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How a Carbon Tax Can Save America

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In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama laid out his vision for a vibrant America, one with jobs as bountiful as clean energy and a society that relies less on fearmongering and more on rational thinking. While creating jobs remains a top priority for the White House, there are plenty of hurdles that remain to garnering enough votes from both parties.

What if the political gridlock in Washington could end with both major parties emerging victorious while simultaneously reducing the deficit? What if the solution could also reduce the country's emissions in 2050 to levels last seen in 1984? It may sound too good to be true, but such a solution may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. According to the Congressional Budget Office, a national carbon tax of $20 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions that increases at a nominal rate of 5.8% per year would raise $1.25 trillion over a 10-year period. Revenue from such a tax could be used to offset cuts to individual income taxes or corporate taxes, extend social programs, be placed into a fund for renewable-energy projects, or a combination of these options and more.   

Yes, it may sound counterintuitive, but a tax can ultimately lead to prosperity. And while the tax itself is simple, explaining the reasons for and distinguishing the misinformation about it are a bit more difficult. Take these words as an evolving blueprint for how an American carbon tax could combat climate change and reduce the deficit all the while protecting our core values -- and our planet -- for future generations.

If a carbon tax is so awesome, then why doesn't it exist?
It doesn't help that the phrase "carbon tax" contains the dreaded word "tax." I once had a history teacher who told me the first things politicians do after being elected to office is prepare for re-election. That may have some truth to it when you consider that the political landscape is dominated by career politicians on both sides of the aisle. An ominous focus on remaining in office forces politicians to steer clear of risky measures, which can stifle real societal progress from being made.

Today it seems that the winner of each election gets handed a shiny new can labeled "Urgent: America's Problems" that is then happily kicked down the road. In a politician's eyes, that can might as well read "Open Now for Political Suicide."

This problem was front and center with the latest round of debt-ceiling talks, which lately have come down to a game of tug-of-war, with the slider bar between taxes and social programs. Each side tries to maximize its chips -- and political future -- while simultaneously minimizing that of the opposition. Not surprisingly, little was accomplished.

That hasn't stopped several countries and individual states from employing emissions programs of their own. To be fair, a carbon tax is not the only way to regulate emissions. The European Union, Australia, South Africa, and others have varying degrees of carbon policies in place. So, too, do Quebec, California, and a host of New England states. According to National Journal, carbon trading markets from California, Australia, and Quebec may be linked in the not-too-distant future to "create a truly global market" generating "billions of dollars."

In fact, Australia's carbon policies and technological advancements have resulted in wind energy that is cheaper than coal. That is no small step for the world's fourth largest coal producer and should erase doubts for countries currently on the fence over carbon legislation.

A global carbon market will be the ultimate step toward staving off atmospheric-related climate change. This is a global problem that requires global solutions. Last year, America's new-found love for natural gas displaced coal and saw carbon emissions plummet to levels last seen in 1992. It is certainly good news, but it should be considered only part of a long-term solution for controlling emissions. The coal we neglected to burn within our borders stoked power plants elsewhere on the globe. Earth doesn't care where emissions enter the atmosphere.

A simpler way to connect emissions and climate change
I know there are those who say the climate change we're seeing is a natural cycle. While I fully expect plenty of discussion in the comments section below, I think one graph shows just how much of an impact humans have had on the atmosphere. Before we get to that, let's discuss a simpler way to account for emissions: a mass balance.

Most of the oil, gas, and coal we extract from Earth's crust today were once a collection of algae, plants, and animals that lived 300 million to 400 million years ago. It took 50 million years of heat and pressure to transform their organic remains into fossil fuels. The process has never been repeated in such amazing quantities since, thus making these fuels finite resources.  

The amount of dinosaur sauce yet to be drilled or mined is immaterial; we humans have released millions of years of sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere in a span of less than two centuries. If that doesn't throw a big enough wrench into critics' arguments, consider the following graph of historical atmospheric carbon levels, as determined from ice cores:

Source: NOAA.

Again, a little tough to argue with such an unnatural spike that perfectly corresponds to the Industrial Revolution. Emissions aren't debatable, so why should there be a disconnect between the atmosphere and a changing climate? You can read more on climate change from NASA's climate website.

A problem or an opportunity for stability?
You can view the nearly vertical rise in CO2 emissions as a big problem or a big opportunity. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs in history have stamped their name on history by doing the latter, and I can only imagine that the next batch has already been born. The government should certainly wake up to the possibilities.

