George Osborne : Stealth Carbon Tax

Carbon Tax.

You knew it was coming in the end.

But you never reckoned a Conservative (if Coalition) Government would do it.

Everybody knew that the Carbon Reduction Commitment was going to reduce some people to tears. Something so labyrinthine was never going to work. But now it appears that this New Labour “challenge” is going to morph into a Carbon Tax.

The basic idea behind the New Labour Carbon Reduction Commitment or CRC was to encourage medium-sized businesses to lower their Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Everybody was to fully disclose their emissions the first year, and then make a report on their emissions in the following years.

At the start, they were told they would be judged on a “league table” of performance. At the start of a measuring period they would pay into a common pot according to their emissions levels, and then if they performed better than other companies in reducing emissions, they would get money back out of the pot.

But George Osborne has just waved the “league table” magically away, it seems. All revenues from the CRC will be considered as public money.

OK, OK, so all firms using more than 6000 megawatthours of power a year would be forced to take part, and maybe large companies do need a negative incentive to seriously consider how to keep their electricity use down – they seem to waste a lot, after all.

But what about those companies and organisations that don’t qualify for the CRC because they are already part of the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) ?

Any player that’s large enough to be under the EU ETS scheme gets their Carbon permits for free, and can trade them for cash if they use less than their entitlement.

OK, so in 2013 EU ETS Carbon permits will be under an auction scheme, but between now and then there is a huge disparity in the way that medium- and large-sized companies will be treated.

In ETS ? Free permits until 2013.
In CRC ? Obliged to pay a Carbon Tax.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS367283376220101021

“…John Alker, director of policy and communications at the UK Green Business Council, spoke for many across the low carbon economy when he said he was surprised by the decision. “The announcement that government is keeping the money from Carbon Reduction Commitment allowance sales has come out of the blue,” he said. “It may make the scheme simpler but this is something you’ve got to consult with industry on before plunging into.” Speaking to BusinessGreen.com, Climate Minister Greg Barker said the decision had not been taken lightly and had been made as a result of the ” catastrophic” deficit inherited from the labour government. He admitted that the changes would increase costs for businesses, but argued that the structure of the CRC meant that “progressive businesses that act to improve energy efficiency will be able to minimise their exposure”. Harry Manisty, environmental tax specialist at PwC, said businesses would effectively view the change as an additional tax, which may cause carbon price discrepancies with the EU emissions trading scheme…”

My guess is that this ploy is the opening salvo in a game of political ping pong that will ultimately destroy implementation of the CRC.

Already there have been wars and rumours of wars that people won’t play this particular emissions cutting game. For example, the start date of various parts of the scheme have been set back, and there are reports that organisations have over-assessed their Carbon Dioxide emissions now so they can look good later when they “cut” them.

George Osborne has served the first (wrecking) ball. What will the response of business be ?

Investing in True Prosperity

What we want is real, long-lasting assets, created by public money stimulus, and private capital investment, investing in the future, a sustainable future – Renewable Energy, and Energy Efficiency measures : on all buildings, fuel efficiency for all vehicles permitted to drive, machine and appliance efficiency.

Not all investment is good investment. There’s no point in printing any more money if it’s going to be used to turn valuable raw materials into waste in a one-way process, keeping greenhouse gas emissions high, which increases the risk of very dangerous Climate Change.

We need to be spending our way out of Global Warming – and that means coming up with a plan to, amongst other things, close all the coal-fired electricity generation plants, reduce the fuel used in transportation and transit, and stop heat escaping from buildings in the cold season.

Any plan that does not include these objectives is a waste of time and energy, literally.

Michaelmas Gracie

Welcome to little Gracie, born at Michaelmas.

By the time this child is five years old, the world should have agreed to control Carbon Dioxide emissions.

Net greenhouse gas emissions to air should have peaked, and be on the decline by the time this child starts school.

It’s up to us to care for our children.

