tax the problem away

pnbrownApril 1, 2014

The other day on NPR I heard someone talking about the "carbon" tax idea, but put in a way that made more sense to me than before:

Let governments tax carbon-producers, and decrease existing taxes by that amount, thereby encouraging more efficiency in CO2 production while simultaneously stimulating the rest of the economy. I had not heard it posed like that, has anyone else? It is generally purported as an extra tax, rather than zero-sum.

So then I thought, could this be a case of more is better? Could we just let state and federal governments gain their entire revenues from carbon-generation, both industrial and individual, and eliminate sales, excise, and income taxes? The primary block against reducing the use of fossil-fuels is that per-calorie they are much cheaper than any other source. Adding the cost of government to the current cost of fossil fuels would make them more expensive than many other sources.

The only problem, besides the massive industry opposition to such legislation, would be controlling the black market.

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christopherh(SoVT)

If we really want to cut down CO2, we need to heavily tax beer.

Would you agree to that?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 7:42AM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

Could we just let state and federal governments gain their entire revenues from carbon-generation, both industrial and individual, and eliminate sales, excise, and income taxes?

That would launch a new industry. CO2 measuring devices installed in every home. We want to make sure the IRS is getting it's fair share.

And wood burners would pay a 50% surcharge.

How do we tax plant lovers?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 7:58AM
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pnbrown

It would launch new regulatory industries, obviously.

What about the immense savings gained by eliminating the IRS plus all the work of keeping track of sales taxes, etc?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 9:02AM
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momj47(7A)

If we want to lower CO2 levels, we need to stop breathing.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 10:32AM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

What about the immense savings gained by eliminating the IRS plus all the work of keeping track of sales taxes, etc?

But that would reduce the accounting profession to a minimum.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 10:48AM
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patriciae_gw(07)

OOOH! Heavily tax people who produce CO2 producers(children) instead of giving them tax breaks?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 3:42PM
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pnbrown

I should have known better than to try to discuss anything serious around hereâ¦

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 7:52PM
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patriciae_gw(07)

Sorry pn..it was an idea I couldn't resist. You make a good point though-as well as me when I think about it. People need to be discouraged from having children because it is way too many humans that is causing a lot of the problems. Discouraging people from using cheap energy that destroys the planet is a good idea.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 8:07PM
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tobr24u(z6 RI)

We could expand out to charging for the release of methane gas in public if we could develop personal meters, perhaps a cell phone ap...

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 5:08AM
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pnbrown

Saying that a problem for humanity is caused by human nature is the same as saying nothing. Screwing, greed, gluttony, whatever, get over it.

Does anyone want to discuss whether this OP idea might work to some degree?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 7:33AM
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christopherh(SoVT)

You don't tax one CO2 emitter without taxing ALL CO2 emitters.
That includes food producers, wood, oil, natural gas, farting, belching, breathing, etc. Even people riding bicycles will have to be taxed because they start breathing hard, which means more dirty CO2. And can you IMAGINE the taxes collected on marathons?

How much more in taxes are YOU willing to pay? 10%? 20%? 50%?

I find it funny that when you are challenged, you naturally think those challenging you are somehow not serious. We just, unlike you, have a sense of humor about it.

I just find it hilarious that you think the only way to do it is to TAX it. And of course you have the place where all that tax money should go, right?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 9:13AM
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pnbrown

What is more amusing is all your nonsensical assumptions about me apparently based on things I have not expressed on this thread or any other.

Which would certainly be part of why you are not able to have serious discussions.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 12:15PM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

I have a valid question.

How do we tax the federal, state and local governments since all of them are huge generators of CO2.

Another question. How will the tax be distributed? Will poor and rich districts be treated equally?

As for not having children, you better hope somebody growing up behind you is willing to wipe your butt when you can't.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 12:45PM
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christopherh(SoVT)

"...Which would certainly be part of why you are not able to have serious discussions..."

I can't have a serious discussion this subject because it's a joke to begin with. You want to tax carbon emitters. But you can't wrap your head around the fact you must tax every emitter or none of them. Not just the ones you want to tax.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 1:45PM
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rosie(Deep South, USA 7A/B)

PNBrown, most big business, not the Koch brothers type, but big oil companies and many big names assume a carbon price of one system or another is inevitable and are planning for it. It won't be a revolution when it come.

Cancelling our tax bills might be a fun idea to play with a bit, but I actually don't like the idea of not paying my taxes directly. This is my country, it's my duty to do my share, and it would be a real mistake to allow the big boys at Exxon, for instance, to think they were paying for the country and we all owed them big, which of course they would.

Also reminds me of states that set up lotteries to pay for public education. The correlation between lower-quality education and that shoddy shifting of responsibility to a rather silly, and typically lower income, subgroup is no surprise.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 2:41PM
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lionheart_gw

The problem with all of the available schemes is that, when all you have to offer people is cold, dark, and expensive, there's not going to be much enthusiasm.

