25 August 2015

Tuesday funnies

How many fails can you count?

24 August 2015

Meta-tweet: Carbon tax vs Cap and Trade

One week ago, I tweeted that the Pope (!) should push for carbon taxes instead of cap and trade. In response, John Whitehead (a busy environmental economist and blogger) said "why taxes?" The following tweet exchanges were neither satisfactory nor complete, so here's a post.

Cap (total emissions) and trade (of permits to make those emissions) has a few useful characteristics:
  • Emissions are limited to a "known" quantity
  • Prices are "found" in the market
  • Trade among emitters (even around the world) rewards those who can reduce emissions at low cost
Prototypical example: a Norwegian firm facing a cost of $100/ton CO2e(quivalent) buys an emissions permit from a Chinese firm that reduces CO2e at a cost of $5. The trade price will be between $5 and $100, but emissions are capped.

The problems with cap and trade are well-known:
  1. Hard to know who's emitting what, where (fraud is also a problem)
  2. Too many or too few national permits distort international markets
  3. Political problems with sending "our money" to "them"
    Carbon taxes have different characteristics:
    • Emissions are NOT limited to a "known" quantity
    • Instead, there's a KNOWN price signal for emitting CO2e
    • Revenue goes to local / national governments
    Prototypical example: Dutch car drivers pay a gasoline tax that funds the Dutch government. In 2015, this was EUR 0.77/liter ($3.20/gallon, vs the US gas tax of $0.49/gal)

    Carbon taxes are:
    1. Easy to assess (charged at source/point of entry)
    2. Predictable and adjustable
    3. Sources of revenue to the national treasury (or refunds to citizens)
    One of my students wrote a bachelors thesis on tax vs cap and trade. The results that stood out were BIG emissions reductions from cap and trade (see #1 below) and a BIG revenues from carbon taxes.

    So why do so many politicians like cap and trade over carbon taxes? They can:
    1. Claim big reductions based on (imaginary) baselines that have been capped.
    2. Give permits to favored industries (attracting corruption).
    3. Say that industry is doing something without spending money.
    Carbon taxes are harder to manipulate or dodge.

    But what about driving international improvements in efficiency, etc? Well, I think that theoretical promise has failed due to (1) terrible accounting for permits (e.g., failure of the "clean development mechanism") as well as (2) lots of anger over sending money abroad to get few useful results.

    Thus, I have doubled down in my support for carbon taxes (many prior posts) because they can be...
    • Imposed within nations
    • Used to fund national projects (or given back to citizens)
    • Increased when other countries put them into place
    • Easily integrated into business and personal decisions affecting emissions
    Bottom Line: Let's get real. Carbon taxes can reduce emissions, cheaply ($0.40/gallon!), under real political constraints.

    22 August 2015

    Saturday party!

    Mad skillz:


    SoS: 17-23 Aug 2014

    These posts are still useful one year (or more) later. Please comment on the original if you have updates on progress or deterioration...

    19 August 2015

    Thanks for the donations! Give more?

    I have hit my "target" (400 minimum) with 400.60 in donations in my name for my ALS swim from Rogier Bleys, Joppe Brieffies, Diederik van den Burger, Cornelia Dinca, Todd Jarvis, Robert Morrow, Stefanie Stubbe, Graham Symmonds, Edwin van der Werf, Eric Wink, Edwin Woerdman.

    They deserve a big thanks... THANKS!

    If you still want to donate in support of ALS-research, then you can donate in my name, but that's not "as efficient" as helping out my neighbor, Caroline Britt, an Australian with a fierce love of swimming (and running and biking)! Just go here and follow the instructions (in Dutch but straightforward). She's raised 150 so far, so additional donations will help her "cross the line"!

    I'll post photos after the event (6 Sep)

    17 August 2015

    Monday funnies

    A friend who works on self-driving cars didn't think this was as funny as I do...

    16 August 2015

    Meta-tweet on LA's balls and water scarcity

    NB: I had to write this post in response to a twitter "conversation" that was too tangled to resolve in 140 character chunks. I'm guessing this won't be the first time. Life is complex.

    Last week the Guardian showed photos from an Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) media event (lots of cameras in the pix) where LADWP claimed they were using 96 million black plastic balls on its Sylmar Reservoir to "stop 300m gallons of water evaporating each year." I did some quick calculations (36 cents each, 10 year life span) and tweeted:
    Several people (including LADWP) replied to my tweet with observations that (1) the balls were more about UV protection to keep (treated) water from biodegrading into undrinkable water and that (2) the balls were cheaper than a $300 million rubber tarp and (3) longer lasting than 10 years (25 in fact).
    1. I knew 6 years ago that the balls were NOT about reducing evaporation. 
    2. $300 million is also a lot, but what about revenue neutral or saving ideas like LADWP ending its "more cheap water for lawns in summer" policy (or worse)?
    3. $3.7k/af goes to $1,500/af, which is still a lot of money
    All I was responding to was the article's spin (LADWP's spin?) that it was using balls to save water (check out all these articles!). I would have said nothing if the story had said "LADWP is required to spend this money on balls. The good news is that it also saves some water," but that's not what they said (this story is better), and I was tweeting to deflate their "we're conserving water" spin.

    Indeed, if you think the balls are ONLY about evaporation, then you will see them on non-treated water reservoirs, but... no sign of that.

    Bottom Line: Water managers need to be clearer about why and when they are spending ratepayer money. Even better, they should implement both demand reducing and supply augmenting policies in times of water scarcity (or all the time).

    H/Ts to SC, DP, LS and DV

    15 August 2015

    SoS: 10-17 Aug 2014

    These posts are still useful one year (or more) later. Please comment on the original if you have updates on progress or deterioration...Way back in 2008: