggests to me that this becomes a self-limiting issue in the following way: 100 years from now, the technology that runs our society, and powers our society, is going to be radically different than it is today. It will almost certainly be a more efficient, maybe not even a carbon-based fuel society.")

        Now, I know people will call this an ad hominem attack, but if it is, it's valid. Just as it was valid to point out that those scientists who denied that smoking was bad for were being funded by tobacco companies. I say it's valid because for the majority of people who don't actually understand the science themselves, they need to consider the biases of those who provide the information. One on hand you have scientists being largely funded by an administration that has very weak on climate issues, but who still find very strong evidence to support the greenhouse gas theory, and on the other hand you have scientists being funded by ExxonMobil and friends who try to find faults with those arguments. It's also worth pointing out that this same group of scientists first denied global warming was happening, then suggested that it's not due to greenhouse gases, and is now claiming that it's not really that big of a problem. So, if you don't understand the science, who do you believe?

        Personally, I understand the science fairly well. But it's hard to convince those who don't understand it without pointing out to them why some scientists might be deceiving them (either deliberately or otherwise).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Billosaur (927319) *

          Now, I know people will call this an ad hominem attack, but if it is, it's valid. Just as it was valid to point out that those scientists who denied that smoking was bad for were being funded by tobacco companies.

          And sadly, when a doctor claimed smoking was good for them, people believed them. Look, I'm not saying that global average temperature rise is not occurring and more importantly that carbon emissions are not exacerbating the effect of the natural greenhouse system, but I am saying that unless there is a "smoking gun" (no pun intended), the general populace will believe what they are told. If the U.S. Government and the big polluters put their message out there more forcefully, the populace will reassure th

          • If the U.S. Government and the big polluters put their message out there more forcefully, the populace will reassure themselves that everything is fine, no matter how many climatologists are jumping up and down screaming about runaway carbon emissions.

            Although the Bush administration has been far too quiet about it, what has been said by them mainly supports the position of non-ExxonMobil supported scientists - namely, that anthropogenic global warming is real. That said, their silence is almost deafening

          • What you seem to be missing, or perhaps deliberately avoiding, is the fact that there is a "smoking gun". Your previous post implied you did not believe global warming theory and predictions to be accurate. This post seems to indicate that you accept the accuracy of the predictions, you just think we should give up about it because the problem is too big to handle, and everyone with money and authority is against you. Neither of those perspectives is at all helpful, and to some extent they are contradic

            • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:30AM (#17016850) Journal

              Both my posts indicated that while I believe that there may be a causal link between carbon emissions and average global temperature rise, the fact remains that the average person does not see this. The best you can hope for is "it's seems to get hotter every summer." And then of course we have a bitterly cold winter, and people immediately joke "that's global warming for you!"

              What you and I consider adequate proof is no such thing to the average American. They have to be led by the nose -- people are not sitting around their dinner tables (if they even do that anymore) and discussing the effect on the planet's greenhouse system by continuing dependence on fossil fuels. They are blithely accepting what is said, or not said, about the subject, and going about driving their SUVs and throwing away their plastic. I put "smoking gun" in quotes, because the average American wouldn't see the smoke even if their clothes were on fire. Americans as a general rule are short-sighted; because global warming is not inconveniencing them now, they don't see what the trouble is.

              I hate to say it, but Al Gore has done more for the global warming case that all the climatologists. It's that kind of publicity, coupled with evidence of how this is directly impacting them, that is going to change the minds of Americans. Nothing less will do.

        • by testadicazzo (567430) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @11:03AM (#17016372) Homepage

          Personally, I understand the science fairly well. But it's hard to convince those who don't understand it without pointing out to them why some scientists might be deceiving them (either deliberately or otherwise).

          I'm a computational physicist, so I have middling understanding of the science. But I understand the scientific process and politics of science pretty well. I'm always floored by the number of "global warming is a conspiracy invented by scientists to get more funding" posts that show up whenever there's an article on global warming. Knowing what I know about industry funding, if a scientist could come up with valid research that contra-indicated the current consensus regarding global warming, they'd have a pretty easy time getting funding from large oil concerns. In fact it's the deep pockets of the oil industries that are responsible for what little quasi-scientific publications are available.

          My colleagues in atmospheric science know of NO peer revied publications in the last 20 years that indicate global warming is not a threat. There is plenty of disagreement on the details, but no one seems to be disputing the existence or danger of the phenomenon. Can anyone provide a link to any such research?

