Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 4, 2014

Why we don’t have the NFPTFCPFM energy plan yet.

In my previous post, I described what seems to be an obvious and entirely fair energy plan.  While I have coined the lengthy acronym for it shown in the title above, a more common name given to it is the Carbon Fee and 100% Dividend plan.  So the question follows – why hasn’t this plan been adopted yet?  While I don’t know the complete answer to that question,  I have provided below a set of reasons that I suspect explains some of the resistance to it.

First, it is true that our atmosphere is being used as a waste dump for a substance that will stay there essentially forever and will change our climate so much as to threaten human civilization possibly by the end of this century. But it is also true that that substance, called carbon dioxide, is invisible and this fact apparently makes a great difference. Why worry about something you can’t see and is not directly toxic to human beings?  It apparently takes an atmospheric scientist to understand why our excess levels of CO2 presents an enormous problem and only a tiny fraction of our population are atmospheric scientists.

Next, try to imagine the total financial investments of the world that are counting on the continued use of fossil fuels. These countries include not only several in the Middle East and Africa, but several of our historic allies of the Western World, including Canada and Norway, and, of course, the USA itself.  If we appropriately acknowledge the problem that is being caused by fossil fuel use, we would then have to leave most of those fossil fuels in the ground and that would constitute an enormous loss of wealth worldwide. Just within the USA that loss would be the greatest since slaveholders lost the ownership of their slaves in 1865 due to the passage of the 13th amendment. Thus, it is too easy for those invested in fossil fuels to say: so why don’t we just wait a bit before taking action – maybe “something will come up”. Sure that is questionable, reckless logic, but we’re talking about a lot of money, right?

And then there is the fact that the public is easily confused on scientific issues.  They don’t read the peer-reviewed scientific literature where the issue of AGW is no longer contested.  They only read non-peer-reviewed public literature and personal opinion columns and  in that “literature” one can find any point of view one wants to find.  And the public is very poor at distinguishing between bona fide research scientists  and phony “experts” who just talk  and look officious to the public. It does not help matters that the latter group spews an erroneous version of science that is much “happier” and more comforting than the former.

And then, let’s face it, most people have a priority list that is most heavily weighted on issues of immediate concern, such as paying their bills, taking care of their kids, getting them into good schools, getting their careers off to a good start, and accruing wealth for future needs.  Thus, an all too common attitude concerning climate change is to have none at all –  thinking  “someone will eventually take care of it” or “if things get really bad, science will save our way of life and that of our grandchildren”.  After all, isn’t that their job – solving problems and inventing new things?

And finally, I am reminded of the words of caution provided by President Dwight Eisenhower at the end of his two terms in 1961 – when he warned us about the growing power of what he called the “Military-Industrial Complex” of the USA.  As things have unfolded in the half century since Eisenhower’s departure, it is now clear that he might have extended his caution to include the “Military-Energy-Industrial Complex”.  As the quest for ever increasing amounts of energy required to drive our increasingly large and complex forms of civilization have risen to levels of prime importance, we have increasingly tended to address energy issues in a “Manhattan Project” style of the sort used to develop the first atomic weapons during WWI I.  This has resulted in a centralized approach to energy production in which the government plays the most important role at all levels.  Thus, many of us now seem to think that our government, only, is sufficiently large and powerful as to determine and provide our future sources of energy.

My brother, Dave, for example, who comments occasionally on this blog wants the government to “get on with it” right now and do whatever is required to build more nuclear power plants, such as the one in Red Wing, MN, that has been successfully providing his power for many years.  Dave does not seem to accept the idea – inherent in the Carbon Fee and 100% Dividend Plan – that our free market and the private sectors  would be capable of producing the energy we need (as well as saving back vast amounts of energy we waste due to inefficient lifestyles).  Thus, I end up trying to convince my brother of the benefits of a system that neither of us has seen yet – an energy plan propelled entirely by private investments and entrepreneurship played out on a field that is level for all contestants. In my opinion, Dave needs to consider once again the advice of Dwight Eisenhower.  There are many things we can do better without government direction and I think the production of energy of one of them.

