Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Cost of Waxman/Markey

There have been so many purported cost analyses of Waxman/Markey that any sane person has to be confused, suspect, and pissed off. I have seen numbers from $129/household/yr to $3900/household/yr.

As must be obvious from any analysis that gives numbers differing by a factor of 25, they are all probably bullshit. No one knows within a factor of N, where N ~2-5.

The bill itself is so fucking complicated that it's almost impossible to know what it means. Of course, we couldn't have just imposed a straight tax of X% on emitted carbon.

The argument was that a percentage carbon tax doesn't allow control of the maximum level of carbon emissions. But we calculate (via models) carbon emissions every year, to about four or five significant places, and so we must know, within 12-24 months, if a particular Y% carbon tax is working to reduce emissions by Z%. If not, adjust it.

And why in the hell are we giving away emission credits for free? That's my atmosphere, and yours, and the citizens in Uganda and France and Japan and Brazil. I have a right to an unpolluted atmosphere. If you want to pollute it, then reimburse me. The federal government shouldn't be handing out emission permits like candy, but instead charging for every ton, the revenue of which will go right back to every American, just like Alaskans receive a yearly payment for Alaskan oil. (Who said it's their oil anyway? Aren't we one country here?)

This is reminiscent of the giveaway of the digital spectrum about a decade ago -- a direct transfer of wealth from the public to corporate America worth hundreds of billions of dollars. And Republicans have the nerve to talk about "class warfare" against the rich.

But here's the question: you're driving in a car towards a cliff (think young James Kirk in the new Star Trek movie). Should you apply the breaks and pay the cost of losing a bit of your brake drum, or should you ignore it and drive over the cliff?

No analysis I've seen has yet considered the cost of not addressing climate change. And not addressing climate change means carbon dioxide keeps exponentially increasing at about 0.7% a year from now to...when?

And does that mean a 2°C increase in global temperatures? Almost all scientists now say, yes. They are now saying it's probably too late to prevent a warming of at least 2°C.

American's aren't up on metric units, so let's just note that that's 4°F. That's 2/3rds of an Ice Age.

So if we can't stop at 4°F, where can we stop? The frank truth is that we're doing essentially nothing to curtail worldwide increases in CO2, and Waxman/Markey will not have much effect on this trend, if any. It will get us in the habit of thinking about carbon, which is its best attribute, but if there has been this much fight about merely passing this bill, can you imagine the hallabaloo if Obama and Congress really tried to address climate change, i.e. get us off carbon completely?

It is politically impossible. And, with current technologies, technologically impossible.

The American public just doesn't realize this. They think if they buy a hybrid car and buy Energy Star appliances the climate change problem will go away. When in truth is will hardly even begin to be addressed at that point, as civilization is currently configured.

We are in for a world of hurt. I hope James Inhofe and Marc Morano are around in the year 2030. I'd really, really like to know what they have to say then. 'Course, Inhofe, Singer, Avery, D'Aleo, Michaels, McIntyre... will all be dead. Perhaps they could at least leave us a statement titled: "In Case I Was Wrong...."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A large portion of the variation in cost estimates lies in the way that costs passed from companies to consumers are handled. The OBM and administration calculations count only direct costs to consumers.

The much higher estimates assume that increased costs to producers, manufacturers, and utility companies will be reflected in higher prices to the consumer.

Obviously, over the long term, additional taxes and fees paid by utility companies will be passed on to consumers.

A second area where the cost estimates vary is in accounting for the energy cost saving from legislated energy efficiency mandates. The lower cost estimates subtract these saving from the direct taxes to achieve a lower number.