          To the non-scientists out there, it's true that the peer-review process can lend a certain inertia to scientific biases. The convergence pattern on the charge of electron is pretty canonical example. Rather than approaching the current level of accuracy from both above an below, it approached routinely from above. Scientists tended to introduce a bias towards the initially (too high) measured value. It's not dishonesty... it's a fact that scientists have to discard bad data sometimes, and sometimes it becomes questionable whether you are discarding bad data or introducing bias to get publishable results. That said, well documented, well researched science will get published even if it violates the existing consensus. That's how we get scientific progress. So while the system has flaws, it works pretty well, and I certainly can't come up with a better idea. As another point, in any active area of research, it's unusual to get the kind of consensus one sees in global warming research. Scientists are a contentious lot, and our jobs boil down to questioning assumptions. So the fact that such a strong agreement exists should tell you something.

          Beyond scientific consensus, which is of course often wrong (that's why we get scientific progress), there exist other criteria to evaluate a theory's merit: prediction. A good theory predicts verifiable events or behaviors. I first started reading predictions coming from global warming theory back in the early eighties. Every year now I read about events verifying these predictions. So far, fortunately, only the non-cataclysmic predictions have been verified. This indicates that the theory is not too bad, as many predictions have been successfully verified. It is of course true that the environment is a hugely complex system, and it's possible that important factors were neglected when making relevant simulations and predictions. The question we need to ask ourselves is: do we really want to keep testing the theory to see if the catastrophic ones are also true? I for one vote no.

          There is no downside to researching, studying and working to counter global warming. There are many common sense steps that can be taken to mitigate the problem that will in the end improve our quality of life, even if the catastrophic predictions are false (something I again don't care to verify except in simulation). Reducing emissions is a wonderful idea. Do we need hummers? Lets make smaller, quieter, more efficient vehicles. When we can let's cycle and walk or use trains. Replace all of your light bulbs with energy saving bulbs. Raise awareness. Give gifts of energy saving bulbs to your reticent friends, colleagues, family. If it's practical for you, install a solar water heater in your

    • by salec (791463)
      Generally, anything that saves material and energy expenditure is a step in good direction regarding carbon problem and it also saves money. For instance, telecommuting, public transportation, thermal isolation of buildings, hybrid cars etc. There are some more untried opportunities for savings and instant business success:
      • public cargo transportation service (instead of per-company truck fleets),
      • new construction methods using materials whose production technology does not demand carbon emissions (for ins
  • Anything (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:11AM (#17014996)
    that attempts to reduce consumption of unsustainable energy is worth a shot. If people only respond to the cost of something - if it takes a tax that makes other solutions relatively cheaper - then it's worth investigating.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``Anything that attempts to reduce consumption of unsustainable energy is worth a shot.''

      That's a _very_ dangerous thing to say. There are many dumb and dangerous ideas out there, including ones that sound good but aren't.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lawpoop (604919)
        I totally agree with you, but your sig prompted me to think: What are some of those dangerous ideas, that sound good but actually aren't? I couldn't think of any offhand.

        I'm not talking about "stop giving vaccinations to children to save energy"; I mean proposals that have a chance at getting somewhere.
        • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
          Well, a big move towards nuclear fission as a power source could be one. I'm sure it would cut carbon emissions, but it causes other problems. In the end, the cure might be worse than the disease. I don't know enough of the specifics to know if this is the case, but I do know that toxic waste that will be dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of years is nothing to sneeze at, and that there are concerns about nuclear weapons that could be developed by countries employing fission plants.

          Another candi
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by RsG (809189)

            Well, a big move towards nuclear fission as a power source could be one. I'm sure it would cut carbon emissions, but it causes other problems. In the end, the cure might be worse than the disease. I don't know enough of the specifics to know if this is the case, but I do know that toxic waste that will be dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of years is nothing to sneeze at, and that there are concerns about nuclear weapons that could be developed by countries employing fission plants.

            Eh, the conce

        • What are some of those dangerous ideas, that sound good but actually aren't?

          Pretty much anything involving a politician. Har Har...

          Really, politicians shouldn't be involved at all before the whole thing has been worked out by scientists, economists etc. It should then be presented to the politicians as "the solution" in a way they'll understand. Otherwise they'll fuck it up, they'll take the problem and go use it as "leverage" to gain additional funding which will then be spent in irrelevant and probably counter productive ways for example, the red herring which is the hydrogen eco

      • by Retric (704075)
        There are many dumb and dangerous ideas out there, including ones that sound good but aren't.

