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A Real-World Example of Carbon Pricing Benefits Outweighing Costs

Posted on 5 March 2011 by dana1981

NOTE: This article has also been republished on Treehugger

The key obstacle to putting a price on carbon emissions in the USA is the fairly widespread myth that it will result in ballooning energy bills and cripple the economy.  These myths perservere despite the fact that economic studies consistently find that the costs of carbon pricing proposals are very minimal, and the benefits consistently outweigh the costs several times over.

The flaw with these economic studies is that they're generally based on hypothetical legislation which has not been implemented.  So it's easy for individuals who oppose carbon pricing to claim that they contain flawed assumptions, and thus dispute their conclusions.  However, in 2008, ten northeastern states in the USA (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) implemented a carbon cap and trade system which will reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power sector by 10% by 2018 in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  The RGGI recently commissioned a study to examine the impacts of the system, and the results give us a real-world example which is broadly consistent with the economic study predictions of benefits outweighing costs.

All in all, through the first two years of the system, the ten states generated $789 million through the auctioning and direct sale of CO2 emissions allowances.  Each state developed its own plan for investing those funds, but overall, 52% was used for energy efficiency programs, 14% for energy bill payment assistance, including assistance to low-income ratepayers, and 11% to accelerate deployment of renewable energy technologies.  New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey also diverted some of the funds to reduce their state budget deficits. 

Table 1: Percent of RGGI State Investments By Category

Considering that energy efficiency is by far the most cost-effective way to reduce CO2 emissions, at about 2.5 cents to save a kilowatt-hour (kWh), whereas it costs at least 6 cents per kWh to generate electricity from conventional sources, it's not surprising that the RGGI states chose to invest the majority of the carbon allocation funds on energy efficiency programs. 

The RGGI study provides us with a real-world example which busts the three main myths associated with carbon pricing; that it will (i) cripple the economy, (ii) kill jobs, and (iii) cause energy bills to skyrocket.  The study found that in reality, investing the carbon funds in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs resulted in a net benefit to the states' economies:

"Evaluations of several energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in the RGGI participating states indicate that these programs provide $3-$4 in savings for every dollar invested. When macroeconomic benefits are considered, the benefits are even greater."

Note that this analysis does not include other benefits such as averting climate change or reducing emissions of co-pollutants.  Despite this narrow focus, the carbon pricing system resulted in direct benefits exceeding costs several times over. 

The RGGI report also found that the program has created jobs.

"A 2010 analysis by Environment Northeast estimates that energy efficiency programs funded with CO2 allowance proceeds through December 2010 are projected to create nearly 18,000 job years – that is, the equivalent of 18,000 full-time jobs that last one year.  Employment benefits result from state program investments and from the reinvestment of consumer energy bill savings in the wider economy. While there has not yet been a similar analysis of RGGI-funded renewable energy programs, data from the Renewable Energy Policy Project shows every $1 million invested in renewable energy systems creates about six full-time manufacturing jobs, as well as additional jobs in construction and facility maintenance."

The myth that carbon pricing will result in much higher energy bills is based on the premise that  utilities will pass on the price of carbon emissions to consumers.  However, this assumption fails to account for the re-investment of the funds generated through carbon pricing.  For example, as discussed above, the RGGI states invested two-thirds of their carbon funds into energy efficiency and energy bill payment assistance programs.  As a result, the report found that individuals and businesses which took advantage of these programs saw their energy bills drop: 

"At the household and business level, energy efficiency investments enhance consumers’ control over their energy use, typically reducing energy bills by 15 to 30 percent."

Overall, the RGGI program has provided us with a real-world example that carbon pricing can be successfully implemented at a minimal cost, and that its benefits can exceed its costs several times over.

Unfortunately, the New Hampshire House of Representatives recently voted to withdraw the state from RGGI.  This despite the fact that New Hampshire used $3.1 million of their carbon allocation funds to reduce their state deficit, and invested another $24.4 million in energy efficency programs.  The state had used those funds to help businesses and schools become more energy efficient, weatherize low-income homes, provide energy efficiency job training for more than 170 workers, and so on.  New Hampshire Speaker William O’Brien justified the state's RGGI withdrawal:

"Eliminating RGGI sends a clear signal to the business community that we are reversing the direction that the state is taking in terms of creating a regulatory environment that is pro-business. That’s critical in terms of sending a strong message that we are open for business and ready to work with employers to help grow our economy and create good, new jobs here."

Apparently Mr. O'Brien considers it "pro-business" to eliminate a system which had created loans to help New Hampshire businesses lower energy expenses, and provided energy efficiency job training for hundreds of workers in the state.  Unfortunately, New Hampshire serves as a reminder that myths about the effects of carbon pricing tend to have more impact than reality.

This post was written by Dana Nuccitelli (dana1981) has been incorporated into the Intermediate version of the skeptic argument "CO2 limits will harm the economy". 

