Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 15, 2012

The Best Energy Policy

We presently have a national “energy policy” by which the government throws money at all sources of energy — both the so-called “green” sources, such as wind and solar as well as at the traditional fossil-fuel-based sources. That policy is a poor one because the government is not good at selecting viable businesses.

We need a national energy policy in which the private sector will be the main player. We will get that only if we drop all handouts and tax breaks to all energy producers and begin charging the full costs associated with all of our sources of energy. This must include the costs associated with waste disposal, of course, as we already do, for example, in the case of nuclear power. That would mean that a “carbon fee” would have to be imposed on all fossil fuel production in order to recover the huge costs we are about to incur for the removal of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.

Then we could let the free-market system, alone, do the rest. The best sources of energy would then rise to the top. The only argument against this national energy policy is to deny that our increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 will causes serious environmental damage.  This argument is analogous to one might make on behalf of the nuclear industry – that is, it is OK to dispose of our nuclear wastes from power plants simply by speading them over our landscapes or throwing them into the oceans.

The fossil fuel industries have been using the Earth’s atmosphere as a garbage dump for more that a century and are unwilling to start paying for that service now. The main reason for this stance, of course,  is that a continuously increasing carbon fee would, indeed, probably put the fossil fuel industries out of business by the end of this century. That outcome, however, might be essential if we expect to arrest the damage being done by CO2 emissions.  In order to stay in business, the fossil fuel industries would then have to come up with carbon capture and storage technologies that would prevent fossil-fuel-based emissions and they know too well what a “pipe dream” that one is for large industrial scale implementation throughout the world.

Yes, we need jobs, jobs, jobs, but only those that will be sustainable and not contribute to the further degradation of our planet.  We also need a global energy policy that is understandable to the public and is more than a big influence games being played out by lobbyists in the world’s capitals.  A simple fee or tax of carbon would provide this.  The only game to be played would be to set a continuously increasing fee or tax on carbon use each year until emissions are essentially eliminated.  Via its influence in the global market place, the USA and other countries in agreement could cause all others to come on line via the implementation of import duties on all goods and services for which a carbon tax was not paid in the country of origin.

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