Monday, January 21, 2008

"It will not be easy to achieve"

Michigan Democrat John Dingell, the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has outlined his proposal to cut greenhouse gases. Dingell has been scoring higher and higher in recent years in the League of Conservation Voters' eco-friendly rankings. This plan should certainly help. He informs us that:
The earth is getting warmer and human activities are a large part of the cause. We need to act in order to prevent a serious problem. The world’s best scientists agree we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60-80 percent by 2050 in order to limit the effects of global warming and this legislation will put us on track to do just that.

This is a massive undertaking, and it will not be easy to achieve, but we simply must accomplish this goal; our future and our children’s futures depend on it.

Not easy to achieve? That's his inner evil doctor letting you know 'This might hurt a little.' Nothing's easy in America when you propose getting rid of the mortgage tax deduction on large homes and float the idea of 50 cent per gallon tax.

He's hit on a great point. Large homes, built far from centers of employment and public transit, contribute to sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions. But in case he's missed it, these people are already losing homes at a record rate. The L.A. Times was reporting two years ago, before the word 'subprime' crashed onto the front page, about the toll surging gas prices were having on the McMansion crowd who lived two-hours from the city center and were drowning debts. Congress will have about as much luck stripping their deduction for mortgage interest as they will in taking their guns.

But that's a small point. Dingell's got a plan. A carbon tax of $50 per ton of carbon puts it in the range recommended by former World Bank economist Nicolas Stern, who authored a report on climate change for the UK Treasury. Stern put the social cost of climate change at $85 dollars per ton but in this interview, he seems to say $40 per ton makes important technologies such as sequestration more viable. (There seems to be a lot of confusion over whether tonne or ton is being used and whether the price is for a ton/tonne of carbon or ton/tonne of CO2. Dingell's plan is per ton for carbon).

Dingell's plan also endorses the use of "certified" carbon offsets. The offsets are moving closer to becoming mainstream financial assets, and much now rides on who does the certifying and making those standards transparent, consistent and scandal free.

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