Upon carefully considering each of the reasons described above for not accepting the Carbon Fee and !00% Dividend plan, the folly in each of them is clear. We simply must stop the relentless advance of CO2-induced Anthropogenic Global Warming or we will be leave our grandchildren wondering in just a few decades “what were we thinking?” back when  corrective action might have made a difference. The scientists clearly warned the public about AGW but the public ignored those warnings. Sure, carbon dioxide is invisible but so are lots of substances that scientists can “see” with modern instrumentation. Sure, leaving fossil fuels in the ground will constitute a huge financial loss to many, but to use it will cause far greater losses to everyone just a bit later. Sure, we are all busy with our other priorities, but human beings have been blessed with a brain that allows them to also see the future they are creating.  Sure, we have built up a Military- Energy – Industrial complex that effectively calls the shots in Washington DC, but it is time for us to follow the advice of Dwight Eisenhower concerning it and retake control over key issues of our lives that have been carelessly forfeited. We still do have a Representative Democracy, don’t we? Tell your political representatives to adopt the NFPTFCPFM [No Freebies, Pay the Full Cost, Pure Free Market] plan ASAP!  Only then will we see all aspects of climate change remediation fall into place.


Responses

  1. Eric,
    Certainly the private sector can provide energy without government. If you can reduce CO2 without government help, go at it. But I think you are dreaming.
    Your plan calls for a tax on carbon, the amount set by government, with government sending that money back to the people.
    Taxing carbon is a good idea but the money should go toward energy production/research that is carbon free. That should include nuclear power, in my opinion. Keep carbon tax dollars within the energy industry — from carbon producers to non-carbon producers. Shell Oil, for example, might want to invest in wind turbines and solar panels. The goal is to reduce carbon and not be mean spirited against the exiting fossil fuel industry. For years they served us well. You put more faith in giving carbon tax dollars to the people, while I have more faith keeping those bucks in the energy industry. Obviously, there is no shortage of smart people — to find real solutions or to rip off the effort.
    Dave Grimsrud

    • Brother Dave,
      Given your impressive reservoir of common sense (an uncommon commodity) I am a little surprised to hear that you support a carbon tax.

      We already have carbon taxes. The most recent audited statistics (August 11, 2014) show an average retail gas price of $3.93 per gallon in the USA. State and federal taxes amounted to about $0.63, while the greedy energy companies enjoyed net profits of $0.08.

      If you want to increase carbon taxes, all you have to do is to follow the lead of the United Kingdom. In the UK each gallon of gasoline delivers $4.75 in taxes to the UK government.

  2. Dave,
    OK, so you appear to agree that we need a carbon tax but you want to give the money thereby collected to the alternate energy sector. Your suggestion is commonly made – it seems logical, but in my opinion will damage the entire plan.

    If you let gov do handouts of that large sum, it will be Business as Usual in Washington DC with lobbyist and legislators working hard to make that playing field tilted in one direction or another. If you want our free market system to work, the playing field must be level. In addition, if that field is level, no sector of the energy business will need gov help. The winners will be determined by the players, not the gov and the wealthiest lobbyists.

    It is true that your favorite energy source – nuclear – is somewhat different in that it requires enormous sums and probably more research to build a nuc power plant. But so be it. If that’s a good and safe way to go, let the billionaires put their money in it, take the risk, and then reap the profits or losses that incur. If you let gov be a safety net for them, the playing field will be tilted as to discourage other sources of energy. With public money invested and therefore at risk, the gov would do whatever it could to make sure that its investment is not wasted, right? In the process we will created another colossal and inefficient equivalent of the Pentagon to deal with. In summary, a gov – supported nuclear program is something that works against the basic ideals of our democratic system. It is something that one might expect to find in the former Soviet Union and would probably have the same effect as those huge gov programs did on the Soviet Union.

    You are possibly right when you say that I am just dreaming to think that the private sector could do the job. I don’t think so and, in addition, I have no interest in replacing one bad system with another.