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 110:

  1. Agnostic, the article says RGGI only applies to the power sector. Unfortunately it's not a very ambitious system.
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  2. The biggest failure of the anti Cap-and-Trade crowd is they assume that Americans will not respond to the increased price. So they assume Americans will just pay more for energy, instead of being motivated, by the increased savings in energy money, to reduce their costs. Indeed, the best way to motivate my fellow Americans is to explain they can avoid a "tax" by becoming more energy efficient. You will unleash the most powerful economic force in the history of civilization on earth: Americans desire to avoid taxes. The truth is there is some low lying fruit. A lot of of it. Inertia, and "cheap" fossil fuel keep that fruit rotting on the vine. Increase the marginal cost of fossil fuel, and people will be motivated to take action. The ACTUAL effect of increased energy prices is 1) more jobs and 2) people pay LESS for energy. This is somewhat counter-intuitive, but the trick to understanding it is to realize how much we can do. Look at your own home. Are windows R-5 or higher? Do you use the sun to heat your home and water? Do you use the sun or wind to create electricity? Are the walls insulated to R25 or higher and ceiling to R-40 or higher? Have you planted trees to shade the home in summer, and allow sunlight in during winter? Are all appliances Energy Star rated? Lightbulbs CFL or LED? All those energy conservation things pay for themselves in under 5 years. The active systems yield bigger paybacks, but also cost more and tend to take between 10 and 20 years to payoff (no subsidies). Active system life is 40+ years. After you factor in OPM (other people's money) the payback time is greatly reduced. You might think that OPM has its limits, but governments are well positioned to recognize the savings in things they pay for (healthcare, subsidized food, subsidized oil, wars for oil, etc.) and reward behavior changes in the energy sector and still be better off. This is yet another case where the narrative has been seized by people who can't or won't think things through beyond the very first move (a tax increases costs). If they thought about what happens in the 3rd iteration (lower costs to building owners, lower pollution=lower costs to government, higher employment) they would run out of rational objections. But that is not how policy makers think on this subject. We have master of tiddlywinks, when Chess or better thinkers are required.
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  3. yes but ... the fossil fuel prices will increase anyway, since unconventional resources can become profitable only with much higher prices. So there is a real paradox here : carbon tax is supposed to be efficient to avoid an increase of fossil fuel consumption, which could happen only if prices get higher ... much higher than any reasonably acceptable tax , actually. So why the natural increase of the resource price would not be enough? actually if peak oil happens soon, it seems that IT IS. Modern economy relies on cheap FF, and it may well be that it can simply not afford to high prices. Note : FAO food index is much better correlated with the price of oil than with the average temperature of the world.
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  4. "Strikes me whatever the evidence CO2 emissions aren't stopping any time soon unless some miracle happens so all these discussions really are academic. Suspect it is probably prudent to start planning adaptation, with clear goals of carbon sequestration (this would a miracle or an enigma size effort), rapid transformation to a low energy use none fossil fuel society." You do both. Cut emissions and plan to adapt for current warming. In that respect the discussion is not academic. The fact that discussions focus on one aspect do not mean people and governments ignore the wider issues. The UK is put together adaptation plans as well as plans to cut emissions.
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  5. Gilles - Note : FAO food index is much better correlated with the price of oil than with the average temperature of the world. I'm sure most people are aware that oil is a necessary component of both food transport and industrialized farming methods (heavy machinery, artificial fertilizer production etc). Of course there's going to be some correlation. if peak oil happens soon Done & dusted Gilles. It happened in either 2005 or 2006 (depending on which official estimate you choose). Peak oil refers to the peak rate of extraction, it doesn't refer to the price of oil.
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  6. "I'm sure most people are aware that oil is a necessary component of both food transport and industrialized farming methods (heavy machinery, artificial fertilizer production etc)." Well of course there is a fairly obvious solution. High Density Vertical growth chambers filled with algae can be used to sequester the CO2 & NO2 generated from the production of electricity from natural gas. This algae can then be used as both a source of bio-diesel & a natural fertilizer or high-protein feed for animals-thus the agricultural sector with carbon neutral versions of its key requirements-thus avoiding the need for higher food prices. Also, if farmers want to earn extra income under a cap-&-trade system, they can do so by (a) planting trees, (b) allowing some of their land to be set aside for Wind Turbines or PV panels & (c) using crop & animal waste to produce methane-methane that can be used to provide electricity & heat for towns & cities. You see, every so-called problem is really just an opportunity in disguise.
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  7. "You see, every so-called problem is really just an opportunity in disguise." Rob : I know, peak of conventional oil has probably already occurred - unconventional "all liquids" may still have a small margin for progression however. marcus : Peak oil is not due to the lack of oil, it is due to the lack of CHEAP oil. There is still plenty of oil underground. It's just more and more expensive, and the economy cannot afford a 100 ou 200 $ barrel without a strong recession. Replacing an expensive resource by another expensive resource is obviously hardly an "opportunity".
