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  • Writer's pictureTom Mast

Carbon Pricing: The Must-Have Weapon in the Climate Change War

Tom Mast, founder Solve American Gridlock

Reference: The Invading Sea, 10-5-22, Bob Inglis and Kelsey Grant,

Despite Critic’s Skepticism, the US is Closer Than You Think to Adopting Carbon Pricing

The recent legislation called the “Inflation Reduction Act” is said to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 7-10% by 2030. Past efforts have done little more than level emissions in the U.S. despite natural gas replacing much of the coal burned in our country, so the jury is still out on this effort despite its projected costs of $370 billion.

The approach to date in America largely has been actions targeted against specific segments of society. Escaping in the gaps among these actions are huge portions of our citizens, companies, and other entities. Only the market-based approach of pricing the emissions near their source will cause everyone to have some skin in the game – to be participants in this war – and to reduce emissions steadily and enough. Such pricing will be in proportion to the emissions intensity of the substance (coal, oil, natural gas) and the additional costs will be passed along to the actual consumers. They will notice the extra costs, increasing annually, of their transportation choices, living arrangements, foodstuffs, clothing, tools, travel, life styles, and very much more, and they will make the needed choices intuitively! #carbontax

Most people don’t realize the vast number of ways that hydrocarbons are used in our lives. For example, Vaclav Smil in his wonderful book How the World Really Works; The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going, has a chapter titled Understanding Food Production. Who among us realizes that the GHG emissions resulting from agrochemicals (fungicides, insecticides, and fertilizers) dwarf those required for making and using farm machinery. Dr. Smil, who had devoted his life to the sciences including climate matters, says the grand total of our nation’s energy usage for foodstuffs in 2007 came to about 16 percent of the energy, now approaching 20 percent.

Vaclav Smil devotes another chapter to four very energy intensive materials which he calls the “four pillars of modern civilization”: cement, steel, plastics, and ammonia. Again, the GHG impact these make generally flies under the radar for most Americans including Congress. These materials are vital to a huge fraction of the “things” all of us use every day. We citizens tend to think only of the GHG impacts of gasoline and electrical energy, overlooking the real difficulty of understanding how many thousands of actions are needed to get GHGs under control. Hence, the name of Smil’s book: How the World Really Works.

Carbon Pricing is the way to get control of this immense project. Incentives to phase out GHGs must be built into the fabric of our society! Inglis and Grant make this case well, pointing out that this market-based tool has been favored by many distinguished economists and now by the Business Roundtable, US Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute, American Bankers’ Association, Natural gas Supply Association, Electric Power associations, and a growing number of politicians on Capitol Hill. The authors are bullish on the prospects for bipartisan support of Carbon Pricing, returning the proceeds to consumers.

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions pointed out in June of 2021 that so far in the 117th Congress of 2021-2022, there have been five Carbon Pricing bills introduced.

The vast majority (85%) of GHG emissions come from countries other than the U.S. Hence, we can’t be the only participants in this mother of all projects. What is called a Border Carbon Adjustment fee can and should be assessed on polluting imports to motivate other countries to follow our lead in pricing carbon.

Many countries are ahead of us in pricing carbon; these include the U.K., Canada, South Korea, and the EU – among others.

The U.S. Congress should quickly create a Congressional Commission of learned and independent experts in climate science, economics, and project management to provide in several months an overall blueprint for the decades-long climate change battle ahead – using Carbon Pricing and a Border Carbon Adjustment. Congressional Commissions are the tested tool for fleshing out a project requiring specific expertise and for obtaining bipartisan support. #congress

It is time to quit spending hundreds of billions inefficiently and enlist everyone’s participation!


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