A recent study (link opens a PDF) conducted by MIT found that a carbon tax could generate annual revenue of up to $111 billion in revenue by 2015, $182.5 billion by 2030, and $337.2 billion by 2050 (all in 2012 dollars). The study found that 10-year revenue for the tax could be in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion -- higher than the figure being squabbled over during recent budget talks. To understand the significance of those figures, let's view where Uncle Sam's tax revenue came from in 2011:

Source: Congressional Budget Office.

It may seem like a drop in the bucket at first, but consider that a carbon tax would be an entirely new revenue stream that could be enacted without making tough "one-or-the-other" decisions between tax increases and cuts to social programs. Inaction on those tough decisions has added plenty of uncertainty to our country's financial future for a very long time. And if there is anything Mr. Market and the government love above all else, it's stability.

Why you, the investor, want carbon certainty
The London-based Carbon Disclosure Project recently announced that "investors wielding $87 trillion in assets -- or a third of the world's invested capital -- have asked more than 5,000 public companies to disclose their carbon emissions and climate change strategies." Why? Investors and companies are beginning to see the relationship between the environment and the use of their capital and value of their assets.

Last month, fellow Fool Travis Hoium offered investors ways to safeguard their portfolios against climate change, while I detailed some of the best emission reduction projects from just four of the most admired blue-chip companies. These are projects that require the voluntary allocation of capital, mind you. Why act if government handouts -- or penalties -- aren't on the other end? Reducing consumption, emissions, and waste reduces capital costs and creates happier workplaces -- both of which are reflected in the bottom line.

Here are several major companies that could benefit from a carbon tax or trade program at $20 per metric ton of carbon:

  • If a national or global carbon trading system is enacted, Waste Management (NYSE: WM  ) could generate an additional $280 million in profit per year through its waste-to-energy technologies alone. The facilities will turn nearly 14 million metric tons of waste into 915 MW of energy by the end of the decade and offset nearly 14 million metric tons of emissions.  
  • Through internal measures, Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) is attempting to reduce emissions 25% from its 2006 baseline by 2020. At first the result seems meaningless for a global giant: Reaching the goal will save only $15 million per year in direct carbon tax expenses. But consider that each coke oven gas turbine and earth mover the company sells could generate up to $800,000 of extra revenue from efficiency measures.  
  • Solar companies such as First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR  ) jumped on Monday, after an upbeat outlook for the industry from GTM Research. The report calls for expansion from $1.2 billion in 2012 to $5.7 billion in 2016, thanks in part to falling manufacturing costs. Imagine how much the company or industry could grow if utilities are forced to increase the sun's presence in their capacity totals.
  • Would a carbon tax derail our country's oil renaissance? Looking north to our Canadian neighbors may offer some guidance. Consider that the Canadian oil-sands industry supports a carbon tax. Why? They see it as a way to increase the oil's global competitiveness. That's right. Rather than excluding themselves from oil-rich markets that double as environmental stewards, companies such as ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) would pay for their emissions contributions as long as it opened the checkbooks of importers.
  • Near the top of the list of companies that stand to benefit is Exelon  (NYSE: EXC  ) , one of the nation's largest energy providers. It may sound like a head-scratcher at first, but the company would benefit tremendously from its 19,000 MW of nuclear power capacity. How? According to numbers released by the Department of Energy, Exelon's atomic contributions to the national grid offset up to 115 million metric tons of emissions each year. Depending on the type of carbon program installed, that could generate up to $2.3 billion in tax or trading credits and make Exelon the largest carbon neutral -- or even carbon negative -- energy provider in the world.  

A comprehensive carbon policy could free billions of dollars in capital from the world's biggest companies by adding certainty and stability to the markets.

Why you, the individual, want a carbon tax
What are the drawbacks of a carbon tax? According to John Reilly, the co-director of MIT's Joint Program on Science and Policy of Global Change, a carbon tax has "virtually no serious trade-offs." The program's study, which I referenced earlier, showed that "the overall economy improves, taxes are lower, and pollution emissions are reduced."

A 2011 study (link opens PDF) by the EPA stated that the three largest sectors for carbon emissions in 2007 were energy (6,291 million metric tons), agriculture (426 million metric tons), and industrial ($351 million metric tons). So will consumers have to foot the bill for a carbon tax? That's usually how corporations handle taxes. However, consider that even cheaper natural gas resulted in climbing electricity prices in the past several years as the costs of infrastructure upgrades were passed along to consumers:  

Source: EIA.

