Thursday, July 04, 2002

Carbon tax?

I started to address Doug Turnbull's comment on a previous item here, but it got too large (imagine that). So I'll expand on it here. What inspired me was his mention of a carbon tax.

What usually happens when electricity, gasoline, natural gas or other prices rise? The lefties start bitching about cartels, capitalism, exploitation...the same tired BS we've been hearing for years.

Yet they would have us use less of these commodities to minimize our impact on the environment. How to do this? Allocation via rationing or by prices.

Nobody likes rationing, and lefties don't like it in particular because then the govt gets the blame it so richly deserves. So it'll have to be price increases.

Forget the ideology - what needs to be done to reduce pollution? That's too big a topic - what needs to be done to reduce pollution resulting from electric power consumption, or at least to assure that the consumers bear the costs of the environmental impacts of their consumption? And how do we make sure that each watt consumed has the minimum practical impact on the environment?

Reducing the pollution per watt requires capital investment. Reducing the consumption requires increasing prices. Voila - we let electric power prices rise to reflect these costs, using existing regulatory bodies and local pollution standards. An added bonus is that every dime spent on the increased power costs goes back into the industry for further investment and development.

The left can't stand this - it's too simple, too decentralized, and they have too many groups to pander to. Wearing their pro-labor mask, they support coal miners. In the pro-environment mask, they support higher prices on power. In their coal-black hearts, they support more govt power, higher taxes and lower revenues to "capitalists", while trying to deflect the blame to "capitalists". So how do they reconcile these?

A carbon tax! You can still mine the coal. The prices will rise to reduce consumption, furthering green goals. The govt gets more regulatory power and revenue. And because the charges show up on your utility bills, the "capitalists" look like the bad guys.

Who's left out here? The guys who generate the power and have to make the capital improvements to reduce pollution per unit of power. Well, to quote an old Communist sympathizer, to make an omelet you have to break some eggs.

Oh, the generators will be thrown a bone - maybe they'll be able to apply for some grants to install newer technology. That will give the govt still more power, and the left will bitch about it as "corporate welfare". Congress will turn it into a pork program, channelling available funds to their pet utilities. And just as gasoline taxes do more than just maintain our highways, some of this revenue will be redirected far from the power industry.

So there are your choices for simultaneously reducing power consumption and pollution per unit of consumption. You can set standards for the environment and leave utilities free to meet them, and leave existing regulators to keep resulting price increases in line. Or you can set up still another complex bloated govt bureaucracy to redistribute money from your utility bill to pork projects and unrelated govt expenditures while furthering socialization of the power industry. It sounds like a simple choice to me.

What can the left do to help? They can quit yapping about every energy cost increase that doesn't go straight into the govt's pocket.

It sounds easy. But they won't do it. Because given a choice between environmentalism and bigger govt, they'll sell out the environment every time.

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