Year 4, Month 10, Day 29: Jump Like A Willys

The Palm Beach Daily News reports on Bill Koch, who is (surprise!) an asshole:

As someone who states that he has energy in his DNA, billionaire oil-and-gas mogul Bill Koch says those who think carbon is bad should get a reality check.

Koch addressed an audience of 600 on Thursday for the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting at The Breakers, peppering his remarks with off-color jokes and self-deprecating humor.

“Eighty-four percent of the energy used in the world comes from carbon,” he said, explaining that decayed primeval forests below the Earth’s surface are the source of the coal, oil and gas that powers the global economy.

Those who call for taxes on carbon dioxide emissions are “on LSD,” Koch said, making the point that humans produce their share of carbon dioxide naturally and taxes aren’t levied on them. He suggested planting trees as the most efficient way to counter higher carbon levels.

The reliance on fossil fuels is not going away, he said, noting that coal is relatively low in price, that oil has been “pretty cheap” until recently and that there is an abundance of natural gas, available at a price almost competitive with coal.

Spoken like a man who’s never tripped. October 19:

When arch-conservative energy bazillionaire Bill Koch claims carbon-tax advocates are “on LSD,” he’s offering powerful evidence of his own detachment from reality. Yes, human beings produce CO2, and yes, planting more trees is an excellent policy. But the plain fact is that industrial civilization’s carbon dioxide emissions are accelerating, and unless we slow them down, all the trees we can possibly plant aren’t going to scrub our atmosphere rapidly enough to mitigate catastrophic global heating. The greenhouse effect is a scientifically demonstrated phenomenon discovered over 150 years ago and confirmed by countless studies; Mr. Koch’s sneering dismissal of climate science is based only on ideology and has no foundation in fact.

Fossil-fuel advocates like the Koch brothers ignore expensive “externalities” for which we (or our descendants) will eventually have to pay: pollution, health impacts, massive environmental cleanups, global climate change, and a great many expensive and pointless wars. If coal and oil are “cheap” forms of energy, then high-interest credit cards are a source of free money.

Bill Koch’s glib denialism demonstrates that vast quantities of money distort reality far more effectively than any drug.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 10, Day 18: If I Ran The Circus

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune (CA) introduces us to the heroes at Citizens Climate Lobby:

Robert Haw says solving the problem of global warming is easy.

No, really. He’s dead serious.

Haw has a bona-fide plan and he’s taking it to each of the 535 members of Congress. As president of the Pasadena-Foothills Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby, the JPL scientist from Altadena says his group is creating a buzz in Washington with a rebate version of a revenue-neutral carbon tax that combines market forces with consumerism to drive up the cost of fossil fuels and make renewable energy more affordable.

So far, the plan has picked up endorsements from former Secretary of State George Schultz and supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, who was an adviser to Ronald Reagan.

But the most important person to convince is the ordinary American, Haw said. His group is succeeding on that front, too. When Haw started the Pasadena-Foothills chapter a year ago, there were 33 chapters. Today there are 108 chapters. “We’ve been doubling in size every year,” he said.

Citizens Climate Lobby aims to convert Americans to the belief that the problem of rising global temperatures, extreme weather events, more droughts and melting glaciers is indeed fixable in our lifetime.

It’s not as simple as that. But it’s that simple. October 9:

A carbon tax is essential for reinventing our global energy economy. While it’s not the sole solution to climate change — because the climate crisis isn’t a single problem with a single solution — it’s a crucial ingredient in the mix.

The first law of problem-solving is a simple one: if you’re in a hole, stop digging. Industrialized civilization’s past century of greenhouse emissions has put us in a very big hole; even if we stopped releases tomorrow it’d be several decades at least before we could observe the slightest slowdown in climate change, due to the gradual nature of the buildup and the very long “residence time” of atmospheric CO2.

An old proverb puts it well: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” A tax on carbon emissions would benefit future generations enormously while mildly inconveniencing our own.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 25: Then You Came And Caused A Spark

The Roanoke Times has a nice piece by Sarah Frost, debunking business-sector whining:

In her Aug. 11 commentary, “Climate-change zealotry will cost jobs,” Jane Van Ryan posits that by regulating carbon pollution, the Obama administration “could eliminate the ability of many American families to reach for the American dream.”