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  8. "It's just more and more expensive, and the economy cannot afford a 100 ou 200 $ barrel without a strong recession. Replacing an expensive resource by another expensive resource is obviously hardly an "opportunity"." Man, there are so many things wrong with this comment I really don't know where to begin. Peak oil is *exactly* the reason why we shouldn't be wasting what oil we have left on inefficiently transporting people, 1 person to a car, using the most inefficient form of transportation currently available-cars propelled by internal combustion engines. If we're going to use conventional oil at all, it should *only* be in those parts of the economy where nothing else will suffice. In the rest of the transportation network, we should be looking at switching people to mass transit and/or vehicles that run on electricity-preferably supplied from renewable sources. Of course electric vehicles are currently far less expensive to run than petrol powered vehicles, due to lower maintenance costs & better "fuel" efficiency of the former. As to algal biomass derived bio-diesel-test bed facilities in the US have already proven that bio-diesel derived from algal biomass can be achieved at significantly lower cost than from conventional oil-with prices as low as $20 per barrel once commercial scale operations are achieved. Of course this is easy to believe when you consider that the oil is being produced from waste emissions-so are not costing any extra money, & that the energy required to extract & process the oil in algae is far, far less than that required to extract & refine conventional oil. So, yes, I do see a cap-&-trade system as an opportunity, given that it will provide us with the opportunity to *finally* make our transport network more efficient & less carbon-intensive.
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  9. Oh, to give you an inkling of why electric cars are better than conventional ones. An average electric car gets uses 15kw-h of electricity per 100km of travel (though most current models use closer to 10-12kw-h). In Australia, electricity currently costs $0.30c per kw-h. So an electric car here would cost about $4.50 per 100km of travel. By contrast, a petrol powered vehicle consumes about 9L of petrol per 100km of travel (assuming highway travel) & petrol currently costs about $1.30 per liter. So a conventional vehicle would cost about $11.70 per 100 km of travel. Not hard to see which is the cheaper alternative-especially as the price of oil continues to rise.
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  10. Marcus #58 I'm interested about that algae biofuel price you mentioned. Do you have some reference or link?
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  11. Gilles: "Peak oil is not due to the lack of oil, it is due to the lack of CHEAP oil." Wow, that's a deja vu. In the late 70s, we said 'there's plenty of $50 oil;' during the 1985 price collapse, there was 'plenty of $20 oil.' If you believe that all it takes is higher prices and there's suddenly plenty of oil, you fundamentally do not understand the oil business. To think, 'now that the price is higher, oil companies will just go get all the rest of that oil,' is a bit like telling the starving giraffe that he would have plenty of food if only he could grow a longer neck. That's a 'Drill, baby, drill' level of misconception. The problem is not that peak oil came and went; the problem is that peak energy demand has not. Here is an energy production forecast from USEIA: Total energy production continues its unabated rise, with an optimistic view of liquids: "Production increases are expected from onshore enhanced oil recovery (EOR) projects, shale oil plays, and deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico." But the worst aspect of this forecast is the inexorable increase in energy produced (primarily for generation of electricity) from coal. To go with that is their CO2 emissions forecast: After falling 3 percent in 2008 and nearly 7 percent in 2009, largely driven by the economic downturn, energy-related CO2 emissions do not return to 2005 levels (5,980 million metric tons) until 2027. As if that was good news.
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  12. To further the advantage of electric cars- 8 normal sized solar panels (3 foot by 5 foot - ~1.7 square meters) will charge that electric car for its 100 mile range (Nissan Leaf). 100 miles covers over 60% of Americans average daily driving. You may need a 2nd car - gas guzzler - for long trips. I run a plumbing business with a service area of 250 square miles - I RARELY exceed 100 miles in a given day. And if I do - I know I am going to so I can either take a different vehicle, or I can borrow some electrons along the way.
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  13. @Rob: Regarding the food prices, I think you're suggesting that weather extremes cause food prices to go up... whether it be a heat wave in Russia or the recent cold snap in Mexico. Gotta run now, but i'll respond to your other points later.
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  14. @Rob: Regarding the graph of food prices you provided - http://www.globaldashboard.org/2011/03/03/did-we-say-feed-the-future-oh-we-meant-feed-car-engines/
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  15. actually thoughtfull #62 - I think your numbers are off a bit there. As I recall, over 90% of daily driving in the USA is under 40 miles. Gilles #53 - you're missing the fact that with a carbon price, it creates a revenue stream which can be used to fund energy efficiency programs, as we saw in the RGGI case. When these programs are made more readily available to the public, people will be more likely to take advantage of them. For example, my local electrical utility has a program to make low income homes more energy efficient at no cost. Several years ago when I qualified, I took advantage of the program, and now my home is much more energy efficient.
