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Carbon Foolishness

June 28, 2013

The purpose of a carbon tax or “cap and trade” legislation or related EPA regulations, is to cut CO2 emissions 80% by 2050.

The only reason for any of these actions is to force the United States to stop using fossil fuels … coal, natural gas and oil.

This includes stopping the use of propane, gasoline and diesel fuel.

A carbon tax, or “cap and trade” legislation, is an energy issue, pure and simple. As are EPA regulations substituting for legislation.

None of these actions can achieve the desired objective of cutting CO2 emissions 80% without causing great harm to the United States: First, with respect to the economy, then with respect to basic living standards.

The primary segments of the economy affected by these efforts are power generation and transportation.

Power Generation

In the power generation segment, it’s not physically possible to replace all coal-fired power plants without building natural gas or nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power plants won’t be built because environmental organizations have convinced Americans that nuclear power is dangerous, thereby precluding any possibility of cutting CO2 emissions 80%. And, with all nuclear power plants probably being retired before the end of the century, the 20% of electricity currently being produced by existing nuclear power plants will be eliminated1.

New natural gas power plants also can’t be built because existing natural gas power plants already exceed the amount of CO2 that an 80% reduction in the power generation segment will allow2.

The net result is that 70% of electricity currently being generated by fossil and nuclear power plants will disappear3.

Wind and solar cannot, under the wildest dreams of the most fanatical environmentalist, replace the roughly 70% of electricity currently being generated by fossil fuels and nuclear power4.

And increasing energy efficiency, such as improving the efficiency of appliances, will be partially, if not largely negated, by population growth.

Transportation

Eliminating fossil fuels for transportation is another wild dream of environmental organizations.

The numbers speak for themselves. Approximately 11 million barrels of oil are used every day for transportation, in the form of gasoline and diesel fuel. This doesn’t include jet fuel, for which there are few, if any, realistic alternatives.

Natural gas can’t be used to replace diesel fuel or gasoline because it also emits CO2.

Currently, ethanol from corn replaces less than 1 million barrels of oil each day. And this, essentially, is the most that can be produced from corn5.

Cellulosic ethanol, in any significant quantity, is another pipe dream that has already resulted in bankruptcies.

Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to collect grease to produce biodiesel is another fantasy.

A consulting group estimated that 963,946,950 gallons of biodiesel could have been produced from all the waste tallow, lard and grease produced in the United States in 2007, and this would only eliminate 0.06 million barrels of oil per day6.

Then there’s Jatropha and palm oil, but palm oil results in destroying rain forests, and Jatropha, promoted because it can grow in arid areas, needs an abundance of water to produce oil from its seeds. Both are dead ends.

So how do we eliminate using 11 million barrels of oil per day?

The great hope of some is that electric vehicles will be the answer. This doesn’t seem promising in light of EV and PHEV sales thus far.

And converting all 250 million cars in the United State, or even only 200 million, to batteries would require building a slew of new power plants, something we can’t do while cutting CO2 emissions at the same time.

CO2 emissions with 80% cut

CO2 emissions with 80% cut

Cutting CO2 emissions 80% will bring these emissions to the level they were in 1900, as shown by this graph. There weren’t many cars in 1900, and there weren’t many refrigerators, and there wasn’t any air-conditioning.

These are the facts with respect to the scientific side of a carbon tax, enacting “cap and trade” legislation, or having the EPA issue more regulations.

Then there are the political and social effects.

Politically, there is no possibility that India and China will agree to cut their CO2 emissions. The recent limited, trial “cap and trade” program in China is based on limiting the increase in CO2 emissions, and not cutting them.

Politically, therefore, efforts by the United States to cut CO2 emissions will not prevent the apocalypse. Our efforts will have been in vain.

A carbon tax is not a free market mechanism. Free markets aren’t viable when one portion of the market, i.e., fossil fuels, is arbitrarily excluded, or penalized, which is the case with a carbon tax.

A carbon tax, or “cap and trade” legislation, isn’t needed to improve air quality, as some have suggested. We have already achieved huge advancements in clean air. Air pollution, as shown here for six common pollutants, has been reduced 63% since 1980, while GDP has increased 128% and population by 37%.

