Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Carbon Tax Could Bolster Green Energy

Construction of carbon capture equipment in July at a Southern Company energy plant in Kemper County, Miss. (Credit Aaron Phillips/The New York Times) Click to enlarge.
In its latest Energy Technology Perspectives report, the International Energy Agency noted that the deployment of photovoltaic solar- and wind-powered electricity was meeting goals established to help prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average in the preindustrial era, the limit agreed to by the world’s leaders to avoid truly disruptive climatic upheaval.

In the same report, however, the organization noted that other technologies — bioenergy, geothermal and offshore wind — were lagging.  And it pointed out that worldwide investment in renewable power was slowing, falling to $211 billion in 2013, 22 percent less than in 2011.
There is one tool available to trim carbon emissions on a relevant scale:  a carbon tax. That solution, however, remains off the table.

If a carbon tax were to be imposed next year, starting at $25 and rising by 5 percent a year, the Energy Information Administration estimates, carbon dioxide emissions from American power plants would fall to only 419 million tons by 2040, about one-fifth of where they are today.  Total carbon dioxide emissions from energy in the United States would fall to 3.6 billion tons — 1.8 billion tons less than today.  By providing a monetary incentive, economists say, such a tax would offer by far the most effective way to encourage business and individuals to reduce their use of fossil fuels and invest in alternatives.

Is this enough?  No.  This proposal still leaves the United States short of the 80 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions that the White House is aiming for and that experts consider necessary by 2050 to prevent climatic havoc.  But at least it’s in the same order of magnitude.

Most important, perhaps, the Energy Information Administration’s estimates make clear that the real constraint lies not in our ability to develop the necessary technologies but in our political will to deploy them.

Read More at A Carbon Tax Could Bolster Green Energy

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