If we don’t take steps to stop the ocean becoming increasingly acidic, we will have destroyed part of the food chain, and people will go hungry in greater numbers than they do now :-

http://www.sciamdigital.com/index.cfm?fa=Products.ViewIssuePreview&ARTICLEID_CHAR=F50CF08B-237D-9F22-E86BA2E071920760

“August 2010 : Scientific American Magazine : Threatening Ocean Life from the Inside Out; August 2010; Scientific American Magazine; by Marah J. Hardt and Carl Safina : …As researchers, we were concerned about the underappreciated effects of changing ocean chemistry on the cells, tissues and organs of marine species. In laboratory experiments at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Havenhand had demonstrated that such changes could seriously impede the most fundamental strategy of survival: sex. Ocean acidification—a result of too much carbon dioxide reacting with seawater to form carbonic acid—has been dubbed “the other CO2 problem.” As the water becomes more acidic, corals and animals such as clams and mussels have trouble building their skeletons and shells. But even more sinister, the acidity can interfere with basic bodily functions for all marine animals, shelled or not. By disrupting processes as fundamental as growth and reproduction, ocean acidification threatens the animals’ health and even the survival of species. Time is running out to limit acidification before it irreparably harms the food chain on which the world’s oceans—and people—depend.”

And global warming will only make the problem worse :-

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n2/full/ngeo420.html

Letter : Nature Geoscience 2, 105 – 109 (2009)
Published online: 25 January 2009 : doi:10.1038/ngeo420

“Long-term ocean oxygen depletion in response to carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels”

Gary Shaffer, Steffen Malskær Olsen & Jens Olaf Pepke Pedersen

“Abstract : Ongoing global warming could persist far into the future, because natural processes require decades to hundreds of thousands of years to remove carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning from the atmosphere. Future warming may have large global impacts including ocean oxygen depletion and associated adverse effects on marine life, such as more frequent mortality events, but long, comprehensive simulations of these impacts are currently not available. Here we project global change over the next 100,000 years using a low-resolution Earth system model, and find severe, long-term ocean oxygen depletion, as well as a great expansion of ocean oxygen-minimum zones for scenarios with high emissions or high climate sensitivity. We find that climate feedbacks within the Earth system amplify the strength and duration of global warming, ocean heating and oxygen depletion. Decreased oxygen solubility from surface-layer warming accounts for most of the enhanced oxygen depletion in the upper 500 m of the ocean. Possible weakening of ocean overturning and convection lead to further oxygen depletion, also in the deep ocean. We conclude that substantial reductions in fossil-fuel use over the next few generations are needed if extensive ocean oxygen depletion for thousands of years is to be avoided.”

America Finally Might Actually Do Something

[ UPDATE : America might not actually, finally, do something – check the resistance dinosaurs. ]

We have waited long enough for serious action States-side on Global Warming.

The bankers (apparently largely Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan with lashings of Tony Blair) had their chance to talk up the idea of Carbon Trading. What a dead duck that turned out to be !

Carbon Taxation looks like it’s a non-starter with the global economy being a whisker from utter, utter, collapse.

The Clean Development Mechanism isn’t.

(Plus, the CDM hasn’t helped those it was principally promoted to help – Africa).

The global Biofuels targets are reducing rainforest to logpiles.

The Coal Kings have been pushing the idea of Carbon Capture and Storage for well over fifteen years and persuaded…no one.

The nightwalkers from the dark, radioactive side are still scaring people and luring them at the same time. If Iran wanting Nuclear Power was tricky enough, now Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait want it too, and I don’t expect the international dialogue tightrope act to get any easier.

The Congress and the Senate have seen filibuster and deal-breaking and lobbyist handshakes in dark corridors and reneging in bars.

But, at long last, it seems like Barack Obama is going to do what he hinted at, and regulate the bottom line out of Carbon Dioxide emissions, regardless of whether there’s any elected representatives passing bills :-

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-14/epa-issuing-u-s-carbon-limits-guidance-soon-agency-administrator-says.html

Continue reading America Finally Might Actually Do Something

The Independent “in association with Shell”

I rubbed my eyes, but the logo didn’t disappear. The Independent newspaper article had a graphic explaining that the article was “in association with Shell” :-

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/newenergyfuture/a-climate-for-european-action-2068570.html

Further clue : the author was Tom Burke, “Mr Clean Coal” to those of us that know of him.

The article was great, up until the paragraph :-

“Without deploying carbon capture and storage technologies for coal and gas, Europe has no workable climate policy…”

Well, we knew Tom Burke was going to say that, didn’t we ?