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  16. Marcus, how is your own electric car working? Muoncounter : why are you looking at EIA's predictions that have repeatedly proven to be wrong in the last years? http://petrole.blog.lemonde.fr/files/2010/11/eiaieooilprojections2000-2010.1290092704.png the falling curves that suddenly increase again in the next years are simply not reliable. Official agencies have persistently underestimated the peaking of production of many countries : US, north sea, mexico. They can't predict decreasing energy supplies, it's not politically correct. others: I am not saying that energy conservation is impossible, nor of course that it shouldn't be done. I say first that it is probably of limited value since the fossil fuel production will eventually vanish, and the productivity won't go to infinity. So energy conservation can mitigate partly the decline of energy, but not completely offset it. Second, even if you reduce the consumption of energy in OECD, how can you justify to prevent the poorest people to use it? do the maths. 15 % of the richest part of the world use 50 % of the energy, so a ratio 6 to 1 compared to the poorest. Even if they halved their energy consumption (going to 3 to 1) this would only correspond to an increase of 50 % for the poorest. How can you prevent them to raise to 1,5 , still one half of the richest? so you can't prevent poor people to use the energy you're sparing (I am not saying this shouldn't be done : it's a fair thing to make our world more equitable. I'm just saying this will not reduce the overall consumption. And it won't either reduce the total amount of fossil fuels that we can extract : usually, a more efficient economy is still more efficient to get scarer resources - so the net result of improving all the techniques and economy will most probably INCREASE the overall amount of burnt fossil fuels...
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  17. Gilles, I don't need an electric car, as I use buses & trains to get everywhere-so my own transportation based CO2 footprint is already extremely low.
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  18. I think everyone is missing the point. The point is, we must find a new energy source to replace carbon fuels. Period. So, why aren't we looking? What good are all of the carbon tax schemes in the world, if we don't spend the tax money on R&D for a full time replacement energy source? Making "investments" in energy saving things has little economic benefit, except for the early investors. Over a short period of time, energy costs must rise. The electric company requires a "fixed" revenue stream to maintain the grid, regardless of reductions in consumption. If its customers use less electricity, then this fixed cost forces an offsetting rate increase levied on the reduced consumption. Similarly, the U.S. Post Office continues to raise postal rates to replace revenues lost to electronic mail. Until email was invented, we had to rely on the Postal Service to carry the mail. Until a 24/7 alternative to carbon fuels is invented, we will continue to rely on carbon fuels. Because government isn't looking for this replacement energy source, I wonder if carbon fuels are really the threat to humanity we've been told.
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  19. For the record, I own an electric motorcycle, and it's freaking awesome. daisym #68 -
    "we must find a new energy source to replace carbon fuels. Period. So, why aren't we looking?"
    We are looking. There's solar (PV and concentrated thermal), wind (offshore and onshore), geothermal, tidal, etc. etc.
    "Making "investments" in energy saving things has little economic benefit, except for the early investors"
    That's not true. Californians use less per capita energy than most of the rest of the USA, but our rates aren't significantly higher than the average.
    "Because government isn't looking for this replacement energy source, I wonder if carbon fuels are really the threat to humanity we've been told."
    Two major problems with this question: 1) It's based on a false premise. As noted above, we most certainly are looking for replacements. And as noted in the article, the RGGI states spent 11% of their carbon funds on renewable energy. 2) The scientific evidence is what it is, and it clearly shows that carbon is a threat to humanity. Whether governments choose to act on it or ignore it does not change the science. The fact that we have rather shortsighted politicians in charge who either don't understand the threat or are unwilling to act on it doesn't change the existence or magnitude of threat.
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  20. Marcus has noted that a common argument advanced by those opposed to pricing carbon by way of a carbon tax/levy or cap and trade system is that in doing so we deprive ourselves of the cheapest, most efficient and transportable energy sources known to man. Inevitably, this must result in damage to the economy. Others have pointed out that the price we pay for energy is relatively cheap compared with energy produced from renewable sources because of our failure to develop technology needed to produce competitively priced energy from renewables and because of the subsidies paid to the producers – and sometimes the users – of fossil fuels. Some have reminded us that oil is a finite commodity and that having reached peak oil, probably in 2008, making the future for oil-based fuels is one of decreasing availability and increasing price. Eventually, probably over the next 30 years, the point will be reached when it becomes unaffordable even for mass transport. But there is quite a different price on the use of fossil fuels which will be and already is being exacted on every man, women and child on this planet. That is the price we are all going to pay in terms of the effects of increasing CO2 emissions, the most notable of which are: • On-going and accelerating rise in global surface temperatures • continued, faster melting of the polar ice caps and sea-ice • dangerous sea level rise and coastal flooding • melting of land based snow and ice, contributing to • shortage of water in densely populated areas • loss of capacity to produce food for rapidly growing populations • extinction of flora and fauna dependent on cooler climates • increased risk of fire and flood destroying valuable assets • spread of potentially fatal diseases into areas now free of them • ocean acidification endangering marine life forms • increased incidence and severity of climate events • increased water vapor in the stratosphere causing further warming • melting clathrates releasing methane, making global warming faster. To varying degrees these effects have already become evident but they do not pose an obvious danger – yet. This is because their development is prolonged and slow but it is inexorable. We either price carbon now and curb our CO2 emissions or we shall pay a much, much higher price – one which can threaten our survival as a species on this planet.
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  21. Gilles: "why are you looking at EIA's predictions ... They can't predict decreasing energy supplies, it's not politically correct." Your source for this analysis is the blog of an independent journalist? Note that EIA's energy from coal curve does indeed decrease for the next 5 years. "do the maths. 15% of the richest part of the world use 50% of the energy" That is exactly the problem. We are the ones who can best afford to explore technology needed to make meaningful reductions. "the net result of improving all the techniques and economy will most probably INCREASE the overall amount of burnt fossil fuels" You seem to be arguing against doing anything because in your opinion, nothing will be an equitable fix. It would help advance the discussion if you provided some real evidence, rather than these sweeping, opinion-based generalizations.
