Tuesday, July 02, 2013

R Street Part 2

For several centuries, Eli has been pointing out that he and Barry Bickmore agree on the coming threats from human driven climate change, but probably disagree on how to deal with it.  Bunnies might call this the WG1/WG3 dichotomy.  Mark Boslough, well he and Eli could probably agree that they disagree of WG3, but in both those cases, working from the same physical reality there is at least some possibility that something could be done in the end.

Eli would say the same thing in the other direction about folk like Tenny Naumer or even Joe Romm, in the later case Eli is somewhat intermediate with Barry Brook on the other side, since nuclear and renewables complement each other.

One can work toward solutions together, and let us be frank, work toward defanging the denialist jackels who feast on our future by deluding others.

Yesterday Eli talked a bit about R street, and it's head honcho, Eli Lehrer.  Lehrer would fit into the same categories, at least as far as acknowledging the problems that the planet is going to face in the future, starting now.   His opening line is that those on the right need to confront reality or get run over

If conservatives don’t begin to engage on the important issue of climate change, we’ll cede the debate. The result will be a larger, more intrusive government that hurts business and job creation.
President Obama is readying a major push of administrative action on climate change. There will be new regulations on power plants, new subsidies for clean energy and a number of other big government programs in the name of solving climate change.
What he is not confronting is that the reason for the administrative action is and has been the Republican blockade against action.  He is playing this in a way though that is immediately useful to him, but potentially a problem in coming times, e.g. trying to convince the tea party types that if they don't get real, solutions will be imposed by those they hate, and to do that, Lehrer is not above throwing some red meat to the dogs.
To conservatives like us, complicated new regulation is our worst nightmare. There is a conservative approach to dealing with climate change — one that can actually achieve conservative goals: the government-shrinking carbon tax.
Currently, U.S. tax law embodies everything that’s wrong with the federal government. It’s too big (about 17,000 pages), too burdensome (Americans spend nearly $50 billion a year complying with it), and too prone to manipulation. Working toward a simpler, fairer system with lower overall rates has long been a worthy conservative goal that deserves continued support from all liberty-loving Americans.
Lehrer, of course, is a creature of the insurance industry, and of course, they would like to pay less than the nothing they and their executives now pay in taxes.    The tax code is complicated because the top dogs have bunches of lawyers and accountants gaming the system.  And, of course, no one confronts the reality that it costs ~40-50% of GDP to run a country any sane person wants to live in (including Social Security and healthcare).  

So how does one reconcile Hansen's tax and dividend with Lehrer's carbon tax and sink other taxes, well, the answer from yesterday was use cabon taxes to sink health care and retirement taxes


Tom Curtis said...

Lehrer's scheme, and adaptions of it, are a bad idea. The entire purpose of the carbon tax is that it should generate a reduced tax revenue over time as carbon emissions reduce. Initially that can be compensated by an increased tax rate, but as net emissions fall to zero, the tax return must also fall to zero.

If you have switched a large part of recurrent expenditure over to being funded by a carbon tax, the long term reduction in carbon tax returns means a long term reduction in real funding on those items. If we fund social security from a carbon tax, that means by 2050 we will have no funding for social security. Consequently we must either eliminate the program, or find a new funding mechanism.

Of course, if we have to find a new funding mechanism, we are far better of doing that now; and retaining a revenue neutral carbon tax by some form of dividend structure. The same applies for tax reform in general. Substituting the carbon tax for other taxes just delays the necessary reform of the tax system, without providing for a long term revenue base.

If Lehrer wants a truly economically conservative carbon tax, he needs a mechanism which returns the dividend to energy producers on a flat rate per kWh generated. If the tax is extended to transport, the dividend could be on a flat rate per passenger mile or per ton mile of goods transported. Such a dividend mechanism would have minimal economic impact in that it would not increase the aggregate cost of electricity or transport, while selectively increasing the relative cost of carbon intensive electricity generation or transport.

Jeffrey Davis said...

His problem is that to him regulation is his worst nightmare rather than the needless deaths of millions and millions of people.

Russell Seitz said...

The bad thing about nightmares is that they are not mutually exclusive.

Russell Seitz said...

Or limited to one species :

Feds Require Magicians To Make Disaster Plans For Their Bunnies

Hank Roberts said...

Tob Control doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2012-050815

Research paper

‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party

... the proportion of people who favour smoke-free laws was similar among those who identify with, and those who oppose, the Tea Party (72% and 75%, respectively, in states without smoke-free laws, p=0.145 by χ2 and 77% and 87% in states with smoke-free laws, p=0.139). Tea Party supporters also favour preserving Medicare, which does not align with AFP and FreedomWorks’ opposition to government-run healthcare.

... Tea Party has origins in the ultra-right John Birch Society of the 1950s, of which Fred Koch (Charles and David Koch's father) was a founding member.
------end quote--------

Footnotes in original omitted

Hank Roberts said...

Another thing the fossil fuel and tobacco industries have in common:


Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
April 2013, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 347-356
Quantification of Environmental Tobacco Smoke Contribution on Outdoor Particulate Aliphatic and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Short answer -- tobacco smoke is surprisingly persistent in outdoor air, and interesting to compare to diesel exhaust etc.


