Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Caps Off

I'm among those persuaded that adding billions of tons of carbon emissions to our atmosphere is a bad thing. Even without the science, it seems sort of obvious. But I admit I haven't tried to understand the concept of "cap and trade," which seems to be Obama's preferred way of dealing with it, in any detail. Sounds like a pretty complex solution, and open to shenanigans. On the other hand, I heard something the other night that blew my mind, to the extent that it's still possible to allow myself to be blown by a Republican.

David Frum, who by some is considered a (oxymoron alert) thoughtful Republican (well, even I linked to him in a positive way recently), the inventor of the phrase "Axis of Evil," said, on Bill Maher's show, that the best solution is a carbon tax. He might well be right: it does seem a much straighter line between policy and product. But what he added was that it's what Republicans want, and at that point I felt areas of my brain melting. I may not recover.

Now I'm not saying there aren't Republicans who might support the idea of a carbon tax. Just none that would vote for it. I mean, honestly, is there any other thing they have to offer but cutting taxes on anything and everything? Anything?

We've seen it repeated time and again: gas prices go up, Americans cut back. Prices go down, conservation melts like an icecap. It happened during the Carter era, when cars were lined up for blocks waiting to get a restricted fill-up. He put directives in place to lower our oil dependency, and when prices fell Reagan came in and poofed them like his orange hair. And now that gas prices have settled back from their recent highs, fuel-efficent cars are piling up unsold. So the idea, proposed by many, that there be a federal tax on gasoline to keep the price above three bucks (Tom Friedman says four) makes a lot of sense to me, other than the fact that it's sort of unfair to the poorest. On the other hand I think there are ways to deal with it (tax breaks on fuel efficient cars, for example), and there's no doubt in my mind that reducing oil consumption is a necessity and a benefit to us all. For security, if not for climate. Direct taxes on carbon use of all sorts seem sensible. Which is why I'm only aware of Democrats who like it -- but who believe it's not politically possible. Wonder why?

The thing about David Frum is that even though he seems fitfully capable of being thoughtful (he actually said he believes in anthropogenic climate change!), he evidently can't keep it going long enough to make sense. If the idea of a carbon tax is one that Republicans are promoting and which would get support of their Congressional leaders, it's on a planet that he visits which isn't available to the rest of us.

But I admit I'm intrigued by the idea.


Anonymous said...

Here's another idea for ya'...listen for it.............

"Free Enterprise"....
and its not my idea, belongs to some dead guy named "Smith"...

Good Idea on the Carbon Tax, might have a hard time gettin that Vesuvius Dude to pay...but maybe Ellen Kimball'l stop driving the 1/4 mile to the Gym...

You never did say what kind of Volvo you drive...


Anonymous said...

Drackman --

Adam Smith is not what you cretins hold him up to be. He speaks here for limiting usury with the law (NOT the free market) as a greater good. He was for what you call the "death tax". He advocated high wages for the poor as a matter of policy, not the free market.

Leaving that aside, how do you expect free enterprise to limit carbon emissions? I doubt even Milton Friedman would have argued that. In fact you could easily argue that unfettered free enterprise guarantees fouling the atmosphere: if companies A and B both make Widgets, and A buys carbon sequestering equipment, then B will have lower prices and drive A out of business.


Sam Spade

Anonymous said...

Hey Sam, gotta case for ya...

110,000,000,000 Liters of CO2 were emitted into America's Air yesterday, unless something big happens, same thing'll happen today, and probably tomorrow.
Its called "Breathing"
and don't blame me, I'm in Germany,


Sili said...

Dear Frank,

"Tragedy of the commons". Look it up.

You're welcome to do what you want with you .2*10^-9 of the atmosphere, but why should I let you fuck up mine?

Anonymous said...


"110,000,000,000 Liters of CO2 were emitted into America's Air yesterday, unless something big happens, same thing'll happen today, and probably tomorrow.
Its called 'Breathing'"

You ought to try and understand the problem better. There's a certain amount of CO2 within the earth, and a certain amount in the atmosphere. Pumping carbon from within the earth to the atmosphere changes the composition of the atmosphere. That is what happens when we burn hydrocarbons pumped from the earth. This extra carbon affects the way light behave when it reaches earth, namely acting as the walls of a greenhouse.

Human breathing simply suffles carbon that's already in play in the environment.

From whence does an ancient oak acquire its mass? From carbon in the air. Burn the tree or eat its acorns and you rearrange carbon that's already in play in the environment. On the other hand, carbon in hydrocarbons stays sequestered for millions of years easily.

"don't blame me, I'm in Germany"

I don't follow.

Sam Spade

Anonymous said...

So...."I'm not Polluting, I'm just feeding Oak Trees?"
So you're sayin CO2s only bad when it comes from machines??
Didn't drive my car today, it contributed 0 liters of CO2 to the atmosphere
I DID breathe today, some 360 liters, give or take...
Who did more damage to the environment??

Anonymous said...

With all this CO2, you'd think we'd have a overgrowth of plant life - trees, bushes (no pun intended) and stuff. I haven't read about that.

Anonymous said...

So Where do you live annonymous???a DESERT??? Maybe thats your problem...More plants than you can shake a bag of Round Up at in Jaw Jaw...

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