Tax Carbon Now, Says LA Times

Despite being under tremendous pressure from their corporate overlords, the denizens of the LATimes continue to put out a remarkably good newspaper. Yesterday they ran the best editorial on reducing carbon emissions this reporter has ever seen, with a terrific lede:

If you have kids, take them to the beach. They should enjoy it while it lasts, because there’s a chance that within their lifetimes California’s beaches will vanish under the waves.

That’s defining the stakes clearly, isn’t it? The editorial went on to explain the options to reduce carbon emissions–"command and control" regulation, "cap-and-trade," and the carbon tax–and showed why a carbon tax is the best and fairest option, even if it’s not yet popular with politicians.

What I like especially is the way the editorial dug into the flaws of a cap-and-trade system. To wit:

Cap-and-trade would also have a nasty effect on consumers’ power bills. Say there’s a very hot summer week in California. Utilities would have to shovel more coal to produce more juice, causing their emissions to rise sharply. To offset the carbon, they would have to buy more credits, and the heavy demand would cause credit prices to skyrocket. The utilities would then pass those costs on to their customers, meaning that power bills might vary sharply from one month to the next.

That kind of price volatility, which has been endemic to both the American and European cap-and-trade systems, doesn’t just hurt consumers. It actually discourages innovation, because in times when power demand is low, power costs are low, and there is little incentive to come up with cleaner technologies.

That’s so clear even I may be able to remember it. Thank you, LATimes…and here’s a picture of a Western coal plant, about which New No. 2 has a plaintive question.

Coal_plant_in_arizona

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