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  22. OK Marcus, so how is the electric car of your friends working ? Dana : "we must find a new energy source to replace carbon fuels. Period. So, why aren't we looking?" We are looking. There's solar (PV and concentrated thermal), wind (offshore and onshore), geothermal, tidal, etc. etc. gasp. Oil is no more used for electricity, at least in the countries that can afford these expensive means of productions. Oil is needed for transportation, heating, carbochemistry, and all this won't help much. "Californians use less per capita energy than most of the rest of the USA, " mainly because climate is hotter, maybe ? "The scientific evidence is what it is, and it clearly shows that carbon is a threat to humanity." The first scientific evidence is that ALL indicators or wealth and welfare are POSITIVELY correlated with the use of fossil fuels, and that without carbon, there is nothing but the poorest life you can imagine. Mucounter : "You seem to be arguing against doing anything because in your opinion, nothing will be an equitable fix. " You misunderstood me : I am arguing that we MUST do anything we can to spare FF, first because they are being exhausted (and even if CO2 had no IR absorption line), but that this will not reduce the overall amount we will extract in the future.
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  23. If winters are tending to be milder, it means the planet's energy efficiency has increased and thereby lowering average fuel consumption. Why is this fact always overlooked...or is this a sorely "inconvenient truth"?
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  24. @ 73 RSVP Really! You have data showing global fuel consumption is decreasing? Or am I asking an inconvenient question?
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  25. Come on Rick, we all know that RSVP has nothing of value to add to this debate. He seems to forget that the flip-side is too much heat in Spring & Summer, & reduced rainfall too-which will of course hurt agriculture. Hotter Summers will also result in greater fuel consumption as people try & keep cool. Given that its harder to get cool than warm up, this will have definitely lead to a net *increase* in fuel consumption over the course of any given year. So not only is RSVP's question totally pointless, it's also based on a total *falsehood*.
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  26. "OK Marcus, so how is the electric car of your friends working ? " Man, this is such a pointless question Gilles-it seems to imply that the "wrong" answer will invalidate my basic premise-which is that our current transport network represents a massively inefficient use of a rapidly declining resource. Or are you trying to suggest that people sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, consuming 1/5th of the petrol in their cars to go *nowhere* is a good thing? As it happens, most of my friends either use buses/trains like me-or get around by bike. Those friends of mine who do have electric cars are very happy with their purchase, as they've seen a significant reduction in their maintenance & "fuel" costs.
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  27. RickG #74 "You have data showing global fuel consumption is decreasing? Or am I asking an inconvenient question? " Global fuel consumption may be increasing, but it is not due to warming. The inconvenient answer is that my personal winter bill has increased while consumption has actually gone down. Marcus #75 If I am getting latent heat from the environment that allows me to turn my furnace off, I am now emitting less CO2. My air conditioner on the otherhand happens to run off of electricity (maybe yours is different). I also only have to turn on this airconditioner about three days in the summer at most, whereas heating is big deal and must be going for at least four months.
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  28. rsvp, but that's where you live. Try it in a city which regularly has several days in succession over 35C. All you need to do is look at how a "heat wave" is defined in different locations. Here it's 5+ days over 35C or 3+ days above 40C. Other places have other definitions. I can assure you that a summer with no heat waves can still rack up an impressive total of weeks requiring a lot of air conditioning unless the household has done some serious work on passive cooling. And it is much, much easier to warm people (at least enough to maintain life) during cold weather than it is to protect from life-threatening heat.
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  29. "If I am getting latent heat from the environment that allows me to turn my furnace off, I am now emitting less CO2". Wow, so its OK to mess with the atmosphere just so you can claim you're consuming less fuel in winter? Here's an idea-try insulating your home or-heaven forbid-where a jumper indoors, that'll cut your fuel bills more than milder winters. You are also aware that you can heat your home with an A/C or with relatively clean landfill gas? Also, try living here in Australia where every Summer we're getting increasing number of nights that are *above* 20 degrees C-thus forcing us to consume more electricity to keep our homes cool at night. As I said above, RSVP, you've long since reached the point where you actually *detract* from the debate, rather than contribute anything meaningful. Personally, I think you should refrain from posting until such time as you're prepared to say something....I don't know....moderately *intelligent*?
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  30. Gilles, "health and welfare are POSITIVELY correlated with the use of fossil fuels, and that without carbon, there is nothing but the poorest life you can imagine." Well apart from general well being index and mental health of course.