    Eric

    • You said “The winners will be determined by the players, not the gov and the wealthiest lobbyists. ”

      It would be wonderful if that was the case. Reality is a little different. In the USA, government picks the winners and losers. That would be fine if government decisions were well informed…………sadly that is not the case so we have the “War on Coal”, the “War on Nuclear” and so on.

      In the end it won’t matter. The USA can commit energy Hara-Kiri on the lines of California, the UK and Germany. It is already bent on committing cultural suicide. Where does all the self-hate come from? This is the greatest nation that is and probably the greatest nation that ever was.

      Other nations will make more rational decisions and reap economic advantages as a result. The 20th century belonged to the USA but we will be among the “Also Rans” of the 21st century…….our wounds will be mostly self administered.

      Like “Brother Dave” I would like to encourage innovation in the design of nuclear power plants. Yet it does not seem likely that the USA will resume its leadership role:
      http://energyfromthorium.com/2011/05/03/nuclear-power-innovation/#IDComment828965857

  3. I have just finished reading

    The Entrepreneurial State Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths by Mariana Mazzucato

    I think she makes a good case for more government involvement in the transition away from fossil fuels.

    Cheers,

    Paul

    >

  4. Paul,

    Yes, another good argument of that sort, entitled
    “Public Takeover of the Tar Sands” can be found at https://mail.google.com/mail/ca/u/1/#inbox/14a1ca97f4153411

    Perhaps all we know for sure is that in the present the gov – business connections on energy have not worked as they should. Getting one or the other out of the loop might make more sense whichever one is booted out.

    Thanks for your input.

    Eric

  5. Eric; While Pravda can see just exactly what a tax on carbon will do, you & the supposed to be economist who is not right about anything, Paul Krugman, are not able to look into this far enough to understand the consequences of such a stupid tax to “fight” something that is not a problem,CO2. Australia foolishly had a carbon tax but this is what is happening to it:
    Repealing the Carbon Tax
    The Australian Government will abolish the carbon tax from 1 July 2014. This will lower costs for Australian businesses and ease cost of living pressures for households.
    http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/repealing-carbon-tax

    Pravda on cap and trade
    “That brings us to Cap and Trade. Never in the history of humanity has a more idiotic plan been put forward and sold with bigger lies. Energy is the key stone to any and every economy, be it man power, animal power, wood or coal or nuclear. How else does one power industry that makes human life better (unless of course its making the bombs that end that human life, but that’s a different topic). Never in history, with the exception of the Japanese self imposed isolation in the 1600s, did a government actively force its people away from economic activity and industry.” 
    http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/19-10-2009/109977-self_immolation-0/

    Are you therefore saying that in your Utopian world, everyone must be forced to do things like this and is that what the founding fathers felt was the best for the nation? 

    “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” 
    Thomas Jefferson

    “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
    Thomas Jefferson 

    “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
    Thomas Jefferson 

    “A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.
    Thomas Jefferson 

    “Thomas Jefferson said, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” Was he ever right! 

    James Lovelock reflects on Gaia’s legacy
    In 2006, his book The Revenge of Gaia predicted disastrous effects from climate change within just a few decades, writing that “only a handful of the teeming billions now alive will survive”.

    Is climate change going to be less extreme than you previously thought?
    “The Revenge of Gaia was over the top, but we were all so taken in by the perfect correlation between temperature and CO2 in the ice-core analyses [from the ice-sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, studied since the 1980s]. You could draw a straight line relating temperature and CO2, and it was such a temptation for everyone to say, “Well, with CO2 rising we can say in such and such a year it will be this hot.” It was a mistake we all made.”
    http://www.nature.com/news/james-lovelock-reflects-on-gaia-s-legacy-1.15017?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews

    It is like gallopingcamel tried to point out to you, there is already a carbon tax; but, for you it is not enough to cripple the nation that now has been over taken by China as the world’s largest economy and owes 18 trillion dollars, mostly to China, and produces basically nothing, any more, and I assume you are happy with that.


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