Friday, February 15, 2008

Gusher of carbon confusion

This book looks likely to cause a stir: Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence, by Robert Bryce.

I'm not too impressed with the one part I have read, a boxed section on carbon taxes near the back of the book. Bryce writes:
Carbon taxes might help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but to achieve those reductions, all of the world's countries would have to agree to (1) participate in such a program and (2) agree on a price.
That's bad writing ("agree to ... agree"). Moreover, it's wrong. We wouldn't need to harmonize our carbon tax with other nations' carbon taxes, any more than we harmonize every other tax. The assumption lurking in there is that a carbon tax would cripple a country's competitiveness, so all countries should be equally hobbled. But a carbon tax that's combined with lower taxes on work and investment is compatible with a highly competitive economy.

And over time, a nation that leads in non-carbon energy will have a distinct economic advantage. Those considerations should outweigh any concerns that other countries will free-ride on our carbon reductions. I doubt China and India will want to remain stuck in the oil-and-coal age forever while the U.S. develops everything from space solar power to algae biodiesel.

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