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  31. I, as a resident of a country whose huge areas were destroyed by the coal mines - I - the "great enemy” of fuel industry based on coal and petroleum - would that it disappeared as quickly as possible. However, energy-saving technologies and renewable energy sources requires time and large financial outlays. Even - a relatively modest effects - was founded in Kyoto - but require very fast action. Beyond a certain amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the need for several thousand. years to the biosphere can remove the surplus. Loss of Carbon from the Deep Sea Since the Last Glacial Maximum, Yu et al., 2010..: “Combined benthic δ13C and [CO3 2-] results indicate that deep-sea-released CO2 during the early deglacial period (17.5 to 14.5 thousand years ago) was preferentially stored in the atmosphere, whereas during the late deglacial period (14 to 10 thousand years ago), besides contributing to the contemporary atmospheric CO2 rise, a substantial portion of CO2 released from oceans was absorbed by the terrestrial biosphere.” Rapid reductions in CO2 are achievable only through widespread application of CCS - global CO2 emissions growing rapidly - especially in China. CCS will surely raise the cost for energy - this is not possible that improved energy efficiency. This is after all only a mere storage of CO2. CCS "will take" a large part of investment in renewable energy sources. Even more (and more) will make us from the fuel concerns - energy supplies based on fossil fuels. Corporations such as Statoil and Shell - has for many years - in Europe - the fund's most "alarming" researches on current and future GW. CCS will give preference position - particularly in the U.S. - the big oil corporations (this is the expensive technology - that she was a fully secure.) Their leaders already argue that the large-scale introduction of CCS - that gives you the quasi-monopoly position - will be able to run a cost-effective production of energy from methane clathrates (including liquid fuels production - their price at CCS will have to be higher.) Methane clathrates will be "sufficient" for USA on 3,000 years ... At the CCS we can (for a long time), forget about "peak oil" and "clean energy" ...
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  32. Gilles #72 -
    "Oil is needed for transportation, heating"
    No it's not. Transportation can be accomplished with electric vehicles to a large degree, and there are alternatives to heating with oil.
    "mainly because climate is hotter, maybe ?"
    No, because California has implemented energy efficiency technologies. Our per capita energy consumption has barely increased over the past 30 years. The rest of the country's has increased significantly.
    "without carbon, there is nothing but the poorest life you can imagine."
    First of all, nobody is saying we're going to eliminate all carbon, and secondly, claiming that we can't have a high tech lifestyle without massive carbon emissions is utterly absurd.
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  33. Gilles #66: "Even if they halved their energy consumption ... I'm just saying this will not reduce the overall consumption. And it won't either reduce the total amount of fossil fuels that we can extract" I don't follow that reasoning at all. Gilles#72 "I am arguing that we MUST do anything we can to spare FF, first because they are being exhausted ... " According to World coal: "there is enough coal to last us around 119 years at current rates of production." Not going to be exhausted any time soon. Add in (from USEIA): "The combustion of coal, however, adds a significant amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere per unit of heat energy, more than does the combustion of other fossil fuels" and your argument reduces to one of failure to act.
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  34. Dana 1981 @ 82 - No it's not. Transportation can be accomplished with electric vehicles to a large degree Personal transport?. Yes. Heavy machinery?. No. We still have a long way to go, and better get cracking in creating something to replace it.
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  35. Muoncounter @ 83 - According to World coal: "there is enough coal to last us around 119 years at current rates of production." Not going to be exhausted any time soon. Probably not, but if oil runs out, how is all that coal going to be extracted from the ground and transported?.
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  36. Rob: "how is all that coal going to be extracted from the ground and transported?" I'd be happy to leave coal exactly where it is; in the ground. There are LPG-powered vehicles in use; school buses, light-duty trucks, even a 5.9L big rig engine. What about biodiesel, which could stretch dwindling fuel stocks for some years? All I'm saying is that the sum total of what Gilles seems to favor results in a do-nothing attitude. It is born out of the pre-conception that atmospheric CO2 is not an urgent problem, so we can get by on fossil fuels as long as they last. That is unfortunately a path we are taking, but not one we should be taking. Counter the argument 'we can't afford to reduce emissions' with 'we can't afford what will happen if we don't'.
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  37. Marcus #79 "Also, try living here in Australia where every Summer we're getting increasing number of nights that are *above* 20 degrees C-thus forcing us to consume more electricity to keep our homes cool at night." The more people use air conditioners, the warmer it gets. You are in fact saying that more and more energy is going into "cooling", when in reality it is going into heating the ambient temperature (i.e., urban heat island, waste heat problem, etc.)
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] As you will no doubt recall, we have a waste heat thread and UHI threads here and here.
  38. Dana - I said "over 60%" You said "90%" both are correct. My point stands, that the majority of us could, in fact, power our transportation needs with a Nissan Leaf (or equivalent) and 8 solar PV panels.
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  39. RSVP - you seem to be a good candidate for solar space heating. That would minimize your costs & minimize your CO2 footprint. Don't you sometimes argue that winters are getting worse? But here you say you are paying more for less fuel, meaning that winters are less severe? (Or did you invest heavily in conservation?)
