Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cap and Trade: All About Taxing, Not Warming,

The State of California recently and unilaterally adopted Cap and Trade, really a Cap and Tax scheme,  for 600 large companies in the state.  Let's be perfectly clear, Cap and Tax is all about collecting taxes and will do nearly nothing to halt global warming.

Citizens be warned, the same is true regarding adoption of Cap and Trade scheme at the national level---it's strictly about taxation which will harm the economy and increase the size and reach of the Federal Government.   Worse, it doesn't work!

And it won't work even if every country on the planet did it and there is zero chance that China or Brazil or India will commit economic suicide to adopt this sort of scheme.

Forget That It's All About Taxation For a Moment

'Cap and Trade' would try to cap carbon emissions at current levels . And it would involve large scale taxation and extra government bureaucracy to enforce it.  But capping emissions at anywhere near current levels means that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would continue it's ascent unabated.

Carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere because the oceans, plants, and the land are not absorbing the emitted carbon dioxide fast enough. The issue is that man is releasing about 7.3 gigatons per year in total carbon into the atmosphere. But photosynthesis absorbs 1.7 gigaton/yr and the ocean is absorbing 2.2 gigatons/year. This means that 3.4 gigatons/yr of carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere. Ultimately the ocean will absorb all of that carbon given enough time (centuries). So we have an imbalance between the ocean's absorption and our emissions.

Figure 1.  Worldwide carbon balance in gigatons per year (from Howard Herzog at MIT, 2001)

If you do the math the, to stop the rising accumulation, we must reduce carbon emitted by about 50%. This amount would steady atmospheric concentration of carbon (not reduce it). See my blog Global Warming Made Easy for a slew of good graphs and figures for easy reference. So Cap and Trade would "potentially" reduce the rate of growth of carbon emissions but do nothing to reduce it. Also refer to my blog Global Warming Alarmism.

Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions Enough to Matter is a Herculean Task

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50% would mean that you'd have to do the following:
  1. Convert all automobiles to electric, then
  2. Build enough additional nuclear and wind power plants to supplement existing power plants to power the electric cars--it's not quite as much as you might think if cars recharged at night
  3. Scrub the flue stacks of all the big existing conventional power plants to remove Carbon Dioxide and inject it in subsurface salt water reservoirs
The cost to do this is extremely expensive! I figure that it would cost up to $10 trillion dollars to do all of the above. This would have to replicated around the world just to steady carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere at a cost of up to $40 trillion.

Expect No Help From China, India, Brazil or Any Developing Country

There is no chance at all of developing economies adopting such expensive measures. China is one of the biggest CO2 emitters (if not the biggest) and will not go along with any real emission reductions. There would be no chance that India or Brazil would sacrifice their economy on the altar of global warming given that it's not nearly as alarming as advertised.

After decades of alarm-ism, there is still not one power plant with carbon capture in existence in the world--anywhere in the world! The US has 10,000 power plants alone. We don't even know exactly how best to do it.

It just won't happen. Period. Remember, after $40 trillion, CO2 in the atmosphere would not decrease---it would remain elevated but theoretically not increase further. So, presumably, and a big presumption, that temperature rises would stabilize at the higher level.

Mass Transit Options And Mitigate Effects of Warming

It would make more sense to use US natural gas in a nationwide push for CNG buses and mass transit to reduce our carbon footprint. It makes economic sense first of all. If you believe as I do, that if buses came every 3 to 5 minutes, people would use them and relinquish their personal automobiles. This in combination with increased gasoline taxes would be very effective at curbing CO2 emissions. This is much more practical. Where's this debate in the media? Where is our Energy Department on this subject? Why do we even have an Energy Dept? They can't do anything!

It will take billions, not trillions to build seawalls or gradually relocate coastal cities to higher ground. I don't believe there is an immediate panic in terms of ocean levels but it's worth keeping an eye on.

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