In fact, acting to slow and stop climate change will undoubtedly improve our health, safety, environment and economy. Failing to do so will leave future generations with diminished resources and opportunities.

The science on this issue is unambiguous: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and caused by human activity. We reached 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the first time in human history this spring, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently confirmed that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the U.S.

The costs of inaction are already being felt around the commonwealth and beyond: nine out of 10 Virginians live in counties and independent cities affected by federally-declared weather-related disasters since 2007. Nationally, between 2011 and 2012, Superstorm Sandy and 24 other extreme weather events left $188 billion in damages and claimed more than 1,100 lives. Scientists agree that these types of events are likely to become more frequent and more severe in a warming world.

The United States’ largest source of carbon emissions is our power plants, though to date, there are no regulations on carbon emissions from power plants the way there are on arsenic, mercury, sulfur and soot. As part of his Climate Action Plan, President Obama has directed the Environmental Protection Agency, under the authority of the Clean Air Act, to issue limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants.

Americans submitted more than 3 million comments — including 130,000 from Virginia — in favor of this plan last year. And in a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of voters said they support “the President taking significant steps to address climate change now.”

The opponents of action ignore and deny the science that tells us it is time to act – and often times are quietly backed by corporate polluters.

When Van Ryan suggests that the president and his administration “place a higher value on big government and the environmental movement than on the financial well-being of the American people,” she is failing to recognize that the health benefits from the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 are estimated to exceed the costs of implementation by a factor of more than 30 to one.

Hit me baby, one more time. September 17:

It wasn’t that long ago that US auto manufacturers were up in arms about legislation requiring that all cars be equipped with seat belts. It would, apparently, cripple sales, alienate consumers, and deal a death blow to American manufacturing. And it wasn’t long after that that tobacco companies got into a swivet about mandatory warning labels, which apparently would wipe out all their profits forever. Last I looked, the roads were full of cars, and there’s no shortage of smokers either.

It’s the same now, as the notion of taxing carbon emissions begins to gain currency among citizens and politicians who can read the unambiguous warning signs of human-caused climate change. Once again, we get to hear wailing predictions of disaster if environmentally sensible approaches to climate change are enacted.

Those nay-sayers who claim that the economy will be damaged by environmental responsibility are perpetuating a mentality of victimization and entitlement in the business sector. America likes to call itself a “can-do” nation, but you would never know it from the whining of some of the world’s most profitable and productive industries.

Pathetic. Just pathetic.

Warren Senders


Year 4, Month 7, Day 8: Unfixable

They’re so cute when they dream. The San Jose Mercury-News features Bob Inglis and Eli Lehrer:

If conservatives don’t begin to engage on the important issue of climate change, we’ll cede the debate. The result will be a larger, more intrusive government that hurts business and job creation.

President Obama is readying a major push of administrative action on climate change. There will be new regulations on power plants, new subsidies for clean energy and a number of other big government programs in the name of solving climate change.

To conservatives like us, complicated new regulation is our worst nightmare. There is a conservative approach to dealing with climate change — one that can actually achieve conservative goals: the government-shrinking carbon tax.

Currently, United States tax law embodies everything that’s wrong with the federal government. It’s too big (about 17,000 pages), too burdensome (Americans spend nearly $50 billion a year complying with it), and too prone to manipulation. Working toward a simpler, fairer system with lower overall rates has long been a worthy conservative goal that deserves continued support from all liberty-loving Americans.

But amidst all the talk among conservatives about tax rates and tax compliance costs, activists should focus on what may be the most important flaw in the current system: it taxes the wrong things.

If conservatives want to inject new ideas into the political debate and win elections, they should look at what the government taxes as well as how the taxes get collected.

Over 90 percent of federal revenue comes from charges imposed on income, labor (payroll tax) and investments (capital gains tax). These taxes punish socially beneficial behavior; everyone agrees that society should have more income, jobs and investment. If there is any hope of moving the budget towards balance while cutting existing taxes, political leaders will have to find a better way to generate revenue.