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  40. Gilles, I have seen you make the same point on a few blogs - that our actions to reduce fuel use will only hasten the 3rd worlds use of fuel (by lowering the price, and making it affordable). And you analysis is OK, as far as it goes. Which is not far enough. Your analysis misses the key point - that fossil fuels are NOT the only way to improve your lot in life. For example, my customers lower their bills and their carbon footprint by investing in renewable energy. Now will their unused fuel be used by citizens of 3rd world countries? I suggest you look at telephones. It used to be, in Guatemala, that each town would have one phone and people would line up to use it. In more remote sections, the people would walk over to the next town. The problem was the fixed cost of running telephone lines. Now these communities are served by multiple cell phones. It turns out it is cheaper to throw up cell towers than it is to run thousands of miles of copper wire. That is a better analogy, and what the right wing in the US doesn't understand. We can create solutions that are BETTER than fossil fuel. We can lead the world and make serious money, or we can sit on our hands and say "well if we don't use it someone else will." It is a logical fallacy, pure and simple.
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  41. ...oh, & actually thoughtful is dead right. Seems you-like most denialists-want to have your cake & eat it too. You're usually first in line to tell us that global warming isn't real-or isn't the result of burning fossil fuels (oh no, its all the fault of that relatively tiny waste heat effect). Yet here you're claiming the opposite. So which is it?
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  42. #69 dana1981: Thanks for the response to my comments @ #68. My position needs some clarification: I prefaced my comments by saying, “I think everyone is missing the point.” Your response shows me that perhaps you are missing the point. 1. I commented that we must find a NEW, full time, 24/7 energy source that could replace carbon fuels. You disagreed, saying that wind and solar (and a few other, lesser technologies) fit the bill. This isn’t factual. These are neither new, nor scalable, nor reliable sources of full time, 24/7 energy. The USA isn’t looking for such an energy source. I reiterate: Why aren’t we looking? The Federal government spent $100 billion for scientific research that blames carbon fuels as a threat to humanity. So what’s the thrust of the Federal response to this dire situation? …To make electricity only when the wind blows and the sun shines, and keep on burning carbon fuels! How will this end the threat to humanity? Why aren’t we spending another $100 billion on R&D to find a full time, 24/7 replacement for carbon energy? Wind, solar, etc. won’t do the job. You missed the point! 2. I commented that investments in energy-saving things had little economic benefit, except for the early investors. Reduced purchases of postage stamps forced the Postal Service to raise the price of stamps. Water consumption in Colorado has gone down, while consumer bills have gone up (not down). These are dynamics of the market system. If as you say, California rates have increased as per capita consumption has decreased, you and I implicitly agree on these very dynamics. Let’s not forget that Californians are not paying the full cost for renewable energy, thanks to massive Federal subsidies. Without subsidies to reduce the cost of manufacture, these rates would be much higher! 3. You also had problems with my closing comment, where I wondered if the threat to humanity posed by reliance on carbon fuels was real, since Government wasn’t looking for a new, full time, 24/7 energy source to replace carbon fuels. You claimed that the RGGI States spent 11% of their carbon funds on renewable energy. But was this for R&D to find the “holy grail” of energy sources (to replace carbon fuels)? Of course not. Not mentioned was that these same States spent 17.4% of their carbon funds to prop up their operating budgets. Given no interest at the Federal or State level to find such a replacement for carbon fuels, given interest only in reducing (not eliminating) use of carbon fuels with part time wind and solar energy, and given the proclivity to use energy revenues for non-energy purposes, I still insist that the “threat to humanity” is an overblown alarmist cry.
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    Moderator Response: It is not necessary to have a single technology provide 24/7 energy. See "Renewables can’t provide baseload power."
  43. daisysm, "perhaps you are missing the point." That is one way to look at it. Perhaps the points made here differ in substance from the ones you are trying to make. You might consider doing some reading on warming issues. Start with the Newcomers guide then move on to Most used skeptic arguments. "what’s the thrust of the Federal response to this dire situation? …To make electricity only when the wind blows and the sun shines" Are there no renewable electric projects funded by corporate interests? Ever hear of T. Boone Pickens? "Let’s not forget that Californians are not paying the full cost for renewable energy, thanks to massive Federal subsidies." Hardly anyone in the US pays the full cost of energy. Know about massive Federal subsidies (aka tax breaks) to the oil industry? "I wondered if the threat to humanity posed by reliance on carbon fuels was real, since Government wasn’t looking for a new, full time, 24/7 energy source" I have to admit, that's a unique point of view. Because govt isn't doing something (in your view), it isn't a real problem? How about this for a reason that govt's search for replacement fuel is so slow: There is a massively funded industry lobby against that initiative! "I still insist that the “threat to humanity” is an overblown alarmist cry." Mere insistence on something doesn't qualify as evidence, scientific or otherwise. See the threads Its not bad for some examples of what 'alarmism' is trying to say.
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  44. There is an answer to building a mostly non carbon energy system. It is available, and has been tested. It is called nuclear.
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  45. I am not sure we need to divert 100 billion into researching this new, 24/7 non solar, non fossil, non wind, non nuclear answer. If I could control all government spending, sure I would lower spending on say, fossil fuel subsidies or war and increase on long shot total replacements. But the answers are already here. We have a long, long, long way to run before we've begun to utilize solar, wind and wave to meet our needs, as CAmburn points out, nuclear has a role. Why wouldn't every available penny be dedicated to the tested, here-and-now solutions? That is what you would do if you thought it was a critical problem. So I don't think your point hangs together as you dismiss the technologies that are already working (solar, solar for heat, wind, wave, nuclear, etc) in the search for this new holy grail. { - snip - }