        How would you suggest separating the good ideas from those that sound good but aren't. While I agree there are a bunch of ideas that are less useful than they sound I can't think of a good way to test new ideas that works better over time than careful implementation after careful consideration.

        PS: Over time societies that experiment with new ideas tend to do better than those that don't because they adapt to
    • You state that "people only respond to the cost of something" but argue that it should be done regardless of what the people want. That kind of goes against the spirit of a democratic society.

      And you should probably be careful with that "anything" qualifier. Mass genocide would really cut into carbon emissions solely by reducing the number of people who could cause carbon to be emitted.
    • Uh, dude, think about what you just said. The surest way to reduce the consumption of unsustainable energy is to use it up. As oil and coal supplies start to run low (probably less than 20 years for oil, 100 for coal), people will find other alternatives.

      Hell, with the higher energy prices of the last few years, wood stoves have been selling like crazy (here in Minnesota). Not really a great solution to the problem, though. Even the high efficiancy stoves still emit quite a bit of smoke and other fin
      • Well, you're right, but in an incredibly stupid and poorly thought out way. There are two points which are gleefully ignoring. First, the evidence is compelling that if we use said resources as quickly as possible we will make our planet unlivable, or introduce catastrophic consequences which cause massive human and suffering in death. The second point is, it is possible to introduce a catastrophic shortage which causes huge amounts of human suffering, not only through freezing , heat exhaustion, and st

  • Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:16AM (#17015042) Homepage

    I am a firm believer in capitalism. The market will come up with a good solution.

    But the market can only function if all costs involved are part of the price. One way to do this is to have a CO2 tax, provided it is based on the actual CO2 cost of the product, and the money is used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Then the market can decide what to do.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I am a firm believer in capitalism.

      Well, then, you're a nut. Capitalism and communism are totally idealised nonsense based on a world full of people that don't act like human beings.

      • And if you're not going to let people run things because they "don't act like human beings" you run into another sort of idealized nonsense called Despotism.
      • by Scarblac (122480)
        Well, the important part is that the tax should be sufficient to cover the costs of neutralizing the CO2. How people decide to act, given the new prices of things, is their problem.
    • by jimicus (737525)
      The market will come up with a good solution.

      The problem is that the market generally only comes up with a solution when it is glaringly obvious that a solution is needed. "Glaringly obvious" meaning "a lay person can easily see (and mentally connect) the cause and effect".

      Well, the thing about climate change is that a lay person cannot easily connect the cause and effect. It takes years for any change in carbon emissions to have a noticeable effect. To compound this problem, a number of scientists are s
      • by Scarblac (122480)
        Which is exactly why you add a CO2 tax into the price, so that the market can work in its usual way (with people looking for the lowest price).
    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arivanov (12034) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:11AM (#17015642) Homepage

      Absolutely.

      And at the moment the great problem of the free market is that all costs are not part of the price. The only reason we have to buy Chinese instead of European and American goods is that their goods do not have the environmental costs included. They pollute as much as they want dumping toxic chemicals into their rivers which end up in the ocean which we all use. Same for the atmosphere.

      Frankly, f*** carbon. Put excise duty on environmental damage for all goods. The price of the good must include its full recycling cost and damage cost to the environment when producing it. This should be the case regardless of where it is produced. The Earth is not that big, so mercury, cadmium and lead dumped into the Yantze will end up in the tuna on our dinner table in less then 5 years.

      • by slashkitty (21637)
        I support a carbon tax. Especially if it's phased in slowly, so that the market can react correctly.

        All pollution costs are NOT CURRENTLY included in the price of American goods. The main sources of carbon pollution right now are cars and power plants. Everyone seems to think that it's big companies, but, it's not, it's you.

