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The Solutions (coal continued)

Carbon Tax

No more "complex financial instruments" or "trading schemes" that are just another word for FRAUD. Cap and trade has failed across the EU and in Japan. It is a mess worthy of Wall Street. No carbon emissions were controlled. They went up without constraint. The only thing that has limited carbon emission in any country connected with the "cap and trade" EU experiment is the recent economic down turn. We have a planet to protect for ourselves and our children. We must insist on the birthright of an intact environment. The answer is a CARBON TAX.

A carbon tax has already worked in Sweden. In 2007 Sweden topped the list of countries that did the most to save the planet - for the second year running - according to German environmental group, Germanwatch. Between 1990 and 2006 Sweden cut its carbon emissions by 9%, largely exceeding the modest targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, while enjoying economic growth of 44% in fixed prices.

"The main reason for this success, say experts, is the introduction of a carbon tax in 1991. "Our carbon emissions would have been 20% higher without the carbon tax," says the Swedish environment minister, Andreas Carlgren. "It was the one major reason that steered society towards climate-friendly solutions," reckons Emma Lindberg, a climate change expert at the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, "It made polluting more expensive and focused people on finding energy-efficient solutions."

Denmark has also achieved carbon emission reductions using a carbon tax. Between 1990 and 2006, Denmark's GDP grew at roughly 2.3% a year, more than Europe's average of 2%. Denmark also reduced carbon emissions by 5%. According to World Bank (2010, p. 218), a carbon tax, combined with other policies, contributed to this decoupling of economic growth and carbon emissions.

Below is a cost comparison of electricity generation by various technologies. The orange segment on each bar represents a carbon tax of $40 / ton of CO2 emitted. This puts a price on the very real damage that coal fired power plant emission represent.

HERE IS HOW A CARBON TAX WILL GET US THERE.

Number one, two and three methods for retiring existing coal fired power plants is efficiency. If you don't need to buy it, they can't sell it. California and the rest of the world are much farther along on the path to increased efficiency than much of the rest of the U.S.

A carbon tax leaves it up to individuals to determine how they are going to reduce their fossil fuel usage. It is a tax that you pay only if you purchase a fossil fuel. We can think of this as the "ultimate" sin tax. Like the "sin" taxes on tobacco and alcohol, you can either pay it or kick the fossil fuel habit. The goal is to pay less and less of the carbon tax as individuals wean themselves off of carbon emitting sources of energy.

The carbon tax must be applied aggressively to cut the use of fossil fuel energy. Sweden has used just such a tax as an instrument of policy. We do not have to reinvent the wheel as we can learn from their model. For example, Sweden "switched in the 80s to direct electric heating and in recent years increasingly uses heat pumps, which uses two-thirds less electricity to heat. People were also helped with subsidies to substitute," says Professor Thomas B Johansson from the University of Lund, a former director of energy and climate at the UN Development Programme. Analogously, homes and businesses could be offered zero interest financing direct from the government to phase out their inefficient use of electricity from coal fired power plants.

You will upgrade appliances, add sky lights to dark rooms, replace leaky single pane windows with beautiful double pane insulated windows. You will replace your incandescent and fluorescent bulbs with highly efficient LED bulbs. (All of China is doing exactly that right now.) You will add insulation to your roof and walls of your home and install highly efficient heating systems. You may install a next-generation solar hot water heater on your roof or wrap your water heater in insulation. If you have enough sunshine, you will add solar panels to your roof as well. The goal is to get as close to a "net zero" or passive house as is possible. Instead of paying a carbon taxed energy bill, you will reduce and eventually almost eliminate that bill and only pay on a discounted principle, zero interest loan for energy efficient upgrades to your home or business. When you finish paying off that short term loan, you energy bills should be substantially reduced. Such reductions in overhead reduce household expenses and increase the profitability of business.

We need to create tax supports and subsidies to ramp up the financing and building of wind, solar, perhaps even wind from kites but most likely not nuclear*(video) based power plants given the severe long term environmental risks nuclear waste and nuclear acidents represents. We will invest in a smart grid.

*Note that were these water based storage tanks breached or damaged by attacks, the storage tanks would quickly go critical, contaminating whole regions of the country. IF Bill Gates has a real plan for safe nuclear power or IF Thorium Reactors (20 years out) actually eliminate the unresolved nuclear waste disposal issue, then maybe we can utilize nuclear. Right now all of Western Europe including France and Sweden are using Siberia as a dumping site. The Russians have more lax safety standards. Only a tiny fraction (10 - 15%) of nuclear waste can be or is currently reprocessed. Note that nuclear waste from current plants must remain safely isolated for 6,000 generations. That is a long time for your average engineer to keep track of something so dangerous.

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