The Problems With Carbon Taxes

The problems with carbon taxes are not limited to the fact that they’re regressive at this post at RealClearEnergy by Kevin Mooney correctly points out. It’s that carbon emissions increase with income. That means that the tax falls heaviest on those least able to limit their carbon emissions. That’s why this strategy:

But a leaked list of what Democrats on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee call “carbon pricing” within the proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation package now gestating on Capitol Hill provides critical insight. The Senate Democrats are looking at “a per-ton tax on carbon dioxide of leading fossil fuels (e.g., coal, oil, natural gas) upon extraction, starting at $15 per ton and escalating over time…” and “a tax per ton of carbon dioxide emissions assessed on major industrial emitters (e.g. steel, cement chemicals)…” and “a per-barrel tax on crude oil,” according to the document.

isn’t the right one. The right one is along the lines of something I’ve mentioned before: a much higher tax with varying prebates that decrease with income.

20 comments… add one
  • Grey Shambler Link

    As long as this nation is a democracy, they can’t cram this “save the planet “tax down our throats, they have to sell it to stay in office.
    They failed at selling vaccinations and had to resort to force, threatening loss of livelihood, will this become a pattern for Democrats?
    If we see the kind of energy cost increases they have in Europe, they will be the minority party very quickly.
    Of course, they are the Left.
    Force is never off the table.

  • Drew Link

    The problem with carbon taxes is that carbon is ubiquitous, and politicians can therefore tax almost endlessly. Its their wet dream.

    You know, this is supposed to be an analysis blog. But essentially no analysis has gone into this subject (except Tasty, who I believe has laid this all out before). I’m as guilty as anyone, mixing it up with people for sport and engaging in hyperbole etc. But this is a topic that could have dire consequences for the country, not because of warming, but because of the proposed solutions, which are similar to the practice of bloodletting in another era.

    Not to make this too long, as no one wanted to listen to Tasty; so what’s the point? But at its essence, what we have is a classic case of correlation vs causation in temperature and CO2 cycles. This is made possible by the shear arrogance of believing that we alone live in the crucial times of CO2 driven temperature increase, while not considering that these phenomenon must be viewed in a time frame of millions and millions of years. Consider:

    The earth prior to 2MM years ago has been warmer at all times than it is now. Life did fine, including mammalian life.

    We are now in the (big picture) Pleistocine Ice Age with overall steady cooling with cyclical ups and downs related to earth tilt cycles and the earth’s orbit which in turn is related to Jupiter’s gravitational pull. The fluctuations occur in approximately 40,000 year cycles. There have been 45 cycles (glaciation then warming) during the Pliestocene Ice Age. We have been warming – slightly – since about 1700. (Remember this)

    CO2 for hundreds of millions of years atmospheric CO2 was (declining) 6000ppm – 2500ppm. The rise of plant and ocean life, and the cooling oceans (which can dissolve more CO2) sucked the CO2 out of the atmosphere.

    More recently, 22,000 years ago, CO2 reached its minimum at 180ppm after a glaciation. (maximum CO2 dissolved in oceans) That borders on insufficient to support plant life by the way.
    To get us current, CO2 concentrations have naturally increased as the earth warms after the last glaciation and oceans spit out CO2 (due to orbits and tilts; and maybe fossil fuels; maybe). Today the atmospheric CO2 level is around 400-425ppm. That level folks, is relatively low.

    Where does all this data come from? Marine sediments and, uh, er, well ice cores, which seem to have survived CO2 levels much much greater than todays.

    A plot of T vs CO2 does not demonstrate any – and I mean any – correlation. Only a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny sliver of time that enviros focus on show T and CO2 moving in synch. This is pure correlation, not causation, and to claim otherwise is pure sophistry. The dire predictions ignore all of history of higher levels of both T and CO2.

    Why? Well, if you don’t understand the politicians, go back to sleep. As for the “scientists” (snicker), well, there’s gold in them thar grants and manufactured models.

    And we want to deindustrialize the US further? WTFU

    Biden kills our energy industry. Others provide those very same fossil fuels. We don’t mine silicon. The Chinese and Russians do. Think semis. Batteries? We don’t do rare earths anymore.

    How far do I have to go? We are committing suicide. Thanks, Joe.

  • My view is that the strength of evidence (in descending order) is

    local effects of pollutants, especially particulates
    global impact of local pollution
    VERY long term impact of carbon dioxide emissions
    short term impact of carbon dioxide emissions

    Almost everything that people cite as evidence of climate change are the first. I also think that shipping extremely inexpensive low margin goods around the world is wasteful. Like leaving the engine running. But that’s a different subject. It should be done via additive manufacturing with labor cost = zero.

    Anthropogenic climate change as a near term problem is an article of faith at this point. My attention is better devoted to focusing on ways and means which is what I do.

  • TastyBits Link


    Not to make this too long, as no one wanted to listen to Tasty; so what’s the point?

    Thank you for noticing. (I am not being sarcastic.) It really is pointless. Most people are so scientifically ignorant they could not distinguish magic from technology, and the most hysterical are the most ignorant.

