Charles Komanoff

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

Unchain Chu

Energy boss Steven Chu misses his bike

I’m a fierce carbon tax advocate, as Grist readers know. But what most upset me about the interview with Stephen Chu in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine wasn’t the energy secretary’s disavowal of an …

Anti-wind now not just for NIMBY’s

Opposition to wind power used to be the province of NIMBY’s who quailed at the supposed intrusion into their viewsheds and soundsheds. No more. Wind power is big — its share of U.S. electricity reached …

The freedom fee

The Kheel-Komanoff Plan: A congestion toll to liberate New York

Back in 1993, I took a scalpel to the "AUTO-FREE NEW YORK" sticker on my bike, excising the first "R" so that "AUTO-FREE" became "AUTO-FEE." After years of battling motor vehicles, first as an urban cyclist and later as president of the bike-advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, I became convinced that it made more sense to charge for cars' use of roads than to try to eliminate them. "Don't ban cars, bill them!" Discourage vehicle use by internalizing the harms from driving in the price to drive, and invest the revenues in mass transit and other alternatives. Since then, cities like London, Stockholm, and Milan have demonstrated the power of road pricing to reduce driving and cut travel times, pollution damages, crash costs, and the like. But even those gains pale beside the profusion of benefits for New York City promised by a new plan I've developed with Ted Kheel: Enough revenue to finance an average 60 percent cut in transit fares; A 15 percent-or-greater improvement in traffic speeds in gridlocked Manhattan; Yogi Berra made real: greater usage of less-crowded buses and subways; More car-free spaces, and fewer cars, in the heart of the city. The Kheel-Komanoff Plan (so named to distinguish it from the "pure" Kheel Plan approach, with 100 percent-free transit) delivers all this with just four measures:

Policy at Bernie's

Will carbon cap-and-trade be the next Ponzi scheme?

Even as the tsunami of Bernard Madoff’s busted Ponzi scheme was submerging hapless rentiers around the world, another esoteric financial enterprise quietly took a step forward this week. At a couple of hundred million bucks, …

Can the promise of a new political landscape include a U.S. carbon tax?

Advocates launch the Price Carbon Campaign

What do the defeat of the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill, the burst of the oil-price bubble, the Wall Street meltdown, the promise of a new political landscape in the wake of the fall elections, and the …

We must tax carbon

Hansen’s message to the planet

Maybe it was the thought of two decades of climate-crisis exhortation, little more heeded than words shouted at a hurricane. Photo: germuska via Flickr.Maybe it was the temporizing of the Democrats and the obstructionism of the GOP. Or it might have been the images of cities, houses and farmland of his native Iowa drowned by the latest "500-year" floods. Perhaps it was all three. Whatever the reasons, the climate crisis' Paul Revere turned it up a few more notches in a speech yesterday (PDF) at a Congressional staff briefing in Washington D.C. Yet James Hansen's headline-grabbing broadside against Big Oil and Big Coal CEOs may prove less significant than his full-throated advocacy of carbon tax-and-dividend as the highest priority for reducing carbon emissions and abating global warming: A price on emissions that cause harm is essential. Yes, a carbon tax.

No justice, no cap

National environmental justice coalition blasts cap-and-trade, backs carbon tax

Condemning carbon trading as "fraught with uncertainties, lack[ing] transparency and creat[ing] large opportunities for emitting facilities to engage in fraud," a national coalition of environmental justice organizations has called for a federal carbon tax to address "the most critical issue of our time" -- the climate crisis. Photo: Brooke Anderson. The June 2 statement from the Climate Justice Leadership Forum is the latest sign of mounting disaffection with the top-down push for carbon cap-and-trade. It is particularly significant because the 28 signatory organizations, which span the country from Anchorage to New Orleans and from Oakland to New York City, have been the spearhead of a rising movement by communities of color to crack open the historically affluent and white U.S. environmental lobby, much of which has backed the cap-and-trade approach to pricing carbon emissions. Moreover, CJLF's endorsement of "an equitable carbon tax" serves notice that lower-income and "minority" constituencies are concluding that the disproportionate impacts of carbon taxes and other user fees can (and must) be reversed through progressive use of the carbon tax revenues.

Who's zooming who?

Subsidies for wind power pale beside subsidies for nuclear

I long ago swore off the Wall Street Journal's editorial page -- the last straw for me was their cruel swipe at departed "dope fiend" Jerry Garcia back in 1995. But on Monday a friend forwarded me a WSJ editorial whaling away at renewable power's production tax credit: Solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and ... nuclear power $1.59. Wind and solar have been on the subsidy take for years ... Now, they insinuate, it's time to kick wind and solar out of the nest to fly (or not) on their own, just like Uncle Nuke did, decades ago. What's up?, my pal asked, knowing that I not only have a thing for wind power but used to be a walking encyclopedia of nuclear power costs. After a quick trip down memory lane, pencil in hand, here's my brief on federal subsidies for windmills and nukes. The score (in 2007 dollars): Reactor subsidies, 1950-1990: $154 billion, or $3.75 billion a year. Wind power subsidies, 1983-2007: $3.75 billion 25-year total.

Gasoline demand explained

Why it took us so long to internalize the rise in gas prices

With gas at $3.50 a gallon in April, the U.S. mainstream media is replete with stories of drivers abandoning SUVs, hopping on mass transit, and otherwise cutting back on gasoline. Yet a year or two ago, when pump prices were approaching and even passing the $3.00 "barrier," the media mantra was that demand for gasoline was so inelastic that high prices were barely making a dent in usage. Which story is correct? I lean toward the more "elastic" view, and here I'd like to share some of the data that inform my belief. I've been tracking official monthly data on U.S. gasoline consumption for the past five years and compiling the numbers in this spreadsheet. You'll find that it parses the data in several different ways: year-on-year monthly comparisons (e.g., March 2008 vs. March 2007), three-month moving averages that smooth out most of the random variations in reporting, and full-year comparisons that allow a bird's-eye view. Here's what I see in the data:

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