        When there is a dollar attached to the pollution, companies will spend appropriate dollars to correct it (ie. use alternative fuels, or improve efficiency)

        The China problem does not
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ookaze (227977)
        The only reason we have to buy Chinese instead of European and American goods is that their goods do not have the environmental costs included. They pollute as much as they want dumping toxic chemicals into their rivers which end up in the ocean which we all use. Same for the atmosphere

        Excuse me ?
        I agree with everything you said, except that.
        If the environmental cost was added, that's american products we wouldn't buy at all.
        The toxics you talk about come from industrial country like the USA for the most pa
      • by skam240 (789197)
        of course good luck getting any honest answers or figures out of china (or any other country) on how much their industry pollutes.
      • I'm not sure I've ever said this before, but for the most part I agree with both the parent and the gp. And the next root post down that talks about how important China is. (And India too)

        I'd like to add the concept of taxation simplicity, though. As an example, you generally don't want to make, say, a tax on computers because then you make it important whether someone defines something as a computer. Is an XBox a computer? You don't want to put the government in the business of deciding how much car
    • by 0racle (667029)
      Wow. A few hundred years of evidence to the contrary and you're still so trusting.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:17AM (#17015050)
    So are the many other ideas out there for reducing global emissions.

    Ultimately they will all fail if China is not brought on board.

    Australia is seeing massive drought and topsoil erosion due to boneheaded land-management schemes encouraged by the government. The Amazon basin is seeing largescale deforestation due to clearcutting for pastureland as well as hardwood harvesting for construction. Europe is vastly overpopulated and over-farmed that the net margins for farming have gone negative in areas accessible by car.

    The only large land area that has not yet succumbed to land overuse is North America and that's mostly due to the sheer size of the land vs the population. At current consumption levels, a land teeming (as Europe teems) with people would consume the resources of the American landscape and pollute it past the point of no return. You know what that is? That's the point in a journey where it's harder to go back to the beginning than to continue on to the end. It's like when those astronauts got in trouble when they were going to the moon. Somebody messed up or something and they had to get them back to Earth but first they had to go around the moon. They were out of contact for hours. Everybody waited breathlessly to see if a bunch of dead guys in a can would pop out the other side. Well, we're just about to slide past the moon and there's only one country that can change our course.

    China.
    • Duh, we'll just have to pass a bill through congress that implements a carbon tax in China and India only!

      Where do I sign up for one of those cushy political advisor jobs?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Moggyboy (949119)
      Right on, you're absolutely correct. Unfortunately, there is no way that China, India or Australia are going to come to the party on any sort of global environmental policy unless the good ol' U.S of A does first. In the case of China and India, it's simply a case of "we're not going do unless the U.S. does!". Australia has no such excuse, having carbon-per-citizen almost comparable to that of the U.S., but having a prime minister who would jump off the Sydney Harbour Bridge if Dubya did it first (a common
    • by dmatos (232892)
      Waaah! What can I do? I'm only one person. One person can't make a difference in this world.

      Have you seen what China makes? Cheap knock-offs of products from other countries. What happens when those other countries only produce environmentally friendly products? You'll end up with cheap knock-offs of environmentally friendly products.

      Seriously, if the countries that are currently able to invest the money in R&D of carbon-neutral solutions, the entire world benefits. I pay a premium on my electric
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``Ultimately they will all fail if China is not brought on board.''

      Bollocks. Implementing good ideas in all but one place is still better than not implementing them at all. Even if, hypothetically, the Outer Countries (China is the middle country; that's litterally what its name means) all implemented environmentally friendly policies, and all polluting industries moved to China to escape taxes and fines, China would become polluted so quickly that they would implement policies of their own soon enough. In
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:19AM (#17015066)
    I pay enough taxes already. I own a decently efficient car, I ride a train to work (well, I drive 10 miles to the train station each day), and I don't drive much on weekends. If you're going to make a "carbon tax", make it for those assholes that commute 50 miles a day in a Ford Expedition. I have enough taxes already.
    • by TykeClone (668449) *

      They do. It's the gas tax. It's an amazingly fair way of taxing those who drive less efficient vehicles and those who drive more.

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)
        Yes, but this isn't talking about increasing the gas tax, it's about adding a whole new tax. And since it's a "tax" and not a "fee," I can guarantee it'll apply to everyone and not just the people who are causing the problem in the first place. I'm already paying for too much crap, like stadiums and the government putting up "Obey the Speed Limit!" signs on traffic-clogged roads you can't even hit 20 MPH on. I don't want to pay for "carbon." Especially since I'm not pulled in to the whole global warming pan
      • by FatSean (18753)
        They need to pay for blocking my line of sight.

        When an SUV cuts me off, I call in the plate as a drunk driver. You should do the same!
    • True, and that's a reason why voters should demand that IF any carbon tax is passed, it is strictly tied to a reduction in other taxes. It makes no sense to punish people for working, for investing, for starting businesses, for reinvesting the proceeds of their previous investments, etc. but somehow leave a "bad" like carbon off the hook. Also, it seems that carbon tax, if sanely executed (a big if) would hit you by far the least.

