Don’t Buy The Carbon Dioxide Tax Myth – It Just Means More Government Control

By H. Sterling Burnett


The carbon dioxide tax is like the Hydra of myth. Every time some hero cut one of the Hydra’s heads off, two more sprang up in its place. The same is true for the carbon dioxide tax. Every time a version of the carbon dioxide tax is proposed, economists and other analysts deftly cut its head off, showing its promises of climate salvation and economic prosperity to be false, myths like the Hydra itself, yet two more versions of the tax arise.

Progressives and socialists embrace the carbon dioxide tax myth to promote more government control, their control, over the economy and peoples’ lives.

Sadly, a number of old mossback, Rockefeller Republicans have also embraced the myth of the carbon dioxide tax. The main attraction for them seems to be their belief they can create a revenue-neutral carbon dioxide tax. For them, it’s just a matter of political engineering. The problem is, the idea a carbon dioxide tax can be revenue neutral is just as much of a myth as that it will save the earth from climate doom (as if the earth needed saving, which the best science shows it doesn’t), or that it will increase jobs and boost the economy.

As my colleague James Taylor has persuasively written, no carbon dioxide tax is revenue neutral for the households being taxed. A carbon dioxide tax raises the price of coal, natural gas, and gasoline in an attempt to force consumers to purchase more expensive wind power, solar power, and electric vehicles. Although consumers will spend substantially more money on energy and energy-related bills, the wind and solar industries will pay no carbon dioxide taxes.

As Taylor points out, the tax revenue generated by a “successful” carbon dioxide tax — one that significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions — will decline sharply over time, leaving little money to return to the people. Thus, although the government would not receive much revenue to return to consumers from the tax, people, now paying substantially more for their energy bills, will face a dramatic decline in their discretionary household incomes.

Nor will the tax be revenue neutral for households with workers in the fossil fuel industry or related fields. The idea that all the oil field workers, coal miners, coal and natural gas power plant operators, and those working in chemical and plastics manufacturing will be able to smoothly transition to other jobs without a hitch is a myth as well: their household incomes will fall sharply in the short-term if not permanently. And even if they could simply snap their fingers and magically switch jobs, the jobs they would be taking installing and servicing solar panels and wind turbines simply don’t pay as well as the jobs they will be forced out of by the carbon dioxide tax.

Nor, in truth, could any carbon dioxide tax be truly neutral in terms of government revenue.

Even if Congress and the president keep their hands out of the till, not finding creative ways to spend whatever new revenue a carbon dioxide tax generates, and returns it through some scheme to the people being taxed, it’s simply a fact a good portion of the revenue generated by the tax will be diverted to the bureaucracies involved in collecting it and disbursing the tax checks. No government program is cost-free.

Just as with every other government program, there will be huge transaction costs for collecting, tracking, auditing and archiving taxes paid and revenues paid out. New employees will have to be hired, or existing federal government workers will have to divert their time from other responsibilities, to account for the carbon dioxide taxes to be paid, assure that they are paid, to police the program, and to send out the revenue checks and handle complaints when disputes arise.

These and other costs will eat up billions of dollars each year. Unless these costs are paid directly out of the carbon dioxide tax revenues — in which case all the revenues will not be returned to taxpayers as promised — then the government will have to impose other taxes or take on additional debt to pay for the program. So much for revenue neutrality.

Anyone who tells you paying a new tax will be good for you, especially a tax on fossil fuels that serve to power the economic prosperity we currently enjoy, is lying. In the meantime, hang onto your wallets and when the time comes, vote any and all policymakers who support carbon taxes out of office.


Acid Rain - Monitoring SO2 in a Flue Gas Desulfurization Unit

by Applied Analytics


From the 1970s through the 1990s, acid rain was the main environmental concern. Lakes1, vegetation2 and animals3 were affected.

The New York Times reported in 1979:“The rapid rate at which rainfall is growing more acidic in more areas has led many scientists and governmental officials to conclude that acid rain is developing into one of the most serious worldwide environmental problems of the coming decades.”4

What is acid rain?
 
Acid rain simply refers to rain or other precipitants that have uncommonly high acidity. This is a result of SO2 in the air that dissolves in water creating sulfuric acid. The source of this SO2 is largely power plants that burn fossil fuels.
 
EPA
 
The EPA, under the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, created the Acid Rain Program (ARP). The aim was to reduce the amount of NO2 and SO2 emissions, while allowing for the industry to employ cost-effective technology to achieve this goal. As the following graph shows, the program was a remarkable success.

