Climate & Energy

British Columbia unveils carbon tax

The Canadian province of British Columbia has announced it will implement a carbon tax beginning in July that could lead to a cut in greenhouse-gas emissions of about 3 million tons in the next five years. The tax is expected to bring in as much as $1.8 billion over the next three years by increasing the price of almost all fossil fuels in the province, though it’s designed to be revenue neutral and won’t raise funds for clean energy like Quebec’s carbon tax. Instead, to enhance its appeal to consumers, B.C.’s carbon tax is being paired with a $100 rebate …

Notable quotable

“I think this is a landmark decision in North America as far as government addressing global warming. The B.C. government has decided to use one of the most powerful incentives at its disposal to reduce pollution.” – Ian Bruce of the Suzuki Foundation, on the carbon tax just implemented by the provincial government of British Columbia

Weasel of the week

Tim Kaine burns national ambitions in coal furnace

Virginia's Democratic governor Tim Kaine, often mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee, seems to be flushing his ambitions for national office down the toilet by actively working to build yet another coal-fired power plant for one of his biggest campaign donors. Tim Kaine. Photo: Kaine has tried to present himself as a green, forward-thinking governor by proposing a "Virginia Energy Plan" he claimed would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent. True, Kaine is going ahead with plans to purchase 27,000 compact fluorescent bulbs (which will save the amount of electricity used by -- wait for it -- 1300 [!] homes). But when it comes to things that actually matter -- like where Virginia gets its energy -- he's actively backing the construction of a new greenhouse-gas- and toxic-pollution-belching coal-fired power plant in Virginia's Wise County. Behind this coal plant is Dominion Power, which has contributed over $135,000 directly to Kaine's campaign and inaugural funds. Is the governor acting on behalf of Virginia or the country's well-being, or is he offering quid pro quo for financial support? As it is, Kaine is looking a lot like a dinosaur pol, practicing a kind of politics eerily similar to the Republican culture of corruption.

Paging Vinod Khosla ...

Billionaire Branson regrets mindless biofuel support

Time was when biofuels, including corn-based ethanol, had no stauncher supporter than Richard Branson, the U.K. airline and entertainment magnate. Now, according to the BBC, he "regrets his investments in biofuels on economic and environmental grounds." In the above video, the billionaire deplores the lameness of corn ethanol. For the record, I think he’s being naive by suggesting that sugar plantations in Africa represent some sort of panacea compared to U.S. cornfields. Still, at least he’s seeing the light on corn ethanol.

A trillion here, a trillion there

Another day, another trillion dollars for the clean-tech industry

It seems that a day doesn't slip by without someone raising the stakes in the alternative-energy poker game. The most recent bombshell wager: Cambridge Energy Research Associates report that alternative energy investments will -- hold on to your hats! -- top $7 trillion by 2030. That's an audacious number by any measure, and normally it would be enough to suck the oxygen right out of a convention of wind-farm enthusiasts. But that's not the half of it. The most startling aspect of the report is that it barely raised a ripple in the investment community. And why should it?

This is how dumb they think you are

Walker/Cat’s coal-happy ads in rural West Virginia

Prompted by Pompey Road in comments, I went looking for some commercials that have been running in rural West Virginia, put out by a company called Walker/Cat that makes heavy machinery for coal operations. (George W. Bush spoke at their Belle plant in 2002.) Turns out they’re right here. They have to be seen to be believed. Here, Miss Bug explains that heck no, blowing up mountains, dumping the rubble in streams, and covering the result with a thin layer of soil and grass monoculture doesn’t "bug" her at all, ha ha! In fact, life fairly blossoms in the wake …

In case you’re wondering

Yes, Thursday night’s Democratic debate will once again be sponsored by the coal industry.

Why solar?

The numbers add up for solar power, whether you’re in Seattle or Albuquerque

The New York Times published an article yesterday titled "Silicon Valley Starts to Turn Its Face to the Sun": "This is the biggest market Silicon Valley has ever looked at," says T. J. Rogers, the chief executive of Cypress Semiconductor, which is part-owner of the SunPower Corporation, a maker of solar cells in San Jose, Calif."The solar industry today is like the late 1970s when mainframe computers dominated, and then Steve Jobs and I.B.M. came out with personal computers," says R. Martin Roscheisen, the chief executive of Nanosolar, a solar company in San Jose, Calif. Why all the excitement? You need only look at a few numbers and a graph to get the picture.

Tax-and-rebate vs. auction-and-rebate

The major differences between carbon pricing plans are political

Putting a price on carbon is probably an unavoidable part of phasing out fossil fuels to fight global warming and air pollution. For years, Peter Barnes has advocated a brilliant means of mitigating many of the harmful economic side effects: take the revenue from carbon taxes or auctions and rebate it back to the people, dividing it equally among each citizen. Barnes advocates doing this via an auctioned permit system. However,the same thing could be done with a carbon tax. Instead of auctioning permits, simply tax those same embedded emissions and rebate that revenue to consumers. Raise the tax periodically to lower emissions. Inevitably, with either a tax or auctioned permits, the price charged for carbon will be passed down the supply chain to consumers. By rebating the revenue back to consumers, you minimize the impact of those price increases. They have to pay more, but they have more money to pay with. You get the price signals to affect behavior, without lowering consumer net income.

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