(Inspired to do a bit of searching after hearing a youngster from Indiana comment that it was unbelievable how many people in San Francisco smoke tobacco -- observing it's possible in Indiana to walk down a city sidewalk without walking through clouds of tobacco smoke repeatedly, but in San Francisco, it's inescapable)

(That's probably because smoking indoors is banned, so the smokers gather outside. Usually, I've noticed, there's a crowd of them near the big air intake grilles for the nearby building ....)

Martin Vermeer said...


Re: Tea Party, I am reminded of the disillusionment felt by conservative Christians at George W. Bush's and Karl Rove's poorly concealed contempt for them.

The role of 'useful idiot' is not a pleasant one to wake up to.

John Mashey said...

re: quarterback behind the scenes

I wrote a short intro to that:
TEA Party: Tobacco Everywhere Always, including links to the talk Amanda Fallin gave when this was published. The article is free, and is great research.

While the other Eli seems pretty sensible on some insurance matters, in 2011 @ Heartland (still getting tobacco funding), he did work hard to help tobacco companies stay in business, among other things doing a bit of cherry-pick of effects of higher taxes on teenage smoking, where he disagrees with most results.

"The bulk of the academic research on tobacco control argues against proposals to increase cigarette taxes."

Google: teenage cigarette taxes

This seems an odd juxtaposition with insurance companies.

John Mashey said...

1) Re: Tea Party & Big Tobacco, Quarterback behind the Scenes (free paper at serious journal), terrific research that happened almost by accident.

For an intro, see TEA Party: Tobacco Everywhere Always. Amanda Fallin gave a good talk on this when it was published, and I linked to the video, and pointed out some of the intertanglings with thinktanks and others relevant to climate issues.

2) Eli says of the other Eli:
"Lehrer, of course, is a creature of the insurance industry" and I suspect R Street, Munich Re, State Farm, Allstate tend to agree that climate change is real, and gimmicks like FL coastal insurance and hope for Federal bailout are not good ideas.

Sadly, back at Heartland (which still was getting tobacco $), in July 2011, we find Eli L going all-out to help fend off increased cigarette taxes, repeating well-honed industry tactics.

While there is always room for policy argument and careful assessment, cherry-picking can happen here as well as in temperature records.

He didn't write much about effects of taxes on teenage smoking, and while not everyone agrees, try:

Google: teenage cigarette taxes

Susan Anderson said...

Tenney (sp) ... afaik, frequently underestimated. I depend on her for solid collation and smart observation.

David B. Benson said...

Much of a so-called carbon taax proceeds should go towards removing a bit of the excess CO2 via schemes such as irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming
although I would change some of the details mentioned in the free-to-view full paper.

bill said...

The woodlands, shrublands, grasslands, stonefields, dunefields and savannahs of the Australian outback do not require 'afforestation', thank you very much.


All the outback bunnies that, being natives in good standing rather than feral nuisances (sorry, Eli!), are actually bilbies.

This notion sits right up there with 'let's just pump sulphur into the stratosphere, or iron filings / crushed limestone into the sea' in the 'what could possibly go wrong?' stakes.

Revegetate trashed rangelands and marginal agricultural areas by all means... or just let some of the native Queensland Acacia species do their thing, for that matter...

Russell Seitz said...

The embrace of existential threat inflation seldom broadens any political base - having denied smokers seats at the back of the bus ,some obsessive puritans seem bent on throwing them under it, and one has published a peer reviewed psychology paper equating cigarettes and nuclear weapons.

David B. Benson said...

bill --- By all means those other rewildings as well. However, using two vast deserts illustrates the scale of the problem.

If not done soon the Australian outback will resemble the Sahara. Do you prefer that?

bill said...

If not done soon the Australian outback will resemble the Sahara.

Citation please. Virtually none of Australia resembles the Sahara - now, why is that?

Yes, I've seen first-hand what the early 21st century mega-drought did to some of my favourite areas, (and the remarkable reversals in the la Nina seasons) but I'm not up for destroying them in order to save them. Come to think of it, the south-western US seems to be in a lot of trouble - let's do it there!

Here's an idea - restore forests in areas where forests once actually existed in recent times! I.e. not outback Australia. It's not like there's any shortage of them...

And, yet again, there's no point in wishing for things that cannot happen. This stuff keeps getting revived by the climate denial side of Australian politics - they're still on about it despite their own party members involvement in the following linked report - but it's never going to work. Seriously. Do yourself a favour, drop this one and worry about something else.

(I haven't spent a decade and a half campaigning - often successfully - to get the mining industry chucked out of these areas to lose them to carbon imperialism. I mean, hell, the Nullarbor Plain is going to look like, well, the Nullarbor Plain if we don't contain AGW, so why don't we just excavate the bloody thing and chuck it into the great Australian Bight. Actual proposal. I'm proud to say we've just 'locked up' 900 000 Ha - we don't do things by halves in SA - of it in a wilderness area instead.)

David B. Benson said...

bill --- I didn't write the paper proposing using the Australian desert as a carbon sequestration area. It merely helps illustrate the size of the problem.

But as the southern Hadley cell expands southward due to continued warming, on average less and less rain will ever fall in the outback. So the outback will come to more and more resemble the Sahara.

As for the American Southwest, yes adding that bit will help as well.