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    Moderator Response: [DB] The referenced comment was deleted.
  46. dana : Gilles #72 - "Oil is needed for transportation, heating" No it's not. Transportation can be accomplished with electric vehicles to a large degree, and there are alternatives to heating with oil." Dana, I'm speaking of current facts. Oil IS NOT used for electrical power in developed countries, so the "alternatives" you mentioned are simply not relevant to replace it. Oil IS used for 98 % of transportation. You may imagine that electric cars could replace it, but they don't develop even if the barrel hit 150 $ - instead, we have recessions that make simply more people poorer - which doesn't help them to buy expensive electrical cars of course (BTW , the electricity is mainly made from fossil fuels in the world, so even electric cars wouldn't change the CO2 production). I'm just living in a real world. " "mainly because climate is hotter, maybe ?" No, because California has implemented energy efficiency technologies. Our per capita energy consumption has barely increased over the past 30 years. The rest of the country's has increased significantly." I don't know the figure for all US states; I'm just noticing the "barely increased" ... " "without carbon, there is nothing but the poorest life you can imagine." First of all, nobody is saying we're going to eliminate all carbon, and secondly, claiming that we can't have a high tech lifestyle without massive carbon emissions is utterly absurd." I am saying that we're going to eliminate all fossil carbon, just because it is a finite resource, and before being exhausted, it will first decrease significantly. And there is nowhere and never a "high tech lifestyle without massive carbon emissions" : stating that it is "utterly absurd" to predict something that happens everywhere and in all times is ... surprising. There are much more facts that show the dependance of modern life on fossil fuels than on average temperature. Actually , ALL facts show that our way of life is totally dependent on FF consumption, and NO fact shows that it depends strongly on average temperature.
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  47. Gilles, "You may imagine that electric cars could replace it, but they don't develop even if the barrel hit 150 $" As usual, you've offered an authoritative-sounding opinion without evidence to back it up. In this case, there is evidence to the contrary from Scott et al 2007: ... analysis of purchasing decisions shows that at existing average residential electricity rates and over a range of gasoline prices, prospective vehicle purchasers could afford to pay a premium of up to a few thousand dollars over the cost of either a standard 27.5-mpg and/or high-efficiency 35-mpg vehicle and still break even on the life-cycle cost of purchasing and operating a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). The range of gasoline prices analyzed (in 2007) was $2-3.50 per gallon; we've just blown past those prices, making PHEV look even more economic. Couple that analysis with this news: China Announces Plans to Make 1 Million Electric Cars Per Year By 2015 and the game changes yet again. Perhaps its time to offer some facts instead of mere opinion-based pronouncements. "ALL facts show that our way of life is totally dependent on FF consumption, and NO fact shows that it depends strongly on average temperature." A very revealing declaration. I suppose that is partially true, depending on where you live. There are a number of threads here at SkS you can look at if you are interested in facts to fill in the supposed 'NO fact'-based void. But since you've made such a strong statement of denial, I'm guessing that facts aren't such a valuable commodity.
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  48. Gilles, How about the introduction of agriculture into our civilization. Care to comment on the relationship between that development and temperature? I think your final paragraph goes miles past what the science shows us.
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  49. GC, Hansen has proposed tax and dividend to get around your proposal for allowing bureacrats to spend all the money. If we dividend all the carbon tax to the people they can spend it on anything they wamt to. Why are you so insistant that we should give it all to bureacrats? Skeptics like you are against anything and do not care what has actually been proposed. find out what has been proposed before you are against it.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] GC's comment was again deleted due to repeated violations of the comments policy. If you recognize comments containing obvious violations, keep in mind that replies to comments getting deleted are normally deleted also. DNFtT.
  50. daisym #92:
    "Wind, solar, etc. won’t do the job."
    Sorry, this is wrong. As the moderator noted, please see the rebuttal to the myth Renewables can’t provide baseload power (which coincidentally, I also wrote).
    "If as you say, California rates have increased as per capita consumption has decreased, you and I implicitly agree on these very dynamics"
    Only one problem - that's not what I said. What I said was that California per capita consumption has remained flat while the rest of the country's has increased, yet our rates are not significantly higher than the national average.
    "Let’s not forget that Californians are not paying the full cost for renewable energy, thanks to massive Federal subsidies."
    As muoncounter noted in #93, every energy source in the USA gets federal subsidies, including oil and coal.
    "I still insist that the “threat to humanity” is an overblown alarmist cry."
    Insist all you want. As muoncounter also noted, insistance without evidence isn't worth much. I suggest you peruse this site to learn about the scientific evidence that global warming is a major threat. It's a great resource. Gilles #96:
    "You may imagine that electric cars could replace it, but they don't develop"
    I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. Electric cars are already being developed, even by major car companies (see the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, for example). I already own an electric motorcycle. You're saying that something which exists doesn't exist. There's a word for that. It starts with the letter "D".
    "BTW , the electricity is mainly made from fossil fuels in the world, so even electric cars wouldn't change the CO2 production"
    This statement is totally wrong.
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