Green Energy — January 28, 2010 at 11:28 am

Amer. Chem. Soc. editor supports carbon tax, not cap & trade


This is actually a pretty big development in the discussion of Cap & Trade vs. Carbon Tax to rein in our country’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

In a January 11, 2010 editorial in the American Chemical Society’s weekly magazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), Editor Rudy Baum has this to say:

H.R. 2454, the 1,200-page climate-change and energy legislation passed by the House of Representatives in June 2009 that establishes a CO2 cap-and-trade system, should be put out of its misery in favor of a simple carbon tax. Cap-and-trade is a sop to the coal, petroleum, and other energy-intensive industries; it does nothing but muddle the very simple need to put a price on carbon on which industry can base its capital-spending decisions. A carbon tax accomplishes that goal simply and efficiently.

This is the Editor-in-chief of the main publication of the American Chemical Society (ACS) speaking so, while it’s not the official position of the ACS, it is a significant statement that carries a good deal of weight.

The ACS is decidedly not the same as the American Chemistry Council (ACC). While the ACC is the trade association for the chemical manufacturing industry, the ACS is “a a congressionally chartered independent membership organization which represents professionals at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry and sciences that involve chemistry.” In other words, the ACS membership is comprised mainly of scientists, not business owners and managers.

Now, make no mistake — there is some dissent on the editorial pages of C&EN with regard to global climate change. And this editorial is certain to spark their version of a flame war in the Letters sections of upcoming issues. But Baum’s take is informed and it is a profound departure from much of what you see coming from field of chemistry, at least the stuff that makes it to the mainstream media sources.

Baum has more to say, acknowledging his critics then countering their arguments:

But wait, wouldn’t that leave China, India, and other nations free to undercut the carbon-tax-inflated prices of goods from the U.S., the EU, and Japan? Not at all. Nations that adopt the carbon tax regimen should impose a carbon tariff equal to the carbon tax on all manufactured goods from countries that do not participate.

The Chinese, in particular, would protest such an action vociferously. Let them. China is not a developing nation; it is an authoritarian, industrialized, mercantile behemoth that is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It is time for the world to stop allowing China to pretend otherwise. If China wants to sell its carbon-tax-free products to developing nations in Africa, Asia, and South America, fine.

These are wise words and, while I will support cap and trade legislation if it makes its way through Congress, Baum’s analysis is, in my opinion, spot on. It’s in stark contrast to the ACC’s position on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:

Right now the Administration and Congress are focused on reducing GHG emissions, creating jobs and helping the economy recover. We think the worst prescription for the environment and the economy would be for EPA to begin regulating GHGs at America’s industrial, commercial and other business facilities – known as “stationary sources” – before Congress has had adequate time to develop a sound emissions reduction policy. That’s a very real possibility if Congress does not postpone EPA regulation of stationary sources…

Any legislation to implement a national climate policy, whether it adopts a cap and trade system or some other approach needs to ensure that American business remains competitive in the global economy and that good jobs stay here at home.

In other words, profits before climate protection — the typical (and disappointing) Big Business response.

It’s unfortunate that the political climate in this country, where the messaging is, time and again, dominated by the GOPosaurs and the Party of “NO!”, a carbon tax is probably not going to see the light of day. Without leadership in Congress and from the White House, the right-wing, anti-tax noise machine will ensure that it never sees the light of day.

More’s the pity.

I’m just sayin’…