11 comments on “Timmy Elsewhere

  1. I know you get castigated by the swivel-eyed types for accepting AGW, but does it really matter if it’s happening or not? If we tax CO2 and lower taxes elsewhere is this really any worse economically than taxing income, dividends, capital gains, consumer purchases, imports, etc?

    I’ve not heard anyone arguing that lower CO2 will hurt Ms. Gaia, and I’ve never found anyone arguing that a CO2 levy is worse than Sales Tax.

    Tim adds: I’m not absolutely certain that I do “accept” AGW. I’m fascinated for example by that programme to look at all the US shore based weather stations, to see whether the urban heat island effect has been properly dealth with. Satellite measurements are simply to new for us to be able to brush that problem aside.

    I know very well that the actual warming that will be directly caused by a doubling of atmospheric CO2 will be around 3/4 of a degree F (‘coz the IPCC says so). Higher sensitivities are a result of feedbacks and no, we really don’t know that those feedbacks will be in aggregate yet.

    But I do think that it’s a great deal more productive to accept what scientists tell me about science and then turn around and say, well, OK, but the economic implications of what you’re saying are x and y and z (of course, I’m not the one discovering those implications, that’s done by real economists). If we all have to listen to climate scientists about climate (not, on the face of it, a silly thing to do) then we all have to listen to economists about how to change the incentives of human society. Each are experts in their own field.

  2. Trouble is, Kay, that we are unlikely to lower taxes elsewhere. Carbon taxes are most likely to be additional, thanks to greedy governments.

    Lower carbon dioxide levels might indeed hurt Mrs Gaia, given that the stuff is plant food. And, to the extent that CO2 minimally affects temperature – I am sympathetic to the view that carbon dioxide actually follows temperature – a reduction in the level may cool the planet: emphatically not good.

    But my main objection is that basing public policy on an extremely shaky hypothesis, that of anthropogenic global warming, is most unlikely to have desirable effects.

  3. Tim,
    I agree with Hansen too, except for the 4th gen nuclear bit. I’d like to see more research on geothermal, the always-on renewable. Revenue neutral taxation is possible, an ever increasing tax burden will not be accepted by the electorate for ever (I hope)

    CO2 levels correlate well with the amount of coal and oilburned and the property of CO2 to scatter IR radiation from the sun is easily demonstrated in the lab. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,24866329-7583,00.html

  4. The trouble with all these clever arguments, under a somewhat misleading headline, is that we spend the whole of the while reading worrying that you have lost your marbles. [Such little faith, I know.]

    Presumably there will be a follow-on article explaining that, now we are agreed on the principle, Stern’s figures are vastly inflated (which they are), and so fuel tax should be cut to a fraction of its present level.

    I’m with you.

    Best regards

    Tim adds: Well, I have made that argument repeatedly. That even if we believed Stern’s figures that petrol tax sould come down by 13 p a litre.

  5. “Trouble is, Kay, that we are unlikely to lower taxes elsewhere. Carbon taxes are most likely to be additional, thanks to greedy governments.”

    That’s a political matter, not an economic or scientific one (well, it can be scientific if you’re making a study on the prevalence of sociopaths in politics).

  6. but low and middle income people, especially, will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead

    Yes, in the same way that poor people find ways to reduce food consumption as the price rises beyond their means, by starving to death.

    If there is a genuine CO2 problem, then, sorry to say, the free market (and I hate to admit this) is shit for dealing with it. It’s not an externality, it’s a genuine crisis. You can’t deal with a war by taxing enemy bombs, I’m afraid. Such externalities are truly beyond the market.

    “Emissions” is a very poor place to address the problem. Baking bread emits CO2, my compost heap emits CO2 and, indeed, I myself emit CO2. None of these emissions are harmful as they are simply recycling CO2 already in the biosphere (carbonsphere?) as part of the natural carbon cycle. Once a carbon atom is in the biosphere- in the wild- it will get emitted and absorbed at various times. The only issue (assuming AGW is genuine) is the prevention of the addition of carbon to the biosphere from sequestrated sources. It thus makes obvious sense to restrict that.

    The answer therefore would be to reduce this by rationing. Horribly statist, yes, but this is a crisis. The advantage of rationing is that everybody suffers equally. Doesn’t matter how wealthy you are, you get your pint of petrol per week and that’s it. It’s easy to implement since fossils are extracted in easily indentifiable places, and imported in bulk- it would be hard to run a black market crude oil trade because those tankers would be a bit of a giveaway. It’s hard to hide a refinery.

    Then Jim and Al and their mates could figure out how to stay warm and fly to conferences on the same fossil ration as the rest of us, instead of living in comfort and buying a few carbon credits to assuage their guilt.

    Not one for the market, sad to say.

  7. “The advantage of rationing is that everybody suffers equally. Doesn’t matter how wealthy you are, you get your pint of petrol per week and that’s it.”

    I don’t drive much. Can I sell my pint?

    “it would be hard to run a black market crude oil trade because those tankers would be a bit of a giveaway. ”

    Ah, that’d be “no” then. Oh well, might as well go for a drive.

  8. I don’t drive much. Can I sell my pint?

    Of course you can.

    Ah, that’d be “no” then.

    No, not at all. It’s easy to control the amount of oil coming into the country, easy to control its initial distribution by ration coupon. Once it’s out in the wild, people can do what they want with it.

    But wouldn’t rich people buy all the poor peoples’ petrol?

    Yes, yes they would, that which the poor were willing to sell. It’d be expensive on eBay, but available. Those people who can get by without would make a killing.

    And, we could watch how much is being sold on eBay, and steadily reduce the ration since that could be reasonably considered surplus to the necessities of the nation.

  9. @ Ian B,
    How is the market you describe – with the wealthy buying petrol from the poor, any different an outcome from simply raising the level of duty on petrol?

    Total effect of either solution is the poor use less fuel, the rich pay more for what they want, and overall less fuel is consumed.
    Except, of course, your solution involves an expensive quango deciding how much the UK should have and imposing a rigid and inflexible view subject to the usual fallacies of any controlling body of that nature…

  10. Well, the main difference is that raising the level of duty on petrol doesn’t actually set a ceiling on how much is used, and I’d imagine one would want to do that if one were trying to stop the planet catching fire. Also, the poor can make some money out of it, so *puts on socialist hat* the rich are directly compensating the poor in return for riding around going parp parp in their cars, while those poor who don’t sell can drive around too. A bit, at least.

    I’m no fan of state controls, and I don’t believe in Global Warming. But if Global Warming were real, it’s quite obviously far more of a matter than slapping a bit on fuel duty.

    Oh, that’s the other thing. Put more money on fuel duty, you give more money to the government, which we don’t want. With my scheme, it’s the ordinary man in the street who gets to stick some “duty” on his ration before he flogs it on eBay, and that duty stays in his pocket, not the government’s.

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