Just because the Waxman-Markey bill is roadkill on the Senate floor doesn’t mean the US doesn’t already pay a heavy price for its carbon emissions. If you doubt that, try getting your local power utility to build a new coal-fired generating station. Between 2006 and 2009, applications for 83 new coal plants were either turned down or withdrawn in the US.

Coal is still abundant across North America, but outside of a few coal states and the province of Alberta, no one dares build new coal-fired generating plants these days. Coal’s carbon emissions have made it a pariah fuel, at least in this part of the world. And with good reason: coal emits twice as much carbon per unit of energy as natural gas does.

Of course, when we say no to new coal plants, we’re not really saying no to more power generation. Instead, we’re saying, “Let’s burn natural gas or, even better, use renewables like wind to generate power, often at double or more the cost of coal.” (Falling natural gas prices have only recently made it cost-competitive with coal.) And we’re passing those costs along to our own steel and auto-assembly plants.

Unfortunately their competitors overseas are run on the cheap coal-fired power North American plants are increasingly denied. China may lead the world in the production of wind turbines, but eighty per cent of that country’s power comes from burning coal.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me we’ve got our carbon policy ass-backwards. We handicap our industries by forcing them to use more expensive, greener power while they have to compete with imports that are created with much cheaper coal-fired power. And all the while we pretend that we are protecting our economy from crippling carbon costs that would diminish our competitiveness.

But ironically we do the economy more harm than good by not charging for emissions at the same time as we force power users to pay that much more for coal alternatives.

You shouldn’t make domestic industries pay twice. If they are going to fork out more for using less carbon-emitting power, you shouldn’t make them do it again by losing market share to imports that don’t have to pay for their own emissions.

Wouldn’t it be better to put an actual price on emissions instead of just de facto banning new coal plants? By pricing domestic carbon emissions, we could then apply that same cost to imports through a carbon tariff and thereby achieve a level playing field. Instead, by pretending we don’t price carbon when really we do, we saddle our producers with higher energy costs but deny them any commercial benefit from using greener power, which they would get from a carbon tariff.

The status quo is a lose-lose proposition. If we’re going to ban new coal plants, we might as well raise the carbon bar for everyone.

  • Betsey

    The only lose-lose-lose proposition will become apparent when the world realizes the pseudo-scientific hoax called AGW=climate change=global climate disruption has wrecked western living standards unnecessarily. This will take another 3-5 years.

  • Luke

    The last sentence makes sense:

    “If we’re going to ban new coal plants, we might as well raise the carbon bar for everyone”.

    Anyway you look at it, building coal plants to keep western economies competitive is a losing proposition for global climate and our kids' futures. Coal may provide cheaper energy today, but long-term we all lose from carbon emitting production.

    Whoever thinks that global climate change is a hoax, should first read the science of the argument and (if that doesn't work) get their head checked.

  • Carbonman

    Global warming is not happening despite the steadily rising CO2 content over the last 20 years. In fact over the last 8 years there has been global cooling — check it out for yourself. If global warming is blamed for climate change then there can be no climate change nor global climate disruption. The more coal burning power plants the better as far as I am concerned. Energy should be delivered at the cheapest possible market price.

  • Luke

    Right – and the polar ice cap isn't melting. Uh huh.

  • rojelio

    Would this spark serious trade wars? How many nations would have to be on board for this to be effective?

    I've read that global solar capacity is starting to go exponential with concomitant price deflation. Analogous to what happened with computer chips. At what point do we see that solar/wind pricing becomes competitive with coal without having to wait for corrupt politicians to make logical policy? I know you can't stick a solar panel on the side of an airplane, but wouldn't it be nice if PV pricing gets down enough to kick coal's ass on it's own for routine use.

  • rojelio

    Speaking of pricing, it seems like the oil industry has this giant liability in that they require a few trillion bucks for military support. Must it not be laborious and expensive for them to buy off so many politicians, purchase the media, repel those pesky environmentalists, and to externalize the true costs of oil? Solar and wind don't seem to have this requirement for so many soldiers, bombs and mercenaries. The death rate surrounding oil doesn't seem to transfer to renewable energies. Shouldn't that start to become an advantage at some point?

    In terms of PR, renewables don't have to work as hard to greenwash themselves compared to let's say BP. This could help if there ever comes a time when a decent number of people actually start giving a shit.

  • rojelio

    I agree, but how many people can pick up these physics and climate journals and decipher it? Have you ever listened to a climate scientist argue with an oil-supported climate scientist? They both sound smart. I think the big failure has been with the media for portraying the climate issue as one in which there is no consensus yet, whereas in reality, there is quite a consensus in the scientific community.

    Secondly, I think people really like this Steven Chu. I think he's really got an opportunity to get out there kind of like a Carl Sagan type with a platform to educate the public. Why isn't he out there like a charming Mr Rogers explaining to us about peak oil and why CO2 is bad etc….Or is he is in a straightjacket because Obama is really Bush in disguise?