A carbon tax could offset this climb directly by establishing an Energy Security Trust, which the president mentioned last night, to protect consumers from price increases. Gradually, as the grid becomes greener and more efficient, taxing carbon could result in pricing benefits for consumers, which is something volatile natural gas cannot do.

The tax would also help reduce the unforeseen budget-bombs caused by the negative externalities of atmospheric pollution. As Marc Gunther, a contributing editor at Fortune magazine and a national leader on sustainability, told me:

Taxes are used to reduce things society wants less of. Humans currently treat the atmosphere as an unregulated garbage dump. We can pollute as much as we want without having to face any consequences, while taxpayers and governments foot the bill for public health and natural disasters.

In other words, we are already paying for carbon emissions. Until those accounts are labeled as such, we run the risk of never questioning why or demanding funding options other than our personal bank accounts. More frequent and more violent wildfires, hurricanes, snowstorms, and other forces of nature resulted in a national record 99 major disaster declarations in 2011. Rising sea levels are even forcing an island nation to move to higher ground. We cannot continue to be so ignorant to the effects of relentless carbon emissions or the economic opportunity they offer.

Foolish bottom line
Let's hope President Obama can make good on his promise last night to enact serious measures to curb the country's emissions, either through bipartisan collaboration or executive orders. The stage was certainly set for a national discussion on carbon legislation. To me, the efficiency of government is more important than its size. That includes a simpler tax code and less wasteful social programs that provide more bang for the buck. A carbon tax should be seen as a real part of the tax reform and budget deficit reduction discussions.

The revenue it generates could go to virtually anything. The important thing is that we bring it into the conversation.

Imagine just one possibility: A carbon tax is enacted that, by nature, frees politicians to sit down and raise tax revenue and/or take a hard look at wasteful social programs. Seeking just half of the originally sought debt-ceiling revenue from the latter two sources, or about $700 billion, and combining it with stewardship from the carbon tax could reduce our nation's deficit by nearly $2.2 trillion over a 10-year period.

The opportunity is too great to ignore.

As the nation moves increasingly toward clean energy, and possibly a carbon tax, Exelon is perfectly positioned to capitalize on having the largest nuclear fleet in North America. Combine this strength with an increased focus on renewable energy, and Exelon's recent merger with Constellation places Exelon on a short list of top utilities. To determine whether Exelon is a good long-term fit for your portfolio, you're invited to check out The Motley Fool's premium research report on the company. Simply click here now for instant access.

Read/Post Comments (34) | Recommend This Article (9)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 9:49 AM, jjvors wrote:

    Kudos to you for making a fact based argument tying CO2 emissions to climate change; I haven't seen that very often.

    That said, a carbon tax is still a bad idea. My reasons: 1) Our fiscal problems are 100% due to excessive government spending 0% due to inadequate taxes; 2) Our excess spending is largely due to entitlement obligations: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that no one wants to cut; you may also add Obamacare to that. 3) Our economy is currently weak due to fiscal and political uncertainty and excess regulation;

    A carbon tax does not solve any of these problems and worsens the 3rd, transferring wealth from the private sector to the government. What will the government do with the new money? Spend it, not on debts or even the current deficit, but on new spending.

    Your argument for a carbon tax would be better AFTER we balance the budget and reduce our deficit. It will not help with the current crisis.

    Best wishes,

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 10:05 AM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:


    All very true, unfortunately. Great points.


  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 10:37 AM, DividendsBoom wrote:

    I, and a lot of conservatives, would support a carbon tax. Not as a new revenue stream though. How about as an alternative revenue stream. Reduce tax rates for income taxes proportionately.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 10:40 AM, JakeLabrador wrote:

    Global warming is a scam designed to enable those in power to extort more money from the people. The carbon tax will be in addition to all the other tax streams.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 10:50 AM, JakeLabrador wrote:

    I think the writer is implying that Mr Obama will agree to fiscal responsibility in exchange for approval of another item on his radial agenda.

    Global warming is a crock.

    50 years when I was a kid, we would dig holes and tunnels and forts. We found many fossilized shells. Some were imprints of shells inside rocks. This was in New Jersey more than 40 miles from the ocean. So at some time in a past period of "global warming" our farm was in the ocean.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 11:49 AM, keninden wrote:

    "So at some time in a past period of "global warming" our farm was in the ocean."

    Such fossils are the result of the upheavals of land masses, not a deeper ocean. The Cliffs of Dover and the Rocky Mountains are composed of ocean sediment. That doesn't mean the ocean was >14,000 feet deeper. Tectonic forces elevated the land.

