Saturday, March 30, 2013

Phase in carbon taxes to phase out greenhouse gas emissions

I’d like to see carbon tax applied in three phases.

The first phase would be a carbon tax applied to extraction: coal, crude oil, natural gas, even if the extractor claims the material will be stockpiled and not sold immediately.

Second phase would be a carbon tax on industrial sales of material as well as their emissions. That means refineries, electric generation by coal, etc.

Third phase would be a carbon tax on small commercial ‘retail’ and household and personal use emissions. This point would pick up on embedded carbon costs in products or services that are imported from outside the US tax system.

Example for the third phase would be a tax on the carbon footprint of a plastic item like a detergent or shampoo container that was stamped out in a mold operating on coal-fired electricity in a foreign country.

The three phases should add up like a VAT (value added tax), so no one taxpayer feels they are paying overmuch for someone else’s decisions. Places where residential populations depend nearly exclusively on coal-fired electricity or oil transport should be given the means to change their ways.

Overview of sources and users of all forms of energy is available in a convenient graphic from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Estimated U.S. Energy Use in 2011: ~ 97.3 Quads

We’d have to work something else out for taxing other GHG emissions, like the HFC coolant in air conditioners. I don't have a graphic for that at present.

Basically, don’t kill the economy while saving it.

A carbon tax system can steer the economy towards energy efficiency, and pick up other bonuses that might emerge along the way, like public transportation on safe bridges.

I agree with others that the revenues of a carbon tax could go into a general fund.

If carbon tax follows the history of the tobacco industry and cigarette taxes, then put the revenues towards an array of public works and services that reduce dependency on fossil fuels. That can scale from major public transport improvements to subsidized solar roofs on residences.

I cross posted a version of this in a couple of comments on Climate Progress.

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