      On a semi-related matter, I don't support the idea of "tax gas/carbon to red
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      I own a decently efficient car, I ride a train to work (well, I drive 10 miles to the train station each day), and I don't drive much on weekends.

      Well if that's the case, you don't have much to worry about do you?

      Or, maybe, your carbon footprint is greater than you realize, in which case your actions are incurring a cost that you're currently not paying for. A tax such as this only forces you, the consumer, to pay for your choices. If you don't like it, cut back your consumption or seek out alternatives.
  • If part of an industry that is (very) close to the cause of pollution suggests to take certain actions that mostlikely will cost them money in the short run, then you know something is wrong.
    No sane man would shoot himself in the foot.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by djones101 (1021277)
      No sane man would shoot himself in the foot.
      Tell that to people who were drafted to fight in wars and shot themselves in the foot to get out of having to kill other people.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hal2814 (725639)
      "If part of an industry that is (very) close to the cause of pollution suggests to take certain actions that mostlikely will cost them money in the short run, then you know something is wrong."

      Or you know that car manufacturer runs a cleaner shop than their competitors and will benefit from such a tax. Don't ever think business has more than one goal. Sometimes it's worth it to pay a little more if it means your competitors will pay a lot more.
      • by kabocox (199019)
        "If part of an industry that is (very) close to the cause of pollution suggests to take certain actions that mostlikely will cost them money in the short run, then you know something is wrong."

        Or you know that car manufacturer runs a cleaner shop than their competitors and will benefit from such a tax. Don't ever think business has more than one goal. Sometimes it's worth it to pay a little more if it means your competitors will pay a lot more.


        Car manufacturers would love for a federal law mandating only "n
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:21AM (#17015098)
    At the moment, it's humans who are taxed, human work. Well, tax machine work instead. They do more of the work than we do and they have an unfair tax advantage over humans, never mind their ability to work so much faster.

    http://www.whynot.net/ideas/2195 [whynot.net]

     
  • by s31523 (926314) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:24AM (#17015118)
    how do you know how much CO2 is being dispensed by various companies? Do we seal plants in plastic baggies and measure the CO2 coming out? And what exactly would the tax revenue go towards?
  • Redically reducing our use of fossil fuels is what we need to be doing. The local (and possibly global?) environmental implications are obvious, but for the West the elimination of a financial base of many unstable or anti-Western regiemes has political and economic benefits. I like Richard Branson's strategy to invest heavily in alternative fuels and transport technology.

    Any tax should have extremely rigid rules about how the money would be used and accounted for. Extra cash in politicians coffers is th
  • The first question that comes up in my mind is how this will be enforced. Are we going to send inspectors _everywhere_ to measure carbon emissions?
    • by bcattwoo (737354)
      The first question that comes up in my mind is how this will be enforced. Are we going to send inspectors _everywhere_ to measure carbon emissions?

      The most logical thing to do would be to tax all carbon based fuels. If in the future a reliable carbon dioxide capture and sequestration technology becomes economically feasible, rebates could be offered to companies that install those technologies.
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        ``The most logical thing to do would be to tax all carbon based fuels.''

        So companies that burn carbon based fuels (BTW, you should really tax fossil fuels, not all carbon fuels) will do so abroad. You will lose the tax income, but still suffer from the global warming...perhaps even more of it, because more transportation may be necessary.
  • Yep ... except (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:44AM (#17015346) Homepage
    Environmentalists hate the only real solution (nuclear power in case you're doubting that) even more.

    It supposedly costs even more, because it costs "infinite" because of the supposed need to maintain storage infinitely. But that way of thinking just ignores progress completely.

    And have you seen the movies about nuclear power ? Obviously it's evil !

    At the very least, nuclear power can bridge the gap in energy supply until fusion power becomes available.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by scum-e-bag (211846)
      This is a major debate in Australia at the moment. The government ordered a study be undertaken into the future role of Nuclear Power for Australia. The greenpeace crew are all against Nuclear Power. It takes a lot to shift their view. Even when I confront them with Page 79 Figure 7.5 of the resultant report and explain to them that a Nuclear Power plant generates half as much greenhouse pollution as a Solar Power plant, 10 times less than gas power and 20 times less than coal... they are still against
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``Environmentalists hate the only real solution (nuclear power in case you're doubting that) even more.''

