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Charles Komanoff's Posts


Dingell opens the door

Rep. John Dingell introduces his hybrid carbon tax

With a mighty creak of long-rusted hinges, a door is finally opening in Washington. The present Congress will apparently be asked to consider a carbon tax. The measure -- actually, a hybrid carbon and petroleum tax -- will be introduced by the powerful chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). Today Dingell posted on his website a summary of the bill, which he began drafting in June. The current version would phase in, each year for five years, a charge of $10 per ton of carbon content of coal, oil, and natural gas -- …


Valuing the commons: Congestion pricing's hidden payoff

The connection between congestion pricing and carbon taxes

I wrote this piece linking NYC Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal with a carbon tax, in June. I shopped it around but none of the big papers took it. Now, NY Times columnist Tom Friedman -- perhaps the second-most visible supporter of carbon taxes (after Al Gore) -- has written a column backing the Bloomberg pricing plan. "Crunch time" for the plan may come as early as the next day or two. So it's time the piece saw the light of day. Every so often there arises an environmental controversy that tests the capacity of Americans to face reality. One …

Read more: Cities


Who is Daniel Sperling and why is he saying bad things about carbon taxes?

Picking apart an argument against carbon taxes

Yesterday's L.A. Times ran an odd op-ed calling carbon taxes an ineffectual antidote to global warming. Unlike other critiques that brand carbon taxes politically unpalatable, this one argued that they're simply not up to the job of cutting carbon emissions: Carbon taxes -- taxes on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide (CO2) -- aren't a bad idea. But they only work in some situations. Specifically, they do not work in the transportation sector, the source of a whopping 40% of California's greenhouse gas emissions (and a third of U.S. emissions). I've known Daniel Sperling, the author of the op-ed, for …

Read more: Climate & Energy


Farewell, complete walker

A valedictory to Colin Fletcher

For most of us who care about ecology and the environment, there was some personal experience that brought us there. For me, it was wilderness hiking, beginning 30-plus years ago in the Grand Canyon and continuing across the American West. Two books helped instigate my journeys and those of thousands of fellow adventure-seekers and nature-lovers. The Welshman who wrote them, the intrepid and blessedly individualistic Colin Fletcher, died earlier this month, at 85. I can't recall which I read first -- The Man Who Walked Through Time, in which Fletcher chronicled his 400-mile hike through the Grand Canyon, or his …

Read more: Cities, Living


Cap-and-trade is looking like duck-and-cover

A rejoinder to Environmental Defense

Can any of Environmental Defense's three main points stand up to scrutiny? ED: A carbon tax can be gamed as easily as a carbon trading scheme. CTC: A carbon tax may be subject to gaming, but cap-and-trade positively invites it. USCAP concedes that some allowances will be given out (not auctioned) at the outset, which means protracted, high-stakes negotiations ("a giant food fight," a leading utility executive called it) over free allowances that will be worth billions. How will these be allocated? What baseline year? Watch earth burn as the polluters jockey for the baseline giving them the most allowances! …


Strange bedfellows in climate politics

A Nation columnist goes contrarian; GM goes the other way

Did lefty pundit Alexander Cockburn and corporate behemoth General Motors secretly agree to swap climate positions? It looks that way. GM, swallowing hard, recently joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the elite enviro-business coalition pushing cap-and-trade -- a so-called "market-based system" for controlling carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile, the famously acidic Cockburn lacerated global warming orthodoxy in his column in the Nation magazine, deriding it as a "fearmongers' catechism [of] crackpot theories" ginned up by "grant-guzzling climate careerists" and opportunistic politicians looking to ride the greenhouse "threatosphere" all the way to the White House. (Whew!) But there's less here than meets …


Six months to a trimmer footprint

How to reduce your household energy consumption, easy-like

Last Sunday's New York Times honed in on the dubious practice of Americans buying carbon offsets to brand themselves carbon-neutral. Andy Revkin, the paper's global-warming reporter, quoted me saying, "There isn't a single American household above the poverty line that couldn't cut their CO2 at least 25 percent in six months through a straightforward series of fairly simple and terrifically cost-effective measures." My claim has hit a nerve. Despite the absence of a link, already a dozen readers have tracked me down on the web and written to ask what measures I have in mind. This article is for them …

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


Ships? Planes? Who's counting the carbon?

Lessons on getting the numbers straight

What's a percent or two? Or three? Not much, sometimes. But a lot when we're talking about carbon dioxide emissions that are throwing earth's climate out of whack. And quite a lot when effort is going into ranking emission sources to help prioritize our responses to the climate crisis. These thoughts are occasioned by a scoop in the Guardian (U.K.) reporting that world shipping -- essentially, freighters and tankers moving goods and raw materials -- accounts for "up to 5% of the global total" of carbon emissions. "CO2 output from shipping [is] twice as much as airlines," shouts the Guardian …

Read more: Uncategorized


When snow won't fall

Can a carbon tax neutralize new carbon emitters?

At the Carbon Tax Center, we're forever on the lookout for new and outsized ways in which Americans are using energy. Too often, today's novelty item is just a clever marketing campaign away from tomorrow's sizable carbon emitter. Witness high-definition televisions, or Jet Skis. If history is a guide, efficiency standards to govern new devices' fuel consumption won't be promulgated until after they have proliferated -- if ever. Carbon taxes, in contrast, could help rein in new products' energy requirements from the get-go, i.e., in the design stage. Where a product has little redeeming social value, the price signals from …

Read more: Uncategorized


Don't trade carbon, tax it

Why carbon taxes trump cap-and-trade

Yesterday Gristmill ran a curious article by Bill Chameides of Environmental Defense, attacking a carbon tax strawman that no one is advocating, least of all the Carbon Tax Center (CTC). Chameides stated that the "government would use additional tax dollars to subsidize the development of selected low-carbon technologies." We invite him to look at CTC's proposed carbon tax, which is revenue-neutral. Revenues will go to reduce regressive taxes or to finance progressive, equal rebates to all U.S. residents. Contrary to Chameides' charge, we have never advocated targeting tax revenues to any technology, privileged or otherwise. Nor, to our knowledge, have …

Read more: Uncategorized