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Adam Stein's Posts

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Whatever its virtues, the gas tax is nearing the end of its life

The post on the mileage tax stirred up a lot of reaction, much of it negative. As it happens, the state of Oregon recently wrapped up a successful trial of a mileage tax system, so for the next few posts I'm going to be relying heavily on an excellent final report on the system (PDF) from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). The primary objection to a mileage tax is that we already have one: it's called the gas tax, and it's easy to administer, fair, and has the added bonus of rewarding fuel-efficient vehicles and driving behavior. ODOT says, …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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WSJ: hacks and handout-seekers hate O's climate plan

Environmental Capital reports that Obama's approach to climate change legislation is foundering, because it's tied to an ambitious social agenda. Which is weird, because Obama's cap-and-trade proposal isn't tied to an ambitious social agenda. Many Democrats are upset that President Obama's budget earmarks most of the $646 billion in cap-and-trade revenue for generic tax cuts and to help fund other programs, rather than for specific help to cushion the blow of increased climate regulation. This is a bit tricky to parse, but it helps if you understand that the word "earmark" here is used to mean "the opposite of an …

Read more: Politics

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A love of delicious farm votes beef crosses ideological boundaries

In December, ranchers fell into a panic over a nonexistent EPA proposal to tax methane emissions from cows. By February, panic was replaced by giggling: how could they every have worried over something so crazy as a "cow tax"? And now, to demonstrate how badly misplaced their fears were, a Democratic and Republican Senator have joined together to enshrine in law the sacred principle that American cows shall never be taxed. Smell the bipartisanship. Including cattle in a cap-and-trade system is, of course, a fine idea. From an environmental perspective, cattle are a major source of a wide range of …

Read more: Uncategorized

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A mileage tax may be the best idea that everyone loves to hate

This sort of flew under the radar, but a few weeks ago a federal commission floated the idea of eventually replacing the gas tax with a tax based on the number of miles driven each year. What happened next was odd: progressives, conservatives, and wonks banded together to proclaim a mileage tax to be a stupid idea. A mileage tax is not a stupid idea. It may prove to be unworkable for technical, political, or even cultural reasons, but at root a mileage tax is both a very good idea and also possibly a necessary one as we undertake a …

Read more: Politics

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The NYT asks: are we shaming our politicians about their lifestyles enough?

Eager to find new ways to trivialize the warming of the planet, the New York Times has been reporting on the carbon footprint of individual politicians and legislatures. They are abetted in this effort by Terra Eco, a French environmental magazine that has calculated British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's footprint to be -- quelle horreur! -- 8,400 tons of CO2 per year. By my calcs, that's about 0.0001 percent of America's carbon footprint, so as soon as Brown buys a bicycle, we should have the climate problem pretty well licked. In the meantime, I applaud Terra Eco's work on this …

Read more: Politics

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$80b per year in carbon revenue to go to clean energy, tax payer rebates

President Obama recently announced a plan to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term, in part by raising revenue through the auctioning of carbon permits under a cap-and-trade system. In one sense, there's no new information here. Obama campaigned heavily on cap-and-trade and he's always favored auctioned permits, so the plan is just a restatement of some prior campaign pledges. Right? Sort of, but this is still a very big deal. The new budget has at least four big implications. The first is purely political. By including carbon revenue in his budget projections, Obama …

Read more: Politics

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Two encouraging signs that global climate treaties might be having the intended effect

Although rumors of its death may be exaggerated, the Kyoto Protocol hasn't so far been anyone's idea of a rip-roaring success. The question remains: is the international treaty fundamentally flawed, or is it a fixer-upper that bureaucrats are slowly tweaking into an effective carbon-fighting regulatory framework? Two pieces of recent evidence boost the fixer-upper view. The first is a report from a prominent research group suggesting that a large part of the European Union's drop in carbon emissions last year are attributable to the cap. EU emissions dropped by 3 percent in 2008. According to New Carbon Finance, 40 percent …

Read more: Uncategorized

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Why the rush to defend this not-so-embattled style of legislation?

Recently the green blogosphere has been engaged in an oddly vigorous defense of command and control style legislation. I'm not sure whether this trendlet grows out of environmentalists' unfortunate habit of ranking and re-ranking and arguing over the ranking of various solutions to climate change; or out of pique that odious people like Charles Krauthammer are pretending to be proponents of carbon pricing; or, as I suspect, out of something else entirely, but I have some good news for supporters of mandates: Both the public and public officials love command and control style legislation. To be sure, the term "command …

Read more: Politics

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Carbon price volatility is a real issue

Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were at it this week, flogging stories about how falling carbon prices are threatening clean technology. I've written before about how easy it is to get distracted by carbon prices, which, under cap-and-trade, are more of a symptom of a broader issue, not a cause. The Journal piece is fairly defensible. The Times piece is fairly hopeless: Another blow to the sector is the tumbling price of permits for emitting carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. In countries where emitters must buy these permits, like those in the European Union, …

Read more: Uncategorized

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Battery makers come begging to Congress

American lithium-ion battery makers, including giants like 3M, are banding together to try to extract a few billion dollars from Congress so they can build a shiny battery manufacturing plant that, for whatever reason, they aren't willing to spend their own money on. This latest handout request is a fairly dubious idea that is nevertheless likely to appeal to a lot of people on grounds of both economic nationalism and a vague aura of environmental goodness. Whatever you think of the request, though, let's at least all agree not to put up with this: "We don't want to go from …

Read more: Uncategorized