      I refuse to accept something as a "real solution" when it generates toxic waste that remains dangerously radioactive for tens of thousands of years.

      In another post, you claim that nuclear fission, fossil fuels, and, in some areas, hydro power are our only options.

      What about bio fuels? Grow crops, burn them, or process them into fuel and burn that. Carbon neutral (you release only carbon that you first ex
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cliffski (65094)
      Its not the 'only' real solution. I'l believe its the required solution when...

      people dont drive an SUV to drop the kids off at school
      shops arent lit allthrough the night
      shops dont have heating on in winter and doors left open
      incandescent lightbulbs are seen as a quaint thing from yesteryear
      A computer doing word processing doesnt ship with a 500watt PSU
      Tomatoes don't travel 2000 miles (often by air) to get to my plate

      Energy efficiency is an easy way to reduce carbon emmissions, and requires pretty much no h
  • The EU ETS is badly implemented at the moment, but it really just needs tweaked a bit. Reduce the caps, allocate on a per capita basis rather than allow governments to decide how much to allocate.

     
  • by 7times9 (955358) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:51AM (#17015406)

    One of the leading campaigners in this area is George Monbiot [monbiot.com], he has thought [turnuptheheat.org] about how industrialised countries can make a 90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

    In a recent article entitled Here's the Plan [monbiot.com] he set out 10 steps to achieve this while changing our every day life as little as possible.

    Instead of carbon tax he suggests:

    ...set a personal carbon ration. Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane tickets. If he runs out, he must buy the rest from someone who has used less than his quota(2). This accounts for about 40% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The rest is auctioned off to companies. It's a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the Emissions Trading Scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful incentive to demand low-carbon technologies. Timescale: a full scheme in place by January 2009.

    This scheme would not penalise the poor as carbon taxes might because they would be able to sell off their surplus rations.

    • Then also include the amount of plants that one has in the house/garden as extra on top of the quota.
      I have 28 plants of various sizes in my apartment, even had 52 two summers ago so I've probably been attributing to more oxygen and air filtering than I used personally. (a mandatory qouta of plants in every apartment is also an idea I've been thinking about as a small part of a sci-fi novel)
    • Yes because rationing is a great idea.

      Ok now that I stepped out of WWII era lets get real, most people don't care about co2 in any specific way. Personaly I don't think it's anywhere near the huge issue people believe it to be. Global warming may or may not occur and it may or may not be a bag thing, it would be change and we all know how scary that is. now lets look at reality all this bad co2 is coming from fossil fuels and that co2 has been tied up in the earth for millions of years. What do we use t
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``It's a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the Emissions Trading Scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful incentive to demand low-carbon technologies.''

      However, it requires setting standards for emissions. How do the standards get determined? Planned economies don't usually work so well...
    • by ookaze (227977)
      This scheme would not penalise the poor as carbon taxes might because they would be able to sell off their surplus rations

      You got to be kidding.
      Rations without big control (like in the army) means higher criminality most of the time, related to the goods rationed.
  • I believe in biofuels. Grow crops, optionally process them, and you've got fuel that's carbon neutral when you burn it. If you choose your crops right, this can be cheaper than burning fossil fuels. Harmful emissions are also reduced (there's loads of crap in fossil fuels).

    The biggest problem with biofuels at the moment is that we aren't choosing our crops right: we're using crops with low energy yields (soy, maize, rape seed), and heavily subsidizing them and/or taxing (foreign) alternatives (e.g. sugar ca
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      The biggest problem with biofuels at the moment is that we aren't choosing our crops right: we're using crops with low energy yields (soy, maize, rape seed), and heavily subsidizing them and/or taxing (foreign) alternatives (e.g. sugar cane) to make our crops "competitive". The effect is, of course, that it costs society money (even those who don't use the crops we grow) and keeps other countries poor. That's no way to go.

      Aha! I see your confusion. You see, you're looking at biofuels as a solution to glob
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        ``Aha! I see your confusion. You see, you're looking at biofuels as a solution to global warming, pollution, etc. Politicians and lobbyists, however, see it as yet another way to pump more money into the declining farming industry in places like the United States.'' ...and the EU, too. Yes, this is clearly what's happening. However, I do believe this will change, seeing that one can produce more fuel from the same land area when other crops are used. More fuel == more revenue, especially with stupid subsidi
  • 1. Make hybrid car with less carbon-exhaust
    2. Promote hybrid car, get people interested
    3. Lobby for law that taxes carbon-exhaust
    4. ???
    5. Profit !