  • rojelio

    Focus on not paying a billion dollars a day for oil on our credit card. Every gas station should have a picture of Bush/Obama groveling to the king of Saudi Arabia for more oil. They should make posters with pie charts of exactly which terrorists we're funding that month. How do you think the 9-11 hijackers got their money? From us on our knees paying them a few million bucks a day, that's how.

    You sound like a stop the government from spending so much kind of guy. Help think of ways to stop paying the Ayatollah billions every month.

  • EverreadyUK

    I would start him off with a debate with Lord Moncton.

  • EverreadyUK

    I mean Monckton.

  • EverreadyUK

    Get more oil from oilsands, coal, wood, more agressive drilling in north america. All possible except for the green lobby using fear of CO2 as the boogyman. More nuclear to the rescue would be wondrful.

  • EverreadyUK

    Well,e-hem, net accumulation has in fact started as we are into the next 30 year cool cycle. But don't take my word for it. You need more than a 3 second attention span to to figure it out otherwise you have to follow Greenpeace or WWF analysis. In any event,CO2 is not driving any thing except profits for green organizatios so they can pay their CEOs more than half a million annually while their minnions collect nickels and dimes from the perpetually poor.

  • Kirktimpdx

    Great idea…. carbon tariffs! Can I plagiarize some of your phraseology in my next letters to my legislators? BTW… great speech at the ASPO conference. I was there. You had the attendees complete and full attention. Thanks.

  • everreadyUK

    If you are a bird or bat you may have a different take on death rates by renewables. Those with somewhat larger brains realize that connecting these technologies to existing grids is economiic suicide and enviromental catastrophe. Any sane humanoid has to agree with this.

  • Betsey

    Don't waste your time. Any economic contortions based on such a flawed scientific hypothisis as CO2 induced global warming are headed for the dustbin of history. How can such a bright person get sucked into this mania.

  • Rojelio

    I can tell by your reply that you don't have a clue about energy return on investment. The oil sands translate to something like $7/gallon, which I learned from Jeff Rubin. What's that got to do with CO2 ?. Secondly, do you know that we reached peak uranium in the 1980s, so just babbling about nuclear doesn't help, you have to help find a different way to do nuclear than the way it is currently done. For that matter, our highest quality coal (anthracite, highly valued in the steel industry) is already used up and now we're digging up the dirty stuff.

  • Rojelio

    I'm perfectly willing to hear any data and I'm definitely not tied to either of the loser political parties. But Lord Dipshit? That's the best you got? This guy doesn't even publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals. He writes opinion pieces for right wing literature. That guy makes as much sense as the left-wing radical propaganda.

  • Betsey

    The “consensus community” is comprised of members of the Flat Earth Society of East Anglia just about to strangle Galileo…but he's hanging on. In just a few years the winner will be blatently obvious.

  • Betsey

    If $7/gallon was reality Jeff Rubin would still be bicycling down to the APSO-USA conference. What nonsense.

  • Betsey

    I'll bet my Hummer to your Prius that you're a school teacher. And confused.

  • Rojelio

    That doesn't really make sense. Could you explain that better?

  • Carbonman

    I've checked every reference I can but am unable to find ANYTHING that would suggest peak uranium was reached in the 1980's. Would you kindly provide references? Unlike Lord Monckton who always provides his references, you emulate the greenies that excel at arm waving.

  • Carbonman

    Betsey — looks like you hit the nail on the head!

  • Betsey

    A nice summary for your students:

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    The Slow Death of the Environmental Movement

    By Alan Caruba

    “Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental.”—Dave Forman, Founder of Earth First!

    “If I were reincarnated, I would wish to be returned to Earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels”. —Prince Phillip, World Wildlife Fund

    If you want to understand how utterly soulless and nihilistic environmentalism is than you need only pay attention to what they say. (Click here for more such quotes)

    My friend, Joseph A. Olson, PE, recently wrote of “Climate Science’s Worst Week in History” in which he noted a series of events such as the UK’s Royal Society’s step back from its former support of global warming.

    This was followed by a Washington Post opinion editorial by one of its perpetrators, Michael Mann of Penn State University, pleading for a Democrat victory in the midterm elections so he could avoid being investigated by Congress.

    That same week Dr. Hal Lewis, a renowned physicist, resigned from the American Physical Society, rebuking it for having been subverted to serve the global warming hoax.

    Having observed the movement for decades, I think we are seeing a growing awareness that environmentalism is fear-driven, based on many false claims, a threat to the U.S. economy, fundamental freedoms, and humanity in general.

    The environmental movement has its roots in what was formerly called conservation. Its great champion was Teddy Roosevelt and it was led by men like John Muir (1838-1914), a naturalist who advocated setting aside places like the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas.

    The objective was not only to preserve such areas, but to permit future generations to visit, enjoy, and be inspired by them. In creating national forests, it was understood they were to be managed in a fashion that yielded timber while providing opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and camping.