Taxing the things we want less of and eliminating taxes on things we want more of is a common-sense solution. It’s hardly a new idea. The American founders funded the early federal government with sin taxes and a few import duties.

Dream on, suckers. June 21:

Taxing greenhouse emissions is an eminently sensible idea that would help America address the climate crisis responsibly — but the idea that conservatives would accept such a policy is predicated on the essentially preposterous notions that these lawmakers can be influenced by facts and are motivated by sincere desires to help their constituents, their nation, and their species.

Even before the McCarthy-era purges of China experts from the State Department, the Republican Party has been chary of experts, perhaps because people who know a great deal about their subject are less likely to accept ideologically-driven revisionism. But the GOP’s anti-intellectual faux populism has never been as extreme as it is today. When the House of Representatives features sideshow acts like Paul “cosmology and evolution are lies from the pit of hell” Broun and Michael “masturbating fetuses” Burgess, it’s hard to imagine Lehrer and Inglis’ science-based arguments making any headway.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 30: A Ham Sandwich Is Better Than Eternal Happiness

The Kennebec Journal (ME) runs an AP story from March 11 on China’s introduction of a carbon tax:

Finally, a nation that is contributing heavily to climate change is taking a major step to reduce its emissions. Unfortunately, this global leadership is not coming from the United States. It’s coming from China.

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, so the news (reported by Xinhua, a state-owned media service) that it’s going to introduce a carbon tax is huge. The tax is unlikely to be on the scale that experts suggest would make a serious dent in climate change: In 2010, China’s ministry of finance suggested levying a carbon tax of 10 yuan ($1.60) per ton in 2012, to rise to 50 yuan ($8) per ton in 2020. Experts have suggested a tax of 500 yuan, or $80 per ton.

Still, even a small Chinese carbon tax would mean a dramatic step forward for the planet. And it’s a lot more than anything the United States has done.

China’s announcement also comes as a bit of a surprise. For years, China has been a strident opponent of coordinated international efforts to combat climate change — rivaled only by the United States in this opposition.

Yet China has much to lose from the steady encroachment of climate change, and it’s finally starting to acknowledge that fact.

AMERICA!!! March 18:

As Europe expands its investments in renewable energy and China embarks on a carbon-taxing scheme, whither American exceptionalism in the first decades of the twenty-first century? While our national output of greenhouse gases may have fallen behind that of India and China, America is still number one in pollution per capita — a dubious distinction that fits well with our capacity for generating trash.

For years, far too many US politicians have argued in favor of doing nothing about climate change, contending that it’s silly to address a runaway greenhouse effect, since China and India are contributing to the problem. Aside from the absurdity of claiming a world leadership position while abdicating the obligations that accompany it, one wonders what those same lawmakers will do now that this policy stance is undermined by events. China’s carbon tax may be a baby step, but at least it’s in the right direction.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 1, Day 3: Reality Bites.

The Saint-Louis Post Dispatch has a good idea:

If Congress and the president were more rational than political — admittedly, a very big if — they could kill a covey of birds with one stone. They could replace the payroll tax with a carbon tax.

Suddenly Social Security and Medicare funding would be secure, which means the rest of the fiscal crisis would be fixed. Plus, you might save the planet in the process.

Instead of paying combined Social Security and Medicare taxes of 7.65 percent through payroll deduction (assuming the Social Security tax portion of it goes back to 6.2 percent next year), workers would keep that money.

They’d need at least part of it to pay for the carbon taxes on gasoline, natural gas and electricity produced by coal or gas plants. For example, if oil companies were taxed $20 a ton for the carbon dioxide their products created, they’d pass along the cost to consumers. The price of gasoline would go up about 20 cents a gallon.

Fuck reality. December 28:

In a rational world, a rational government wouldn’t sound like such a fantastic proposition, and we would have acted long ago to make a carbon tax a reality. After all, the key to our species’ survival hangs on our ability to reduce a single ratio — the proportion of atmospheric CO2 in parts per million — back to pre-industrial levels.