    In fact, most people do not have enough scientific knowledge to determine who is an expert and who is not. Most of the climate scientists are closer to shamen than physicists, and even physicists can spout nonsense.

    Venus is not an example of a “runaway greenhouse” effect. Venus has 155 miles of CO2 in its atmosphere. Venus does not have a molten inner core generating a surrounding magnetic field to keep its atmosphere from blowing away and its surface being bombarded with solar radiation, but that much CO2 creates an ionized magnetic field.

    Most climate science discussions are devoid of any science. They are about statistical analysis of data that has not and can not be rigorously gathered. It is like rebuilding the Ark using the data in the Bible, and statistical analysis is little more than reading tea leaves.

    For the people who “believe in science”, climate change must be taken on faith. Like all religions, they require priests to interpret nature, and since the believers have no way to determine what is true and what is not, any deviation is heresy.

    These are mostly the same people who believe that demand will create production, and if the government spends enough money, the laws of physics can be violated. Without fossil fuels, “green energy” does not produce enough energy to manufacture solar panels and windmills, but somehow, creating greater demand will alter this.

    And we want to deindustrialize the US further? WTFU

    It is no different than trying to appease the angry gods with human sacrifices.

    How far do I have to go? We are committing suicide. Thanks, Joe.

    The Roman Republic morphed into the Roman Empire, but they maintained the chimera of a Republic. Ostensibly, the Roman Senate was required to approve laws, but it was a sham. I never imagined that it could occur to the US, but reality is changing my mind.

    I suspect future historians will judge us the same as we judge the Afghanistanis. They will wonder how a group of medieval thugs was able to take over the country so fast. Our ruling class (Republicans and Democrats) have more in common with the Taliban than the Founding Fathers.

    Unfortunately, the American Taliban have no intention of allowing their religion to be disabused, and they believe in stoning as much as their Afghan counterparts. In the end, we are all fucked.

    Finally, your comment was very insightful, and you should bookmark it for reference.

  • walt moffett Link

    Can we trust our Congress to not create exemptions as things go forward. Will they remain steadfast when say the price of wind power increases because of carbon taxes on concrete (used on the footers), or medical bills get higher because the tax on Natural Gas means the price of polyethylene (used in various medical devices) and will the prebates become your free gift from the government that cares?

  • TastyBits Link

    @Dave Schuler

    There is local AGW, and it is measurable. The concrete, steel, and asphalt of large cities act as heat sinks, and the energy absorbed during the day is not dissipated during the night. Also, tall buildings disrupt airflows, and the paved roads, parking lots, etc. affect moisture content.

    VERY long term …
    short term …

    For most people, these are unfathomable terms. On a geological timescale, 10,000 years is VERY short term, and 12 years is not even a rounding error. The numbers are staggering for most people, and often, I struggle to keep them in perspective.

    There is no way to have an intelligent discussion with anybody who thinks that humans can alter a 4 billion year old planet in 12 or 120 years. I am not accusing you of this, but to the people running things, this seems perfectly reasonably.

    Even were fossil fuels to be eliminated from all energy production, the refineries would continue to operate. Plastics and chemicals do not fall from the sky, and the portion used to produce gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc. cannot be used.

    It is beyond nonsensical. I am supposed to believe that 0 = 1 when 1 is very small, and technology can make 1 very small.

  • Drew Link

    “My view is that the strength of evidence (in descending order) is”

    “local effects of pollutants, especially particulates”

    This gets into climate vs local issues. And particulates gets into heat transfer mechanisms: convection, conduction and radiation. Radiation dominates in our atmosphere. I will have to investigate further the effects of particulates. But everything I have seen says H2O dominates all else. As for local issues, that’s not really climate. I think few people understand that at the equator temperature changes very little. Its the poles. That’s why a real scientist studies the poles and their evidence, like ice cores.

    “global impact of local pollution”

    See above: dominated by pole vs equator issues.

    “VERY long term impact of carbon dioxide emissions”

    Our current cooling trend, despite tiny little upward disturbances like that since 1700 – 1850 (take your pick) is going to last about another 80,000 years. I think we have time to react, but I’ll check in with you in 30,000 years or so to see how we are doing.

    “Almost everything that people cite as evidence of climate change are the first.”

    Actually, its their stupid models.

    “I also think that shipping extremely inexpensive low margin goods around the world is wasteful.”

    Yes, efficiency and global warming are two different subjects. But you raise a good point. If you understand how CO2 got from 6000ppm in the atmosphere to todays very low levels you know it was various life forms using it, ultimately buried in soil and oil/gas deposits below the earth’s surface. From a transportation energy perspective that is by definition a limited resource and shouldn’t be squandered. Hence, the use of nuclear, especially thorium technology, energy is simply common sense. In fact, its the true environmentalists solution.

    “Anthropogenic climate change as a near term problem is an article of faith at this point.”

    Too passive for me. The damage that can be done by witch burning exercises is not de minimus.

  • Drew Link

    “Thank you for noticing”

    Oh, I noticed. I actually read all the comments here. Sort of common courtesy. However I pick and choose responses, and have a bad habit of becoming quickly bored and just moving on.

