Charles Drevna

Post image for Carbon Taxes: Kick ‘Em While They’re Down

House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy have signed a No Climate Tax Pledge. Bad news for those pushing carbon taxes as part of a budget deal. 

Friends of affordable energy can ill-afford complacency, however. The Dumb Party has been known to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and carbon tax advocates are nothing if not tenacious. So when it comes to carbon taxes, I say kick ‘em while they’re down.

To that end, I excerpt below some insightful comments by several contributors to last week’s National Journal Energy Blog discussion, “Is Washington Ready for a Carbon Tax?

David Kreutzer (Heritage Foundation) notes the chutzpah of those who, having failed to sell the public on the stealth energy tax called cap-and-trade, now expect the public to buy an open, avowed, unvarnished energy tax:

Once the electorate was made to realize that cap and trade bills (Lieberman-Warner, Waxman-Markey, etc.) were actually taxes on fossil energy, cap and trade became political poison. So it is surprising that an explicit tax on fossil energy is now being pushed in Washington.

Kreutzer then debunks the argument that conservatives should support a “revenue neutral” carbon tax that displaces EPA regulation of greenhouse gases:

The hope among carbon-tax proponents is that they can sugar coat the tax and make it palatable to conservatives, or at least to enough conservatives. This proposed confection has two ingredients. First, the carbon tax is to be a revenue-neutral swap for some even more harmful tax. Second, a carbon tax would obviate the need for regulation of carbon dioxide and for subsidies to low-carbon energy.

“Revenue neutral” is supposed to mean that each dollar raised will cut another tax by a dollar. But with neutrality there is no gravy to spread around to all the special interests—and we are talking about $100s of billions in gravy every year. So revenue neutrality will never happen. . . .

[As for a tax-for-regulation swap:] That logic may work in PowerPoint-filled rooms at think tanks, but not in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms in Congress. If this logic did carry over, then cap and trade also would have eliminated the need for carbon regulation. Instead of reducing regulations, the cap and trade bills added them. For instance, the Waxman-Markey bill went on for nearly 700 pages before it even got to cap and trade.

Just in case there might be some confusion as to whether the left is willing to trade off regulation for a carbon tax, Representative Waxman recently cleared things up: “A carbon tax or a price on carbon would be a strong incentive for the development of new technologies. But because it’s so complicated, I would not support preempting EPA. EPA can assure us that we can actually get the reductions we need.” [click to continue…]

Post image for Will Blocking Keystone XL Increase GHG Emissions?

Last week, after three years of environmental review, public meetings, and public comment, President Obama postponed until first quarter 2013 a decision on whether or not to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline — the $7 billion, shovel-ready project to deliver up to 830,000 barrels a day of tar sands oil from Canada to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Obama’s punt, which Keystone opponents hope effectively kills the pipeline, is topic-of-the-week on National Journal’s Energy Experts Blog. So far, a dozen ”experts” have posted, including yours truly.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention at all over the past 40 years, you may suspect that most Keystone opponents want to kill the pipeline just because they hate oil and oil companies — even as they fill up their tanks to drive to the next demonstration. Bill McKibben, lead organizer of the anti-Keystone protest rallies outside the White House, lives in Vermont. On the Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert asked McKibben: ”You’re from Vermont? Did you ride your bicycle down here? Or did you ride ox cart? How did you get down here? Or do you have a vehicle that runs on hypocrisy?”

If we take them at their word, McKibben and his climate guru, NASA scientist James Hansen, oppose Keystone because they believe it will contribute to global warming. How? The cutting-edge method for extracting oil from tar sands is a process called steam assisted gravity drainage. SAGD uses natural gas to heat and liquefy bitumen, a tar-like form of petroleum too viscous to be pumped by conventional wells, and burning natural gas emits carbon dioxide (CO2). So their gripe is that replacing conventional oil with tar sands oil will increase CO2 emissions from the U.S. transport sector. Maybe by only 1% annually,* but to hard-core warmists, any increase is intolerable.

Enter the Law of Unintended Consequences. If McKibben and Hansen succeed in killing the pipeline, petroleum-related CO2 emissions might actually increase! [click to continue…]