But American politics is built on make-believe; on the symbolic power of names and labels; on a peculiar form of heavily financed magical thinking in which the solution for any problem is a sufficiently dazzling photo-op, or the invocation of conservatism’s patron saint, our fortieth president. How can rational thinkers operate inside this unreal environment? Here’s an irrational suggestion for Democrats who are (justifiably) concerned about climate change:

To accrue Republican support, a carbon tax must be called a “fee,” and it needs to be conspicuously dedicated to Ronald Reagan.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 11, Day 19: Roll Your Own?

The Durango Herald (CO) runs an AP piece discussing the benefits of a tax on carbon:

Experts on all sides of the issue have watched climate proposals fail in the past. Congress is still split, and many in the Republican party deny the existence of human-made climate change, despite what scientists say. Congress also on Tuesday blocked the European Union from imposing a tax on American airliners flying to the continent as part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

Energy industry lobbyist Scott Segal said many utilities will fight a carbon tax.

“The conditions are far from ripe for a carbon tax, if for no other reason than a carbon tax is a tax on economic growth,” he said.

But environmental advocates are seizing the moment, determined not to let the interest in climate change subside with the floodwaters.

On Wednesday, former Vice President Al Gore launched a 24-hour online talkfest about global warming and disasters. Another group,, headed by environmental advocate and author Bill McKibben, is amid a 21-city bus tour.

Gore compared the link between extreme weather and “dirty energy” from coal, oil and natural gas to the links between cigarette smoking and lung cancer or the use of steroids and home runs in baseball.

They have a 350-word limit, which is way on the high side. Interesting how that affects the processes of composition. Sent November 15:

America’s fossil-fuel consumption is one of the most significant drivers of global climate change, and it’s revealing to follow up on former Vice-President Gore’s analogy with tobacco. Our entire economy is built around the ready availability and artificial cheapness of oil and coal, and the result has been a national addiction to these substances and the convenience they facilitate. Like heavy smokers, we recognize our dependency while pretending to be immune from the cold equations; like heavy smokers, we promise to quit but never seem to get around to it.

Of course, once the biopsy comes back positive, it’s too late for quitting to do much good, which is the position our civilization is in right now with fossil fuels. The diagnosis is very clear: Earth’s health is in dire jeopardy, with a planetary greenhouse effect on the brink of a catastrophic “tipping point” beyond which recovery will be impossible.

And the voices most loudly raised in denial? Unsurprisingly, their paychecks come from the very fossil fuel industry reaping huge profits from our addiction. Equally unsurprisingly, many of the same “experts” currently asserting that climate change is unrelated to fossil fuel consumption were testifying a few decades ago that tobacco didn’t have anything to do with lung cancer. They were lying then, and they’re lying now.

It’s time for America, and the world, to kick the fossil fuel habit once and for all. Oil, gas and coal need to come with warning labels, and we must stop subsidizing an industry that is destroying our home.

Warren Senders

It’s time

Year 3, Month 11, Day 15: Looking Through A Bent-Backed Tulip

The New York Times has an Op-Ed from a guy named Dieter Helm, who argues for a Carbon Tax:

Europe’s “answer” to global warming is wind farms and other current renewables. But the numbers won’t ever add up. It just isn’t possible to reduce carbon emissions much with small-scale disaggregated wind turbines. There isn’t enough land for biofuels, even if corn-based ethanol were a good idea (a questionable proposition). Current renewable-energy sources cannot bridge the gap if we are to move away from carbon-intensive energy production. So we will need new technologies while in the meantime slowing the coal juggernaut.

There are three sensible ways to do this: tax carbon consumption (including imports); accelerate the switch from coal to gas; and support and finance new technologies rather than pouring so much money into wind and biofuels.

Putting a price on carbon is fundamental. If consumers and businesses do not bear the cost of their carbon pollution, they won’t do much about it. This carbon price should not discriminate between locations: global warming is global. If China does not put a price on carbon, and Europe does, then China will effectively receive a huge export subsidy.

The good news is that many new energy technologies are coming down the track: next-generation solar, geothermal and even nuclear technologies, and methods to harness the energy of gravity via the ocean’s tides. There have been major breakthroughs in solar. Work is also under way to develop better energy-storing batteries, smart grids and electric cars. All of those advancements will need public support.

What is missing across Europe, the United States and China is a global agreement on a proper carbon price. More than any other measure, a tax on carbon consumption is what’s needed to slow the warming of the planet.