    The second chart suggests a carbon tax of only $20/ton could replace most of the corporate tax. That would be a far more stimulating tax structure for our economy! Of course our career politicians would still need to come up with the fortitude to align our revenues and spending.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 12:06 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:


    Thanks for pointing out tectonic plates. Pittsburgh was once a tropical paradise (I sure wish it was on days like today) but not due to climate. It just so happens that the same land where our city resides was on the equator!

    And while I didn't specifically state a figure, it is estimated that the United States emitted 5.2 billion metric tons of CO2 last year. That figure would be about 1 billion metric tons higher if we take into account CO2 equivalents of other GhG. In case anyone wants to putz around with revenue possibilities.


  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 12:10 PM, ravens9111 wrote:

    Economic prosperity and cheap energy are also directly correlated. A carbon tax (cap and trade) would without a doubt increase the cost of energy consumption. The reference that wind power in Australia has become cheaper compared to coal may be correct, but the reason is because the carbon tax has made coal so much more expensive. The cost of wind power did not go down, coal energy went up!

    If a similar cap and trade system was put in place here, everyone's electricity rates "would necessarily skyrocket." Obama has done a great job trying to put coal companies out of business. He has succeeded in that regard.

    Although solar and wind should be a part of the energy portfolio, the cost of cheap energy should not have to increase to make alternative energy more price competitive. Natural gas should become the dominant energy source for the next century. The cost of natural gas is cheap and we have an abundance of it in our own backyard. Solar and wind are still not nearly as efficient as it should be in order to become a primary source of our energy needs. Cars will never be able to run on these energy sources. Maybe hydrogen fuel cells will be the future, but I believe natural gas will replace gasoline in the not so distant future.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 12:11 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:


    "The reference that wind power in Australia has become cheaper compared to coal may be correct, but the reason is because the carbon tax has made coal so much more expensive. The cost of wind power did not go down, coal energy went up!"

    If you read the article I linked to, you'll see that wind is cheaper than coal even without a carbon tax.


  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 12:14 PM, Carbonicus wrote:

    I'm sorry, Max, but your article is full of holes.

    The EU emissions trading system is dying a not-so-slow death.

    "wind energy cheaper than coal"? only if you don't count the subsidies, grants, loans, "feed in tariffs" and renewable portfolio standards and mandates. There is NO WAY wind will ever be cheaper than coal in terms of ACTUAL energy produced (not "capacity" installed), unless "environmentalists" are allowed to put a subjective price on coals' "externalities" that bears no resemblance to reality (externalities that society had already long-ago decided to accept, before certain political-scientists realized that control of energy could be used to control capitalism).

    I give you credit for acknolwedging that fracking/nat gas have reduced US CO2 emissions levels to mid-1990 levels. Thank you for proving this critical point: we have achieved a HIGHER LEVEL OF EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS via fracking/nat gas than your carbon tax, any cap/trade system, or the US ratification and implementation of Kyoto would have. And we did it WITHOUT those treaty and/or regulatorily-concocted "free market" schemes. With no "tax", no new regulations, without government involvement, on private lands (in fact, DESPITE government attempts to stop it). This is a FACT.

    You try to pull off the Al Gorezeera optic of dangerous CO2 levels by splicing 400,000 year ice core records to the instrumental record for CO2 in the industrial era. What you do NOT show your readers is that these same ice cores show that warming FOLLOWED increases in CO2, rather than caused it. Further, you fail to mention atmospheric CO2 levels inferred from equally as credible proxy data over the millions of years prior to the 400,000 starting point you show. Here's geologic fact for you and Fool readers: our 4.5 billion year old planet experienced at least 2 and probably as many as 4-6 glaciations with atmospheric CO2 levels at over 2,000 ppm (see Ordovidian-Silurian era...present level+ 390 ppm), and at least one with levels at over 4,000 ppm. Clearly, if the earth could be half covered in ice with CO2 levels at 2,000 ppm, then CO2 isn't in control of climate or in any way associated with dangerous warming.

    Finally, you fail to mention that there has been NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT WARMING IN 15+ YEARS, while atmospheric CO2 levels continue their inexorable climb, having increased from about 350 ppm to about 390 ppm over this period.

    Let's be honest, Maxx, and you give yourself away in this regard with your constant refrain for how this money could be used ("carbon tax would be an entirely new revenue stream"......"10 year revenue for the tax could be in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion").