Air Quality Improvements from EPA

Air Quality Improvements from EPA

A carbon tax also penalizes the poorest in our society.

Nearly everything people buy is adversely affected by a carbon tax. Farmers use equipment powered by fossil fuels, so the cost of food will go up.

The cost of gasoline will go up.

The cost of electricity used to power subways and commuter trains will go up, as will the cost of the tickets … or the taxes to support the transit systems.

The cost of electricity used to light homes and cook food will go up.

The cost of natural gas, used for heating homes and for cooking, will go up.

There is very little in the economy that won’t be affected by a carbon tax, or, for that matter “cap and trade” legislation, and it is the poor among us that will be hardest hit.

A carbon tax will, however, be a bonanza for Congress: Tons of tax payer money to distribute to friends and to fund pet projects.

But, most importantly: A carbon tax, “cap and trade” legislation or EPA regulations, cannot achieve the intended objective … cutting CO2 emissions 80% by 2050.

Some will argue that cutting CO2 emissions a little bit, such as 17% by 2020, will help: While the UN says it won’t.

According to the UN’s IPCC, cutting them any less than 80% will result in temperatures rising above a “tipping” point, so, “a little bit here, and a little bit there” won’t prevent the apocalypse7.

Trying to cut CO2 emissions by any amount is a fool’s errand that will cause great harm to Americans.

Notes:

  1. All existing nuclear power plants will require a second 20-year extension to their operating licenses, which, since the units will be 80 years old at the end of the second extension, probably won’t be approved. The first units requiring the second extension will probably be retired in the mid 2030s.
  2. Building natural gas and coal-fired power plants would require the ability to capture CO2 emissions and then sequester them underground forever. CO2 capture is experimental and would require derating power plants by about 30%, partly because of the energy used to compress and transport the liquid CO2 to where it might be sequestered. There is no proof, absolutely none, that it’s possible to store immense quantities of CO2 underground for centuries, if not forever, without its leaking back into the atmosphere.
  3. Based on the amount of electricity currently provided, by hydro 7%, and by wind and solar 3%, plus the maximum permitted from natural gas, i.e., 20%, in order to achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions in the power generation segment.
  4. Other alternatives, such as geothermal and hydro, are limited as to what they can generate. There aren’t sufficient locations for large, new hydro installations, while there are too few locations suitable for building geothermal plants. Some small increase in hydro can be accomplished by adding power generating equipment to existing dams where no such equipment is presently installed. See an assessment by DOE at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/water/pdfs/npd_report.pdf
  5. Soybeans and some other food crops are used to make ethanol, but they are also essentially at their limits. Besides, putting food in the gas tank is immoral.
  6. Based on census bureau data for the amount of fats collected in the United States in 2007.
  7. The UN has said that CO2 emissions must be cut 50% worldwide, with the United States and other developed countries cutting CO2 emissions 80%.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Pete Dow permalink
    June 28, 2013 5:03 pm

    Donn, I have not read all your articles, but this was terrific. I hope you can continue your
    writings for a long time.

    Pete Dow, Sun City West, Az

  2. June 28, 2013 5:20 pm

    Thanks.
    I’ll second that.

  3. Bloatedcoder permalink
    July 2, 2013 6:13 pm

    Hmm… I’m all for cherry-picking, but doesn’t that usually involve smaller segments of the data? Seems to me 97% is no longer just a convenient outlier. The three percent, on the other hand…

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2013/05/17/97-percent-of-scientific-studies-agree-on-manmade-global-warming-so-what-now/

    • July 2, 2013 6:30 pm

      The frequently cited “97% of scientists agree that CO2 is causing global warming” is a fictitious number with no basis in fact, so 3% has no bearing either. I can provide references if you are interested.
      There is a list of 35,000 scientists and engineers who say CO2 is not the culprit in the book Climate Change Reconsidered. Climate Change Reconsidered was translated by the Chinese Academy of Science on May 13, this year, and they would not have bothered to translate it if it didn’t have value. It contains over 700 pages of scientific information on why CO2 is not the primary cause of global warming.

Trackbacks

  1. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That?
  2. Recent Energy And Environmental News – July 15, 2013 | PA Pundits - International

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