Anyone listening? Sent November 12:

At the beginning of the twentieth century, horses provided much of our local transportation. The early adopters of automobiles faced ridicule, absurd legal constraints, and an economy that was slanted against the needs of drivers. But eventually equestrian transport moved from a cultural default setting to something far more specialized, and now a ride in a horse-drawn carriage is a secular ritual for important or sentimental occasions. Naturally, it’s more expensive than it was a century ago.

Similarly, consider coal. For centuries our civilization has been burning these conveniently flammable rocks with profligate disregard both for their antiquity and their damaging effects on our health and our planetary environment. It is time for us to offer coal an honorable retirement, and focus on energy sources of our own time rather than the concentrated sunlight of the Carboniferous Era. A carbon tax is a great way to begin this transformation.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 5: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

The Chicago Tribune carries the “people are waking up” story a few steps further:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three out of four U.S. voters favor regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse-gas pollutant, and a majority think global warming should be a priority for the president and Congress, a survey of American attitudes on climate and energy reported on Thursday.

The survey was released one day after Rolling Stone magazine published an interview with President Barack Obama in which he suggested that climate change would become a campaign issue this year.

In results often at odds with the political debate in Washington, the survey conducted for Yale and George Mason University also found most Americans would vote for a candidate who raised taxes on coal, oil and natural gas – fossil fuels that emit climate-warming carbon dioxide when burned – while cutting income tax, in a revenue-neutral “tax swap.”

This maneuver, which would not add to federal revenues but would change where they came from, has long been discussed by such disparate political actors as former Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat, and Bob Inglis, a Republican former congressman.

Sixty-one percent of Americans surveyed said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported the tax swap, while 20 percent said they would be less likely.

When we get to 100 percent of the population, our politicians will finally do what is right. Sent April 26:

While the First Amendment precludes an outright prohibition on the rhetoric of climate-change deniers, it’s increasingly obvious that America’s national conversation would be better off if these voices weren’t so unnaturally amplified. The anti-science statements of conservative politicians and their enablers in the media have helped to make reality-based environmental policies impossible to enact, even when a majority of Americans think they’re desirable. In the current atmosphere of petroleum-funded corruption, any legislative actions toward planetary responsibility are doomed from the start by corporate resistance to shrinking profit margins.

A tax on carbon emissions is an idea whose time has come. If the money raised were returned to the middle class in the form of tax breaks or dividends, its economic effects would be overwhelmingly beneficial. But until we reduce our emissions of denialist hot air, such a policy is unlikely to advance through congress. Too bad we can’t tax lies.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 7, Day 28: Julia!

Well, I’m writing this on July 12, after an episode of considerable stupidity a little earlier today. I entered my usual group of search terms into google and found a link to an article debunking the climategate idiocy. I leapt to the assumption that for some reason these were in the news again…so I spent about half an hour generating a letter on scientific integrity versus the right-wing noise machine. A good letter it was, too.

Then I looked at the byline on the article and had a (facepalm) moment; it was about 17 months old. How did it wind up at the top of my google results? Damned if I know. So I put that letter away and generated another piece of boilerplate on Australia’s carbon tax. This one went to the Boston Herald which ran a generic AP feed on the Australian proposal. I’m linking to it from a drive to completeness; I cannot imagine why anyone would need to read it.

The BH is a Murdoch paper. Maybe by the time this post shows up online Rupert will be in prison?

Anyway, sent on July 12 to the Boston Herald:

The Australian carbon tax is an idea whose time has come. Despite the doubts of her constituents and the hostility of the country’s big coal companies, Prime Minister Gillard is showing genuine leadership and a long-term vision that American politicians would do well to emulate. She recognizes that carbon dioxide emissions pose a long-term threat to the world’s stability. If actions today can help reduce the terrifying consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect, all of us will benefit. Conversely, apathy and inaction today will bring a perfect storm upon our descendants. Fifty years ago, we had the excuse of ignorance; now, we can no longer plead that we were unaware of the dangers of a “business as usual” approach to greenhouse gas emissions, for the evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible. Our politicians’ unwillingness and inability to do the right thing will resound to their, and our, eternal shame.

Warren Senders