If all countries don't adopt a carbon tax - and they won't - it will just give them an economically competitive advantage. In other words, if we tax our carbon consumption we'll make it possible for them to consume fossil fuels more cheaply than us.

Until there's a more precise plan to avoid making life hell for the average person, I think there has to be a fairly clear direction and far more useful alternatives available. If not, we would simply be punishing people for the fact that unicorns don't exist, as if a tax could wish unicorns into existence.

Actually, if there were better alternatives, this would be a moot point because people would already be adopting them. I know I would. The minute something comes out that is usable, reliable, and reasonably priced for the functionality it provides, I will do whatever it takes to get me some. :-)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 5:30PM
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pnbrown

It occurs to me a very simple method:

Simply tax fossil-fuels at the source, whether it is oil or gas well, coal mine, tar pit, etc. Tax it at a level sufficient to replace all or most other taxes. So the cost of goods will increase some large amount, while real incomes also increase. Although this would be considered highly regressive, it would have the desired result of making alternative energy sources relatively much less expensive.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 6:50PM
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pnbrown

Such shocking heresy doesn't even merit a reply, aye, Chris?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 6:42AM
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christopherh(SoVT)

So again, how much more in taxes are YOU willing to pay? Then we must convince China, and all the middle East to tax fossil fuels too. How ya gonna do that?

What about the poor? How are they gonna pay the increases? They don't pay any taxes now, so you think the government is gonna commit suicide by taxing their constituents? Personally I'm all for making EVERYONE pay something in taxes, but your idea must have EVERYBODY on board or it's a failure from the start.

Let me know when Saudi Arabia agrees to your scheme.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 6:54AM
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christopherh(SoVT)

Info

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 7:05AM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

In 2013, the 30 largest power stations in Germany increased their emissions of carbon dioxide by 4.6% attaining 239 million tonnes, as stated on Wednesday in an analysis made by the Oeko-Institut research institute, criticizing low European carbon prices.

The EU ETS (EU Emissions Trading Scheme) was designed to reduce coal-burning by fixing a price on carbon emissions and making them tradeable. But overabundance of permits has maintained carbon prices to very low levels and therefore utilities are no longer frightened. A plan has been put in motion by EU governments in order to increase prices by temporarily eliminating permits from the market. The low prices and cheap carbon permits incited German power stations to burn more coal. According to Oeko-Institut, a new brown-coal fired block at Boxberg, managed by Vattenfall Europe, had seen a raise in CO2 emissions of 21% reaching 3.3 million tonnes. RWE's Neurath and Niederaussem sites, followed by Vattenfall's Jaenschwalde and Boxberg are in the top of the "dirty 30" list.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 6:06AM
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pnbrown

That's interesting, Brush. Taxing emissions is admittedly difficult. Taxing fuel is far easier.

Chris, this proposal isn't about new taxes, but shifting the tax base radically. The current tax system rewards the consumption of fossil energy. Fossil energy is so dense that an artificial scheme like this is the only way to discourage the usage.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 6:29AM
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david52_gw

It wouldn't have to be that egregious a tax to make a big difference - 2 or 3% on all the coal, gas, and petroleum would go a long ways to lowering taxes elsewhere.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 12:06PM
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Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

It wouldn't have to be that egregious a tax to make a big difference - 2 or 3% on all the coal, gas, and petroleum would go a long ways to lowering taxes elsewhere.

Yes, but if the PUC allows them to pass along the tax, what do we gain?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 12:18PM
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pnbrown

Of course they will pass along the tax - that is the point. Everything fossil fuel makes possible needs to be more expensive if we seriously wish to segue earlier than otherwise.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 12:39PM
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david52_gw

We'd use less energy. And the PUC lets them raise the rates to make up the revenue.

At some point, people will start to question the sanity of buying increasingly expensive power from some massive corporation when they could generate a share of it themselves by slapping a few solar panels on their roof.

Which, if you shoot for somewhere around 50 - 70% efficiency in converting sun to heat or power, isn't very expensive at all. Its more expensive the higher the efficiency. But nobody pays for sunlight, so who cares?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 12:57PM
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eibren(z6PA)

They would pay for solar panels, though.

We should also be increasing our wetlands and planting more plants. Under optimum (non-drought) conditions plants can respond to increased carbon concentration by increasing carbon absorption from about 15 to 30%, dependong on the kind of plants. Grasses absorb the lesser amount, as they evolved earlier.

Here is a link that might be useful: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center blog

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 9:21PM
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elvis

"At some point, people will start to question the sanity of buying increasingly expensive power from some massive corporation when they could generate a share of it themselves by slapping a few solar panels on their roof."

You think? I don't know about that, short of a massive advertising campaign to raise awareness, coupled with serious financial incentives as a really nice carrot.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 9:21PM
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elvis

â¢Posted by eibren z6PA (My Page) on Sun, Apr 6, 14 at 21:21

"They would pay for solar panels, though."

Who would?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 9:57PM
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