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  1. Rod:

    I appreciate your long-standing editorial position on this cap-and-trade vs. carbon tax debate and it is interesting to hear in the above interview that Dr. James Hansen cheered the collapse at Copenhagen while at the same time is holding out hope for some future international global carbon emissions control regime.

    I note a general collapse of whatever consensus existed a year ago over AGW both as an actual phenomenon and the urgency of any kind of policy response. However, I’ll elide that debate here as there are plenty of fora on the internet for that(e.g. here , here and here).

    I’d also point out that those cap-and-trade schemes of the Kyoto Protocol and the EU as they have been implemented to date have been rank failures that have served only to subsidize those industries and nations that actually emit the most carbon.

    Pertaining to the interests of fission energy development I would like to submit the brief outlines of a hybrid proposal incorporating both the potential of market incentives and flexibility of cap-and-trade along with the intrinsic transparency and simplicity of a carbon tax and solicit public responses from you and your thoughtful online readership and listeners:

    It is generally stipulated that continued and increasing utilization of carbon-based fuels, particularly in the electric generation sector where they are readily substitutable by fission and other alternatives, is detrimental to both the environment — apart from whatever imputed AGW, vast quantities of particulates and toxic metals are released into the biosphere killing millions worldwide; and to the economy of the US and developed and developing economies as about 40% of world primary energy supply is in the form of petroleum and the world market set by OPEC. It should be noted that developing nations are even more dependent upon petroleum as a means of electricity generation. Displacing natural gas and coal from present electric sector demand would free up these fuels, in which the international trade is not dominated by a cartel, for service in the transport sector and cut present petroleum demand nearly in half.

    At the same time we have powerful interests to deal with that are vested in the generation of electricity with coal and natural gas (>70% of US electricity).

    Introducing “Cap & Save” — the term as I use it here is not a euphemism for cap and trade but rather denotes my plan whereby flat carbon tax revenues are collected form their emitting electric generation sector sources and held in escrow by the federal government and used to finance future capital costs of construction of non-carbon electricity generation assets (be it fission, wind, solar, etc) at the discretion of those firms whose emissions were taxed. Financing would be doled out in exchange for retirement of the capital plant and equipment, particularly coal power plants, that is most carbon intensive. In the event that this financing is not utilized by a set date the fund would be distributed as a dividend to the public.

    Thus we have jobs — non outsourceable union jobs; we have energy independence for the transport sector as cheap natural gas and coal (in the form of CTL/F-T diesel and jet fuel) must find new markets; along with gas and coal, world petroleum prices would crash placing pressure on petro-authoritarian regimes Russia, Venezuela, and in the Middle East; and we have emissions reduction on a massive scale.

    Ideally half of US electric generation — essentially all base-load — is substitutable with fission (n.b. my concern is not so much the load-following ability of current or future reactors but the utilization rate of their output). At present that would amount to some 250GW(e) or 150GW of new US NPPs.

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