Sunday, December 28, 2008

Major category error from Harvard Philosophy concentrator.

Matthew Yglesias writes

"Given what we’ve learned about the risks of catastrophic climate change, it [] seems like a concept that’s been somewhat overtaken by events. A carbon tax, or a cap on greenhouse gas emissions with auctioned permits, would constitute a tax on gasoline among other things. And there’s no particular reason that burning fuel in a car should be disfavored versus other carbon-intensive activities."

via Kevin Drum

The fact that there is a reason to tax both coal and petroleum consumption does not mean that "there is no patricular reason that burning fuel in a car should be disfavored compared to other carbon-intensive activities." A newly understood problem with petroleum consumption doesn't eliminate that many excellent longer understood reasons to limit petroleum consumption. It can't. A newly discovered problem with burning gasoline and other things can't eliminate the case that burning gasoline is worse. A positive number plus a constant is greater than 0 plus a constant.

Those of us who are roughly twice Yglesias's age remember the original logic of a gasoline tax, which was designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil. That argument is, for some reason, out of fashion, but it is much more compelling now than it was then.

The fact that we have a new concern -- global warming -- which will be partially addressed by a gasoline tax isn't and can't be a reason why burning fossile fuels in cars isn't particularly bad. The case for a carbon tax as opposed to a carbon tax plus a gasoline tax is that there is no problem with gasoline consumption except for global warming.

It is odd that criticism of this nonsensical position from the author of dozens of "peak oil" posts is so measured.

A gasoline tax will reduce global warming, reduce depletion of petroleum reserves and cause the price of petroleum to fall. It is fairly likely that the cost will be entirely born by oil exporting countries and not at all by -- well us.

If one opposes a gasoline tax, one should logically advocate aid for Kuwait Saudi Arabia and Russia. If that sounds crazy then so is the current minimal US gasoline tax.

1 comment:

Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D. said...

The following is inevitable, no probabilities about it.

Independent studies conclude that Peak Oil production will occur (or has occurred) between 2005 to 2010 (projected year for peak in parentheses), as follows:

* Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

* Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008)

* Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst (2008)

* Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

* T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

* U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

* Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell Geologist (2005)

* Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

* Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

* Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

* Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

Independent studies indicate that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

"By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame."

With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.

This is documented in a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed:

I used to live in NH-USA, but moved to a more sustainable place. Anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable area with a good climate and good soil? Email: clifford dot wirth at yahoo dot com or give me a phone call which operates here as my old USA-NH number 603-668-4207.