    (smug mode on)Lucky I already drive one :) (smug mode off) Prrrt... snifff... ah... [wikipedia.org]
  • Yes, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @09:57AM (#17015478) Homepage Journal
    What I'd really like to see is this:
    1. A carbon tax, levied on the f*ng idiots who drive SUVs in the city. Ideally, I'd like this tax to be paid each year, and it's amount to be directly proportional to the oil consumption of the car? Own an SUV? Fine, that will be 50% of its price, every year, as long as you own it. Own an hybrid/highly efficient/electric car? Fine, that will be 5% of its price every year. Don't own a car? Using your feet/your bike/ mass transit? OK, no taxes for you.
    2. A carbon and pollution tax, levied on the industries that pollute the atmosphere, water and soil. Same principle as above: send an (independent) team to assess the damage and tax the company accordingly. The more CO2 and pollutants are released, the higher the tax. Inefficient industries will go under and/or will be forced to streamline their productions pretty fast unless they want to pay enormous taxes.
      And let me tell you one thing: most big companies can afford to lose money for a couple of years in order to lower their pollution rate -- sure, it's going to be painful, but everyone will benefit in the log term. Oh, and no outsourcing polluting plants to poorer countries either: the tax should be levied globally, if necessary by using estimates. Outsourcing to, say, India, in order to pollute freely? Sorry, bub, all your plants in India are now considered as "high" or "extremely high pollution": that will US$ 45 million. On the other hand, extremely efficient and non-polluting industries will win.

    Still ideally, I'd like the revenue from these taxes to be used to plant trees, create recycling and de-polluting plants, and optimize natural resource usage. Other worthy uses are scientific and technical: developing renewable resources and developing the technologies needed to clean behind us most of the pollutants we have been dumping on Earth for the past 100+ years.

    The key point is this: whether you believe in Global Warming or not (I do) the fact is that the Earth is Dying(tm). If we don't force the big companies -- and the individual citizens -- to face up to this fact, all solutions we'll apply to this problem will be too little, too late. There are solutions available right now . Carbon Tax is one of them, and it's probably one of the most effective.

    And... Wait for it... Creating new technologies and optimizing our resources consumption may actually increase the wealth of everyone, by creating new jobs and improving/cleaning our habitat.

    Of course, I am not holding my breath: most politicians will never have the guts nor the gonads to sign a Carbon Tax into law. We'll probably come around to it once the Earth is so polluted and the climate so out of whack it will taxation or death.
    • It seems to me that you're overcomplicating things. Once you start introducing brackets and reduced rates for things that meet certain criteria. you introduce opportunities for loopholes, backdoors and malicious acts. Consider the whole SUV thing where 50k hummer owners can get a 38k tax break because the hummer meets some critieria outside of the spirit of the tax law. Also consider big "farm trucks" and other vehicles that get reduced penalties because they'll be used commercially, or on a farm, when in r
      • by Noryungi (70322)

        You have a point, but consider this: we know how much a car (SUV, truck, etc) consume gas -- on average -- in a given year. From this gas consumption, we can deduce what kind of pollution is going to be released. Let's say, 10 or 20 tons of CO2 par year. That's the number we will use. No ifs, no buts, no loophole. All you need is a standardized government lab (Government can be a good thing in this case) to test the consumption and pollution of every car. And cars that are not sold anymore -- but are still
        • by Peden (753161)
          Relax dude, stop with the SUV hating. What you propose is a tax on gas, it would meet all the demands you set. If you drive an inefficient(fuel wise) vehicle you pay a bigger tax, than if you drive a Prius or a bicycle. But the real problem here is: How are you going to control the tax? Who's getting all that money? Greenpeace? The windmill companies? Solar power plants? The children? How are you going to control that they will not just be what every other tax is, an excuse for power and cashgrab from the
        • by bcattwoo (737354)
          You are still making it more complicated than it needs to be. For instance, why are car owners taxed on the basis of the value of their car if the goal is to target gas usage? That will more likely just drive down the price of SUVs. Plus it doesn't take into account that grandma's 15 mpg Lincoln driven 10 miles a week is doing a lot less harm than Joe-environmentalist's 400 miles a week in his 50 mpg Prius.

