I agree with Friedman, but the political momentum for cap-and-trade is huge.
We need a compromise that works economy wide; for smokestacks and motor
The professional environmental groups, such as Environmental Defense, have
staked everything on cap-and-trade that will yield measurable and verifiable
results for smokestacks. At the same time many in the financial community,
utilities and utility regulators have decided that this cap-and-trade
approach will protect the profits of the electric utilities and smokestack
industry while gradually increasing electricity prices at politically
acceptable rates and stimulating efficiency and conservation.
Unfortunately cap-and-trade is not an efficient solution for reducing carbon
emissions from motor fuels and vehicles. The technical arguments for an
economy wide cap-and-trade system that includes motor vehicles are not as
strong as the support for a program targeted specifically at smokestacks.
I advocate a compromise; a hybrid solution that works economy wide to make
every consumer part of the solution. I advocate cap-and-trade for utility
and industrial smokestacks and a revenue-neutral life-cycle carbon tax for
hydrocarbon-based motor fuels.
The smokestack cap-and-trade program would be limited to those utilities and
industries that have the infrastructure and institutional framework in place
to manage this complex and confusing regulatory program. The life-cycle
carbon tax on all motor fuels would mimic the federal excise tax on motor
fuels except that the tax would be revenue-neutral. The tax would be easy to
collect and would be pro-rated based on the fossil carbon content of the
motor fuel. Federal carbon tax revenues would be offset by reductions in
federal income taxes on corporations and individuals.
States could also implement state carbon taxes that could be used to fund
immediate deployment of low-carbon motor fuels best suited to regional
resources, business conditions and needs.
This simple revenue-neutral life-cycle carbon tax on motor fuels would
satisfy conservatives and liberals; it would be market based and would
empower consumers to make wise choices. More importantly a motor fuel carbon
tax would stimulate massive investment in cost-effective, low-carbon motor
fuels infrastructure; i.e. cellulosic and advanced biofuels, compressed
natural gas, compressed hydrogen and electric motor fuels. Once the
automotive industry understands that low-carbon motor fuels will be readily
available to consumers, the industry will quickly ramp up production of
affordable, cleaner, more efficient, low-emission engines and vehicles.
The tragedy of the energy solutions implmented to date is that most of the
stimulus monies are focused on more sustainable production, distribution and
use of electricity in buildings and advanced battery technologies. While
important long-term solutions, policy to promote cost-effective near-term
solutions that would reduce both the cost and carbon content of motor fuels
used in conventional engines and vehicles, such as compressed natural gas
motor fuels, have been overlooked by policy makers.
How do we get Friedman to understand that this compromise approach, a hybrid
approach, is not only technically viable, but also commercially viable given
current oil price volatility, market constraints and uncertainty?
How do we get Obama and the leaders in Congress to consider compromise
solutions that actually break our national addiction and total dependence on
high-carbon, petroleum based motor fuels?
It is ironic, but the natural gas industry discovered several years ago that
it was much more profitable to sell natural gas for inefficient electric
power production that make the massive investments needed to promote direct
use of natural gas in millions of more efficient, cleaner distributed
applications, such as motor fuels for vehicles. It is time to mobilize the
investment power of the natural gas and hydrogen stakeholders to start
deloying low-carbon motor fuels.
Since these stakeholders have been sitting on the sidelines and not engaging
this debate, a divisive either-or political debate between clean energy
advocates and operators of smokestacks has evolved. Motor fuels are being
This will result in political grid-lock and continued addiction to status
quo liquid hydrocarbon-based motor fuels and higher carbon emissions and
extreme price volatility. Rather than encouraging significant progress
towards widespread deployment and use of less expensive low-carbon gaseous
motor fuels in affordable vehicles consumers will continue to be totally
dependent on those who supply liquid motor fuels -- petroleum based gasoline
and diesel fuels.
Continued total dependence on liquid motor fuels is the wrong policy for
Florida; it is the wrong policy for America.
Come to my BEST seminar next Monday evening (13 April 2009) in the Fine Arts
Building and learn more about gaseous motor fuels and how this community can
use existing natural gas and electric infrastructure to start making real
reductions in carbon-emissions and thus become an integral part of our
sustainable energy solutions.
David E. Bruderly PE
920 SW 57th Drive
Gainesville FL 32607-3838
From: Bioenergy and Sustainable Technology Society
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jason Evans
Sent: Wednesday, April 08, 2009 10:05 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Friedman on carbon tax (again)
Another interesting column from Tom Friedman that argues for a
carbon tax, rather than the cap and trade approach being used by
the Europeans and currently proposed by the Obama administration.
Jason M. Evans, Ph.D.
Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
University of Florida
(352) 846-0148 - office
(352) 328-1199 - cell