Charles Komanoff

Charles Komanoff is the co-founder of the Carbon Tax Center. For more information, click here.

Climate & Energy

In defense of a carbon tax

In response to David Roberts' post outlining why a carbon tax could be tricky to pull off, two proponents of the policy offer 10 reasons why we should still push for one.

Climate Policy

What’s the matter with elasticities? (Answer: maybe nothing)

Price-elasticities — dimensionless parameters that express the extent to which a price increase triggers a usage decrease — are central to policies that aim to reduce a harmful activity by internalizing its damage into its price. The efficacy of carbon fees, congestion tolls, cigarette taxes, and the like turns on the proposition that the toll or tax will dampen consumption by more than a token amount. If the price-elasticity is close to zero, then the fee devolves to a revenue-raiser that will never fulfill the purpose of reducing the harm. But if there’s at least a modicum of underlying price-responsiveness, …

It keeps going and going and going

If efficiency hasn't cut energy use, then what?

One of the most penetrating critiques of energy-efficiency dogma you'll ever read is in this week's New Yorker. "The efficiency dilemma," by David Owen, has this provocative subtitle: "If our machines use less energy, will we just use them more?" Owen's answer is a resounding, iconoclastic, and probably correct Yes.

Bloggers, heal thyselves

Defending lifestyle changes: who's delusional on saving energy?

Two New York Times blogs, Green and Dot Earth, are flogging a new study that chides energy-conserving Americans for succumbing to a set of "myths" prioritizing behavioral changes over efficiency upgrades. One supposed myth is that line-drying saves more energy than washing the clothes in cooler water. Huh?

Dr. Gore, Medicine Man?

Gore’s climate remedy must match diagnosis

Al Gore’s eminence in the global climate movement is on impressive display in his full-throated defense of climate science in Sunday’s New York Times. His essay, “We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change,” is triple the paper’s standard length for op-eds. Only Gore could command such a bully pulpit, and probably no one else could so powerfully restore the sense of urgency that has seeped out of climate policy over the past year. In Gore’s essay, the triple debacles of Climategate, Copenhagen, and Congress fall into perspective, and the moral high ground is regained for a renewed U.S. legislative effort to …

Memo to North Dakota

To unlock wind power, put a price on carbon

A stone marker in Rugby, N.D. identifies the town as the “Geographic Center of the North American Continent.” No marker identifies the state as one of America’s top two or three in wind-power potential. Yet North Dakota’s vast expanses and steady winds endow it with the capacity to generate more than half as much electricity as all 50 states currently produce from all sources combined, according to a recent Harvard study of U.S. wind energy potential. Indeed, that potential, equivalent to 2.6 trillion kilowatt-hours annually, is almost 100 times greater than the current output of the state’s coal- and lignite-fired …

Wanted: Cloudsplitter

Waxman-Markey: ‘80% less by 2050’ is too hard, let’s do 46%

I’ve read humongous books in my time, most memorably Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks’ magisterial cinderblock-sized novel of John Brown, the anti-slavery warrior whose “Bloody Kansas” campaign in the 1850s helped provoke the Civil War. The similarly supersized Waxman-Markey bill couldn’t be more different – not just in genre, but in attitude. Where Brown gave his life to abolish slavery, the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009″ seems intent on postponing Americans’ day of reckoning with climate-damaging fossil fuels. In a bid to pick up support from coal state Democrats, Waxman and Markey this week pruned their cap-and-trade “20% by …

Stand By Me

BC voters back carbon tax

Carbon emissions met its first big electoral test this week, as British Columbia voters rewarded BC premier Gordon Campbell, who last July instituted North America's first major carbon tax, with a third four-year term.

Give Fees A Chance

Pollution taxes work

The Environmental Defense Fund’s Fred Krupp threw down the gauntlet to carbon taxers in the Wall Street Journal last month: Environmental taxes have worked well to raise revenue, but without a cap they inevitably become a license to pollute in unlimited amounts. No air pollution problem has ever been solved except by imposing a legal limit on emissions. (emphasis added) This is a little like the Pope complaining that sex isn’t enough fun: how would he know? Pollution taxes have seldom been tried. But in the few cases where they’ve been tried, they’ve worked rather well. One example is from …

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