But why was the article “in association with Shell” ? Is this the start of advertising masquerading as opinion articles ?

What could possibly link Royal Dutch Shell to Carbon Capture and Storage ? The “Enhanced Oil Recovery” (EOR) angle, possibly – Shell offering to pump Carbon Dioxide down into its depleting oil and gas wells in an attempt to raise the pressure on the remaining hydrocarbon, to squeeze it out.

Continue reading The Independent “in association with Shell”

The Rate of Change

I well remember the huffing and puffing over the release of James Hansen’s paper “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” :-

http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf

“…Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, large scale glaciation occurring when CO2 fell to 425 +/- 75 ppm…”

The sceptic-deniers laughed and scoffed and said things to the effect that clearly there’s nothing to worry about that the current concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the air is over 390 parts per million – it won’t melt the polar ice caps.

What the sceptic-deniers haven’t understood, or pretend not to have understood, is that it is a combination of factors that caused major lasting glaciation on Earth. Yes, the level of Carbon Dioxide in the air is important. But the rate of change of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is a significant component.

If the levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere change rapidly, the heating or cooling effect is amplified, in effect. You have to take account of the relative change in levels of Carbon Dioxide, not just its level at any particular point in time.

Continue reading The Rate of Change

Entropy : One-Way Change

On the big red sofa with a highly intelligent polyglottal friend after a smoking vegan roast supper, discussing the notion of pricing Carbon Dioxide emissions, with some mint tea.

She said “like, ‘the Polluter pays’ ?”

“Yes”, I said, “that ‘Polluter pays principle’; except it should be ‘the Polluter pays to clean up’, but it doesn’t work like that. Either the corporates mess up and the governments take the money and don’t clean up; or the corporates mess up, pay the money, then try to recoup the cost from their customers, and don’t clean up; or they get told to clean up, but they don’t do a proper job.”

“It’s always so much more expensive to clean up environmental messes than to prevent them happening in the first place. It’s a Law of Physics – Entropy.”

Continue reading Entropy : One-Way Change

Don’t You Just Love China ?

I really love China. It’s a country with noble ambitions, to protect and prosper its people, and to advance its economic development through trade across the world.

The rest of the world love China, too. They have outsourced all their manufacture, and other services such as recycling, to the powerhouse that is China, where the labour is cheap and the people work willingly.

Continue reading Don’t You Just Love China ?

What Is “Clean Development” ?

The idea behind “clean development” is simple : promoting the clean development of developing countries so that they don’t make the same dirty development mistakes that the developed countries did when they were developing.

So, let the developing countries develop, but avoid the dirty part. Instead of burning Coal to make electricity, let them burn Natural Gas, or BioMethane (poo power); or let them make wind turbines, and hydropower dams and efficient biomass stoves.

There was to be a fund to finance Clean Development Mechanism projects, and it was supposed to be aimed at developing countries.

However, the negotiations around the CDM have taken more than one twist. Today, discussions were held about whether to permit Carbon Capture and Storage technologies to be included as “clean development”.

Continue reading What Is “Clean Development” ?

Carbon Taxation Is So Wrong

The theory behind Carbon Taxation is this : according to the “Principle of the Polluter Pays”, one of the guiding principles established by the global community in the early 1990s, environmental bads should be charged.

In other words, if you mess up, you should pay for it. And that includes Carbon Dioxide Emissions.

The trouble that arises is the cost “double whammy”.

Continue reading Carbon Taxation Is So Wrong

Carbon Trading Is So Wrong

So, the theory of Cap-and-Trade goes like this.

You set an upper Cap on Carbon Dioxide Emissions.

You dole out Carbon Dioxide Emissions Permits or Allowances. Or you sell them. Or you auction them.

Each year the amount of Carbon Dioxide Emissions Permits gets less and less.

Then a Market in Carbon will operate.

Continue reading Carbon Trading Is So Wrong

Tesco Town : Electric Democracy

My, my, what a splendidly entertaining and lively Planning Committee meeting was held at the Walthamstow Town Hall yesterday evening.

The juggernaut of Tesco met the clamouring masses of the people of Hale End and Highams Park head on, and it wasn’t a walkover.

Continue reading Tesco Town : Electric Democracy