Figure 1. SO2 Emissions from CSAPR and ARP Sources, 1980–2016 (ARP- The Acid Rain Program; CSAPR -Cross-State Air Pollution Rule)5

The EPA reports concluded that experience with the Clean Air Act since 1970 has shown that protecting public health and building the economy can go hand in hand.6 Furthermore, “The emissions reductions have led to dramatic improvements in the quality of the air that we breathe. Between 1990 and 2017, national concentrations of air pollutants improved... 88 percent for sulfur dioxide”7


Figure 2. Note. Data for SO2 concentration from SO2 Air Quality, 1980-2017 (Annual 99th percentile of Daily Max 1-hour Average) National Trend based on 42 sites. 90% decrease in national average8

The Technology
 
Flue gas desulfurization units are used to remove SO2 from flue gas; the process is also called scrubbing. The most common type is limestone scrubbing, in which the flue gas is stripped by dissolution into water. The stripped gas reacts with the limestone (CaCO3) resulting in solid residue, in this case calcium sulfite (CaSO3). The scrubbing efficiency is usually higher than 90%. To achieve this level of efficiency, the concentration of SO2 must be monitored both before and after the process.
 
The Analysis
 
The OMA-300 measures a full, high-resolution spectrum. This allows for both applications to be monitored continuously by the same analyzer, from 4000 ppm to 10 ppm full scale. Hence, it provides an indication of the process’ effectiveness by measuring the SO2 before and after the flue gas desulfurization unit.


Figure 3: Absorbance spectra of SO2 40 ppm and 4000 ppm, demonstrating that one analyzer can be used for both applications simultaneously. The absorbances at different wavelengths are correlated to the SO2 concentration.

The Future
 
While controlling industrial SO2 emission in North America and Western Europe has been largely successful, acid rain is still a problem in rapidly growing economies such as China and India. Even the famous Taj Mahal in Agra is facing corrosion of its marble9. Hopefully, in the very near future, these burgeoning regions will implement the same technology and regulations that worked so well in more established countries.
 
References
 
1. WILLIAM K. STEVENSJAN , ‘Study of Acid Rain Uncovers a Threat To Far Wider Area’, New York times, 16, 1990.
2. WILLIAM K. STEVENSAPRIL, ‘The Forest That Stopped Growing: Trail Is Traced to Acid Rain’ New York Times, 16, 1996 .
3. LES LINEMARCH ‘Acid Rain Leading to Moose Deaths’ , New York Times, 12, 1996.
4. (BAYARD WEBSTERNOV. “Acid Rain: An Increasing Threat” New York Times 6,11, 1979).
9. Henry Fountain and John Schwartz ‘Have We Passed the Acid Test?’ New York Times May 2, 2018


EPA restores common sense to overaggressive water regulations

by Tim Huelskamp and James Taylor


The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday it is rolling back some of the excessive, and possibly illegal, water regulations imposed by the Obama administration. EPA’s announcement is a welcome relief for homeowners and property owners impacted by overly aggressive EPA officials.

As a federal executive agency, EPA can only enforce laws that have been passed by Congress. While EPA has some rule making authority, it cannot make up laws of its own and then decide to enforce them. This is a very important check against a dictatorial presidency or executive branch. Regarding water regulations, Congress, via the Clean Water Act, has given the executive branch authority to regulate only those bodies of water that are “navigable waters of the United States.”

EPA has always asserted a broad definition for navigable waters. Dating back to the 1980s, EPA has asserted it can regulate smaller, streams and tributaries that cannot be navigated but that flow into navigable waters. EPA has also asserted it can regulate wetlands that are adjacent to navigable waters.

The Obama administration attempted in 2015 to further expand the definition of navigable waters to include such entities as isolated ponds, dormant stream beds that are dry most of the year, and minor depressions in the land that hold water only in the immediate aftermath of significant rainfall.

The consequences of the 2015 regulatory overreach can, and have been, devastating. Overly aggressive EPA officials tell farmers they cannot manage or cultivate farmlands that hold isolated puddles merely a few days of the year. Homeowners are told they cannot landscape or fill in nuisance depressions in their property that hold water briefly after a heavy rain. Federal bureaucrats have stripped homeowners and families of practical ownership rights to property they have purchased and managed for generations. Property owners who defy the EPA and other federal bureaucrats face steep penalties and fines.

Citizen lawsuits have been moderately successful challenging the Obama administration’s overreach. Courts have blocked enforcement of the Obama administration’s 2015 regulations in 28 states. Still, homeowners and landowners in the remaining 22 states remain subject to the oppressive 2015 regulations. The issue has been a likely candidate for eventual Supreme Court review, but in the meantime, people remain subject to the unfair policy.

The Trump EPA is thankfully proposing to restore common sense to EPA regulatory authority. The agency proposes to walk back the Obama administration’s asserted authority to regulate stream beds and land depressions that are usually dry. EPA will no longer regulate wetlands unless they are “physically and meaningfully connected” to waters under EPA jurisdiction. EPA will also eliminate subjective criteria for determining whether land or water features qualify under navigable waters jurisdiction, granting individuals more certainty about how they can use their property. These corrections are long overdue, and represent another example of President Trump keeping campaign promises to reduce environmental and regulatory overreach.