          If you want to discourage the burning of carbon based fuels, then tax the fuels themselves. Thus e
    • by kabocox (199019)
      The key point is this: whether you believe in Global Warming or not (I do) the fact is that the Earth is Dying(tm). If we don't force the big companies -- and the individual citizens -- to face up to this fact, all solutions we'll apply to this problem will be too little, too late. There are solutions available right now . Carbon Tax is one of them, and it's probably one of the most effective.

      This is total BS. The Earth's ecosystem isn't in any danger of dying. Let's be really honest though. The global envi
      • Human life isn't important at all to the Earth's ecosystem

        Unless you're one of the Humans.

        It doesn't matter if the earth's ecosystem recovers or not if all the humans are dead. And it really doesn't matter what the cause of the climate change is, human or natural if the earth's climate changes to a point where it can no longer support human life; we're all gone. If there's something we can do about it and we don't because we keep saying "We don't know that were the cause", we're stupid deserve what we get

  • The whole idea of basing China's output using a "per person" formula is just dumb. Its being done to mask the amount of pollution China is creating, supposedly they will exceed the US within 2 years (finding that citation should not be too hard)

    A "tax" won't do anything but pass the costs to the consumer indirectly. Worse most schemes invented allow for corporations to buy and sell "pollution credit" with other companies. In other words, a tax just furthers the activity. Instead of stopping it you just
    • by thona (556334)
      ::The whole idea of basing China's output using a "per person" formula is just dumb. Its being done to mask the amount of pollution China is creating, ::supposedly they will exceed the US within 2 years (finding that citation should not be too hard)

      And brutually speaking, given that they are multiple times the amount of people in the US (what are we talking here? factor of 4? 5?) they have every damn right to produce pollution similar to the US.

      • by Quila (201335)

        given that they are multiple times the amount of people in the US (what are we talking here? factor of 4? 5?) they have every damn right to produce pollution similar to the US.

        They achieve this by having about half their workforce in agriculture, much of it not industrialized. The equivalent of half the US population is homeless migrant farm workers, the same number being below poverty level. I would understand the comparison if they actually had a fully industrialized economy like we do, but even with that

    • So, basically, you're suggesting a grandfather clause? Countries that are already industrialized get to continue benig industrialized, but those who aren't can't become industrialized because you set their emission goals based off them not being industrialized? You are familiar with the history of grandfather clauses [wikipedia.org], aren't you?

  • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda&etoyoc,com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @10:04AM (#17015556) Homepage Journal
    Before anyone starts on about the need for a carbon tax, we need to address the Billions that go into subsidizing our consumption habits. I'm speaking of Americans in particular, beyond the war on "terror", highway funding, and preferential tax status of oil companies, we also directly subsidize these companies that are taking us for billions in retail.

    I say eliminate all of the special subsidies, odd tax loopholes, and other artificial advantages that make Fossil fuel desireable. And then the market will finally be able to sort it all out.
  • With all taxes the question is not whether it is good or bad. Almost all taxes have a negative influence influence on the economy seen in isolation. On the other hand, almost all government spending has a positive influence on the economy. And obvious and popular combination, spending without taxing, is very positive on the short term, but undermines the entire system on the long term.

    The real question for any tax is therefore, are the consequences of the tax worse or better than other taxes.
    It is quite
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 28, 2006 @01:59PM (#17019876) Homepage Journal
    Won't someone think of the trees????
  • How to get'r done (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eccles (932) on Wednesday November 29, 2006 @03:13PM (#17037810) Journal
    The goal of the carbon tax is to reduce C02 creation, not to raise revenue. So don't make it do the latter. Collect the tax as specified (based on amount of C02 created), but then every year, every U.S. citizen gets a check -- 1/300,000,000 of the taxes collected. After all, we're the ones getting damaged by its creation!

    Why is this good? First, it reduces the "it's just a tax increase in disguise" critics (who otherwise have a point.) This also lessens the argument about how much the tax should be, since most of it's "coming back" -- it's not the gov't trying to sneak in a tax increase. Second, think how fond many people are of their tax refund check, and here's a new (and guaranteed) one! (Sadly, casinos and the lottery office will do quite well on the day the checks arrive.) Third, if you do create carbon, you're paying for it, so it's no longer a class warfare/guilt trip issue, at least as far as CO2 is concerned.

Gee, Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

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