    Muir founded the Sierra Club, one of the nation’s largest environmental organizations. Today there are so many environmental organizations and groups that you need a directory to sort them out. These groups, however, are now far more political than their original intent.

    They are ministries of misinformation, disinformation, and outright scare mongering.

    The movement as we know it today got a boost with the publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring.” It was an anti-pesticide diatribe whose claims have long since been disproved, but it set in motion a tsunami of fears regarding all chemicals and, beyond that, concerns about all kinds of manufacturing and technology; indeed anything involving energy resources.

    Within eight years of the book’s publication President Nixon initiated the Environmental Protection Agency that has since metatisized into a rogue government agency intent on controlling all aspects of life in America. The EPA invents most of the science it cites and has an authoritarian contempt for the fundamental principles of science, the truth, and the process of legislating and regulating as set forth in the Constitution.

    The scope of environmentalism is manifest in the United Nations Environmental Program of which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the source of the global warming hoax, has been the most visible of late.

    We are witnessing, if not the death of environmentalism, at least its growing marginalization. The early signs are there to be seen. It will take a lot of time to rid ourselves of its excesses and idiocy because much of academia, the judiciary, the media, some churches, and our schools have been hijacked by the environmental movement.

    Like socialism/communism, a political movement closely aligned with environmentalism, environmentalism not only does not work, but imposes restrictions that run contrary to economic growth, health, and fundamental freedoms. Its solutions are as often as not are the cause of mass death as in the case of the banning of DDT.

    Ultimately, environmentalism is opposed to all the technologies that protect, enhance and extend life for everyone on planet Earth.

    This is why we see, time and again, environmental opposition to anything that might ensure a steady, dependable source of electricity, the power that maintains everything upon which a modern society depends.

    This explains why environmental organizations like Friends of the Earth are leading campaigns against the use of coal to generate electricity and other forms of power generation.

    Environmentalists oppose oil and its derivative, perhaps one of the greatest inventions of the modern era, plastic.

    It is why they advocate turning food, corn primarily, into an inefficient fuel called ethanol that can damage car engines. The diversion of massive amounts of corn has only served to drive up food costs.

    It is why they advocate mass transportation and do all they can to impose new costs on the manufacture and use of automobiles.

    It is why they advocate wind and solar power as viable sources of energy when neither would even exist without huge government subsidies. They are touted as a source of mythical “green jobs”, but Americans want real jobs and wonder why so few factories have been built here since the 1970s.

    It has been environmentalists that foisted mandatory recycling programs that have proven as great a waste in time, labor and energy as the benefits they were purported to provide.

    Was it a worthy goal to clean the nation’s air and water? Yes, without question, but by almost any standard one can name, that goal has been achieved. When the EPA announced recently that it was going to regulate dust, you had to know that it’s being run by crazies. The East Coast of America receives a lot of dust blown in from Africa!

    The death of environmentalism began with the greatest hoax ever perpetrated in the history of modern man, global warming. It has taken decades for it to be exposed and its demise, along with other environmental “solutions” put forth are reaching a point of widespread public rejection.

    That is a very good thing because at the very heart of environmentalism is the intent to reduce the human population of the Earth. It is human “consumption” that environmentalists hate whether it is the food you eat or the energy you use in your daily life.

    It will take a generation or two or three to rid ourselves of the chains environmentalism has imposed on us and the economy, but it will happen. It took some seventy years for the former Soviet Union to ultimately implode.

    Just as communism killed millions, so too has environmentalism. Both still exist in various places and various forms, but they will fail. Perhaps not in my lifetime or yours, but if we remain vigilant, if we resist, they too will die a deserved death.

    © Alan Caruba, 2010

  • Mark

    Just finishing up Jeff's book, lots there that is very interesting, some I agree with but the
    global warming (now climate change, it's been changing since day one!) i cannot agree with and
    I have taken 4th year university paleoclimatology courses. It's a farce, making a bunch of people very wealthy and transferring wealth from 1st world to the 3rd world. In the future oil will be the energy of the wealthy and elite (think Al Gore) and coal will be the energy of the poor.

  • Richard Barber

    Plan 'B'

    Lose-lose is absolutely correct, we need a few good engineers in political power instead of lawyers.

    Clean coal fired electrical generation can be achieved in Ontario and at half the price of all other minerally fueled power generation with the exception of Hydrolic or Hydro type. However there are no new nor suitable hydro-power locations remaining in Ontario, so that leaves fossil fuels or Uranium.

    New coal fired plasma burning techniques are available that contain all gasses through COx and SOx. gas “capturing and sequestration”.

    Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel left on this earth and our local politicians have called for banning this source of energy. Not only will this decission make us uncompetitive but I believe it will be completely reversed within the next five years. There is no other solution in forseable future, but don't tell the politicians.

    Regards RB