Environmental activists are sounding an alarm about potential environmental harms, but their arguments are weak. EPA will still regulate all navigable waters, as well as meaningful permanent and intermittent tributaries to navigable waters. Also, very importantly, all 50 states have their own environmental laws and regulations, allowing regulation above and beyond navigable waters as defined by EPA. For normally dry streambeds, isolated depressions that only occasionally hold water, and other land features that the Obama administration sought to regulate, regulations will once again come from state and local governments that are more responsive and accountable to the people and communities being regulated.

EPA’s proposed rule will continue to provide strong environmental protection for the waterways Congress authorized EPA to regulate. At the same time, the proposed rule will roll back executive branch overreach and protect the rights of homeowners and landowners.


Voters Consider Energy Price Hikes in Arizona, Nevada, Washington

by H. Sterling Burnett


Voters in Arizona, Nevada and Washington state will soon decide if they want to pay more for less reliable electricity.

Progressive California billionaire Tom Steyer is trying to take California’s energy policies on the road. California energy prices are among the highest in the country, and Golden State residents suffer more non-disaster-related blackouts and brownouts than any other state. In a vain effort to control the weather 100 years into the future, California has adopted policies that restrict fossil-fuel use and severely limit residents’ energy choices. The result: high energy prices and unreliable electricity that works only when the sun and wind cooperate.

At a time when residents and businesses are fleeing California to seek more affordable energy and homes, California is now trying to export its misguided energy policies beyond its borders.

This November, voters in Arizona and Nevada will consider ballot proposals that would mandate an increase in the proportion of electricity generated from renewable power sources to 50 percent by 2030. Both measures are bankrolled by Steyer.

Additionally, Washington state voters, for the second time in three years, will consider a ballot initiative to impose the nation’s first tax on carbon-dioxide emissions.

The plain truth is, if voters approve these initiatives they will be paying higher prices for energy with little or no environmental benefit. Numerous studies have revealed that states with renewable energy mandates have experienced increased energy prices. The Brookings Institution found replacing conventional power with wind power raises electricity prices by 50 percent. Even worse, replacing conventional power with solar power triples electricity costs. In short, the higher the mandate, the higher the costs.

Europe is further along the renewable energy path than the United States, and the results are telling. Despite a 25 percent increase in wind power and 6 percent growth in solar over the past decade, carbon emissions actually increased in 2017, by 1.8 percent, due to the fact that “idling fossil fuel plants must be quickly brought online when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, and, just like cars in traffic, idling engines produce more carbon emissions,” as reported by Nevada’s Sparks Tribune. Meanwhile, electricity costs across the European Union have increased by 23 percent during the past decade.

The same is true in the United States. Under its current renewable power mandate, Arizona produces 7 percent of its energy from wind and solar, an amount required to increase to 15 percent by 2025. The Energy Information Administration reports that meeting the current 7 percent requirement has already added $304 a year to the average Arizonan’s electric bill — meeting the 50 percent standard proposed in Steyer’s ballot initiative could cost Arizona residents an additional $2,100 annually.

The results are the same for Nevada. Over the last five years, the average Nevadan saw his or her electric bill rise by 11 percent, despite that nationally rates fell on average by 1 percent — and declined even more in states without green-energy mandates. This is due in part to Nevada’s existing renewable energy mandate.

A 2013 study commissioned by the Nevada Policy Research Institute showed that simply meeting the current requirement (utilities get 25 percent of the electric power they supply by 2025) would likely raise power prices by an additional 11 percent. This would also cost the state more than 3,000 jobs. Requiring 50 percent renewable energy just five years later, after the low hanging “inexpensive” power switching as already been accomplished, will make rates and job losses skyrocket even further.

Washington state’s carbon-dioxide tax would impose a penalty of $15 per metric ton on carbon-dioxide emissions, rising $2 per ton annually until the state meets its goal of reducing emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels. Evergreen State auditors found residents would pay approximately $2.2 billion more in taxes during its first five years of implementation, with gasoline prices likely to rise by 13 cents per gallon and the costs of home-heating oil likely to rise by 15 cents per gallon in 2020, the year the tax would take effect.

The higher energy prices and increased energy instability will be for naught with regards to preventing global warming. The United States is already reducing its emissions without such draconian policies, but even if it weren’t, nothing done in the United States can prevent a global rise in emissions because developing countries are adding huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as they industrialize.

Only the IRS, politicians and climate fanatics could love these high-cost, no-return ballot initiatives. Let’s hope Arizona, Nevada and Washington state residents see through the green smokescreen the ballot initiatives’ advocates are emitting.