    I think you are correct that people simply cannot deal with the enormity of scale in geological change. There is a certain arrogance or self importance to our current age. Politicians understand that gloom and doom creates the imperative to react, which is political opportunity. See also: Covid

    As far as cities being heat sources, its sort of like walking into a heated house on a snowy cold day and declaring that because the house is warm we have global warming.

  • As far as cities being heat sources, its sort of like walking into a heated house on a snowy cold day and declaring that because the house is warm we have global warming.

    I don’t know. My intuition leads me to suspect that pouring lots of heat from coastal cities into the oceans has some unwanted run-on effects. That’s one of the things I mean about “local pollution with global consequences”. Another, of course, is when pollutants and particulates produced in China become major sources of pollution in Japan and then are detected in substantial amounts on the West Coast of the U. S. They may be out of sight but they’re not out of mind.

  • Drew Link

    Dave –

    I would grant that pouring warm water into one end of the bathtub could affect the local tub environment. But that’s not really climate, although I’m open to enlightenment. As I said, on particulates I need to do more investigation. However, we have a recent example of how wildfires in the west disturbed weather in the east and SE. I don’t know if that rises to the level of climate change or how permanent the effect is. Radiation heat transfer occurs in and out of the earth on a daily basis.

    What I do know is that the current global warming construction proffered is just plain silly. That is evidence of some mix of small minded reasoning, dishonesty and self interest.

  • Not just the local environment. It affects ocean currents, El Niño, etc. and those in turn influence weather.

    Today’s big cities are almost unimaginably large—they produce substantial heat effects.

    current global warming construction proffered is just plain silly

    IMO it’s worse than silly—it’s counterproductive. You get fewer emissions by emitting less not by emitting more. Claiming that construction today will result in fewer emissions tomorrow is based on an unprovable assumption; it’s a leap of faith.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    All this is of course, preaching to the choir.
    The real problem with carbon taxes is that they are moving forward towards reality.
    People with power either believe or benefit, and benefits buy a lot of belief.
    That’s the problem, it’s likely to require civil disobedience on a grand scale to head them off.
    I for one don’t relish the thought of winters shivering in the dark because my pension can’t cover the carbine tax.

  • the carbine tax.

    Freudian slip?

  • Grey Shambler Link

    Let’s say a typo that after reflection, I let stand.

  • Drew Link

    “Today’s big cities are almost unimaginably large—they produce substantial heat effects.”

    I honestly don’t know, but will investigate. However, I would not that we have hot and cold spots already which vary due to cloud cover. Perhaps more importantly, there is an offsetting issue.
    Conduction is a non-issue in gases and convection is capped. The dominant heat transfer mechanism in and then back out to space for the earth is radiation, with H2O being the dominant factor. City heat will put more water (clouds) in the air which will result in less heat radiating in.

    I can’t even imagine trying to model and /or quantify all this, but it would make for fertile ground for an enterprising climatologist to make up some pure bullshit.

  • Drew Link

    Since Pandoras box has been opened, here’s some gas for the fire. As I noted, CO2 levels have been materially higher for most of history. The optimum level for plant growth (I guess more formally biomass) is actually 1000-2000 ppm. (think pumping CO2 into greenhouses) So what’s so special about 400, the level today? (Answer – because the narrative falls apart otherwise)

    If you are worried about feeding the planet a little more CO2 would be a good thing. Especially since a causality between T and CO2 exists only in garbage models.

  • steve Link

    Whats the old saying? You are so not right you arent even wrong.

    Lets just take one claim.

    “The earth prior to 2MM years ago has been warmer at all times than it is now. Life did fine, including mammalian life.”

    No, there have been other Ice Ages in the past.

    “As far as cities being heat sources,”

    Rural areas are also warming.

    “Most climate science discussions are devoid of any science.”

    Totally agree. Lots of pseudoscience like what is bantered about here. That, plus lots of ignorance and an unawareness of all the efforts gone into collecting information and data.


  • Drew Link

    “No, there have been other Ice Ages in the past.”

    45 of them. The reference was to the temperature in between the glaciations.

    Back to your Playdoh and coloring books.

  • TastyBits Link

    Cities are heat sinks not sources, and thermal energy is stored not generated. Existing thermal energy is absorbed during the day, and it is slowly transferred overnight. Combined with air current disruptions and moisture changes, this alters the local climate, but to my knowledge, it has no effect on global climate.

    The oceans are the largest heat sinks, but they are heated by thermal energy from the sun, the moon’s tidal action, the earth’s molten core, and friction. There is some transfer from the atmosphere to the oceans, but other than directly on the coastline, transfers from land to water are minimal.

    As you can see, it is pointless to have a discussion about thermal energy storage and transfer without a politician, actor, or ER doctor claiming to have the “revealed truth”. In this context, kelvin should be used for temperature, but since AOC could not tell a difference between a watt and a joule, the entire discussion is pointless.

    You might want to look into how plate tectonics affects the climate and CO2, but you will need to piece together most of the information. I think plate traction also affects coastal substance, but that is just my hypothesis.

  • other than directly on the coastline, transfers from land to water are minimal

    Many of the largest cities in the world are coastal.

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