Stuff that matters

The high cost of low prices

Carbon is just too damn cheap.

Experts think the price of carbon should be $100 a ton. The U.S. price just dropped to $3.

That team of experts, led by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, published a report this week saying that the world needs much higher carbon taxes to prevent two degrees of global warming. Specifically, they suggest prices ranging from $40 to $80 per metric ton of CO2 by 2020 and $50 to $100 per ton by 2030.

In the United States, we’re a wee bit short of that benchmark. In fact, the lowest of these targets doesn’t even show up on the y-axis of the most recent graph showing carbon prices.

And these aren’t even metric tons! Short tons are a little bit smaller than metric tons.

It doesn’t look much better in Europe, where carbon is running around $6.

OK, OK, so all this is a little like me comparing my jogging pace with Usain Bolt’s top sprinting speed, but it shouldn’t be.