Barack Obama’s Second Term, Climate Change and Energy Consumption

Congratulations, Mr. President. Now let’s get to work.

Because you mentioned climate change one time in your acceptance speech, the writers and readers for whom that subject is of paramount importance (on either side) have let 1,000 flowers bloom in less than a day.

Andrew Revkin did the best job of it, talking through many of the items that should be on the agenda for your next four years. But he was hardly alone. Keith Kloor chimed in, as did the politics blog on my hometown newspaper, the SF Gate, which catalogued responses from the Energy and Environmental Great and Good.

I will be shorter and simpler. You will not be able to do anything useful regarding climate change if you do not look at energy consumption at the same time. With that in mind, the first step is screamingly obvious.

Institute a carbon tax at the low level of $12 / ton of CO2. Make it revenue neutral, lowering social security taxes on both employers and employees by the amount raised from the carbon tax. Add a provision that will re-evaluate the monetary value of the tax every ten years based on benchmark levels of CO2 concentrations, U.S. CO2 emissions per capita and global sea surface temperatures.

Do not hypothecate revenues to energy efficiency or renewables, or anything else. If you want Republican support, make the tax revenue neutral.

If you do this and this alone, you will have done more to solve the problems of climate change than any other government body or multinational institution. If you do this and this alone, it will have a real-world impact, serve as an example for the world and prove our commitment to climate change and responsible governance.

There are 100 other things you could do. But each of them come with caveats and trade-offs that will cause more controversy and delay in passage and implementation.

Do this one thing. Do it now.

9 responses to “Barack Obama’s Second Term, Climate Change and Energy Consumption

  1. Tom, leave this one up for a while. It’s a good starting point.
    My problem is that most of the current hysteria concerns “extreme weather.” Global warming has stalled. More later

  2. It’s later. If I were president, the first thing that I would do is pull all funding from the IPCC, etc. Then I would appoint a blue ribbon interdisciplinary commission to study the problem from scratch.
    I would then end the ethanol mandate. If anyone wants I could explain my reasons for why this is probably doing more harm than good.
    Getting rid of the other mandates might be part of the deal. Some of you may have remembered my arguments for how the mandates destroyed wind power.
    I am not one of those people who believes in privatization for its own sake. But if the republicans have their heart set on privatizing something, privatize the nuclear labs- Lawrence-Livermore, Sandia, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and especially Hanford.
    The $12/ton sounds good if the problem is co2; but I’m starting to believe that the global temperature rise due to co2 is more like 0.02-0.05C/decade rather than 0.2C/decade.

  3. Where do people get the idea that governments are benevolent.
    .
    Once introduced, when has any local or national tax or parking charge, or fixed penalty, ever stayed “revenue neutral”. Like every other “neutral” or specific use tax, carbon tax would quickly just become another part of the greater revenue source pool and that means in future every excuse will be used to maximise revenue irrespective of the consequences.

    You might say that this is a good thing but a potential loss of income must sway government policy to maintain income irrespective of future events and scientific knowledge.

    16 years of static/mild decline in temperatures and counting, how long will we have to wait before the CO2 based “Global Warming” mantra dies away and government is using every excuse and half truth to cling onto their income..

  4. GWB and Dick Cheney did more to reduce US emissions then any other administration by providing a limited exemption to the Clean Water Act for fracking. This resulted in reducing the cost of exploration in both time and money which has led to cheap,plentiful natural gas.

    In any case..if I look at the speaker of the houses website, somehow I don’t think he will interpret a $12/ton CO2 tax as ‘stopping the war on coal’.

    http://www.speaker.gov/general/obama-administration-s-war-coal-claims-1200-more-jobs

    Article 1, Section 7 of the US Constitution
    http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html

    All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives

  5. FrankSW, I just have to say that the whole thrust of this weblog is that our problems with climate change lie ahead of us. If we use six times as much energy as we do today in 2075 and more than half of that comes from coal, what do you think will happen? Nothing?

    • ” If we use six times as much energy as we do today in 2075 and more than half of that comes from coal”

      Just in a new market study –
      http://www.powerengineeringint.com/articles/2012/11/china-and-india-will-lead-boom-in-gas-nuclear-and-renewables-says-report.html

      On coal, Frost & Sullivan industry director Harald Thaler said: “The growth of coal is not far behind as emerging nations such as China and India rely strongly on this fuel. Nevertheless, growth of coal fired generation is expected to fall massively during the subsequent decade as developed countries decommission capacity and emerging nations become more diversified in their fuel mix.”

      And further down
      The report echoes the views of speakers at POWER-GEN Asia in Bangkok last month. Peter Littlewood of Hong Kong company CLP said China would soon “master the design and manufacturing of third generation nuclear reactors”, and when that time comes it will be able to “do nuclear cheaper than anyone else in the world.”

      The Chinese aren’t building substantial nuclear forging capacity and paying Westinghouse for exclusive rights to the 1,400 MW derivative of the AP1000 because they have nothing better to spend their money on. The Chinese have a plan they aren’t publicly talking about. They set ‘achievable goals’ in order to avoid the appearance of failure. It’s a cultural thing. Asian societies avoid the appearance of failure.

  6. The story is going around that Obama will propose a $20/ton tax on co2. I think that it will receive the same reception in congress as your proposal did on this blog.
    I am very tired these days and I have a lot on my plate. I would like to say that I would help in a new blog, but I probably couldn’t. There are very few skeptic blogs that are the least bit left of center. Aletho News was hard left, but they are now off line. Counterpunch was publishing a good cross section, but then one of its principles, Alex Cockburn, died; and now they are all alarmist gibberish. Global Research had an excellent article yesterday on the social politics of CAGW. I will probably start visiting there.

  7. There’s a good article on Pielke’s site today by Jon Foley. Agricultural policy may effect the climate far more than energy.

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