    This isn't about "the planet", "the environment", "the climate", "humanity", or "species". This is about a new source of "revenue" for liberal social programs, all under the supposedly teflon-coated auspices of saving "the climate, humanity, species", etc. from a pseudo-crisis that doesn't exist.

    I stand by what I wrote in this regard during debate of Waxman Markey/Kerry Lieberman, none of which has ever been seriously and credible refuted, which see here:

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 12:16 PM, patriot4971 wrote:

    In your CO2 chart, the data is upto 1950 (caption 0=1950) and I know what the reason for that is, because during the 60s and 70s the temperature was dropping while CO2 concentrations were rising and the global warming alarmists were calling for the next Ice Age.

    You may have lots of charts and data points in your article but your targets are the Headline skimmers, non engaged people who would fall for this scam because they will never question the little caption in your data.

    You are proposing Carbon Taxes to offset emissions, would you care to tell us how much reduction in the global temps would be achieved after all the trillions of dollars would be spent by the various govts worldwide ?? less than 0.010 Degree, and that is according to IPCC's own data.

    Canada has withdrawn from Kyoto, Germans are openly questioning the CO2 lies

    If you are for raising taxes, please say so...why the deception ?


  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 12:20 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:


    "In your CO2 chart, the data is upto 1950 (caption 0=1950) ..."

    There are arrows on the chart for atmospheric carbon at 1950 and today (2011). Difficult to peg a 60 year period on an axis spanning 400,000 years.


  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 2:53 PM, keninden wrote:

    "Finally, you fail to mention that there has been NO STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT WARMING IN 15+ YEARS, while atmospheric CO2 levels continue their inexorable climb..."

    Scientific models expect this. From the mid-1940's to 1970, global temperatures appeared to actually decline a bit. Yet the averaged curve since 1880 has climbed steadily. This is because of less than average solar activity, a preponderance of La Ninas (which have a short-term cooling effect), increased particle emissions (which have a mixed effect, short-term cooling) and the usual noise in the system. Most (90-some %) global warming energy is absorbed by the oceans, which have continued to warm both above and below 700 meters over these 15 years.

    Spinning your facts depends on where you pick your time points. Despite the 15 years of terrestrial flatness, the 2000's decade was warmer than the 1990's or 1980's.

    So the published fact by the likes of Fox News and the WSJ op-editors was simply cherry-picking by people who knew what they were going to say even before the facts were released. Not scientists.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 3:14 PM, CharlesHigley wrote:

    It is patently unacceptable for the government to impose a tax for no defensible, vaiid reason other than just to generate a new huge revenue stream to feed its spending habit.

    A carbon tax raises the cost of energy which raises the cost of everything for everybody. No one wins but the government. This tax would do nothing as CO2 does not affect climate.

    The key is that there is no such thing as the greenhouse effect, other than the lack of convection caused by a real, glass-roofed greenhouse.

    No gas of any kind at any concentration in the atmosphere can cause climate warming, as is claimed. Any effect, if any at all, would be undetectable.

    The warmists' claims rely totally on the idea that CO2 in the tropical upper troposphere is warming faster than any place and that it is warming the surface by IR radiation downward. Cute idea, but there are TWO huge facts against this idea.

    One, the tropical upper troposphere is at -17 deg C and the Earth's surface at 15 deg C. There is no way that this cold, thin air can warm the surface, being a blatant violation of thermodynamics and absolutely wrong.

    Two, thousands of observations of the upper troposphere show that not only is it not warming, but it is cooling a bit. The claimed "hotspot" is a fantasy/illusion.

    Thus, the global warming "science" is a complete failure. And any policy based on it will be false.

    Better yet, the truth is that the surface always warms the atmosphere and not the other way around.

    A carbon tax is another huge redistribution of wealth from everybody to those in favor with the government—friends, family, political cronies, and the entitlement crowd that will ensure that these robbers stay in power. It simply cannot do anything to alter the climate as 1) CO2 is not in control and 2) even if it was the decreases in emissions would be meaninglessly small.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 3:24 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    Senators propose long-shot carbon tax bill for big polluters (February 14th):

    "Unlike other carbon tax proposals, the Sanders-Boxer measure would return 60 percent of collected revenues to consumers instead of filling government coffers. In doing so it would take a cue from a program in Alaska that provides a monthly dividend payment to residents from oil revenues.

    Other money generated by the tax would be used to invest in energy efficiency and cleaner technologies, such as weatherizing U.S. homes, tripling the current energy research at the U.S. Department of Energy and seeding a fund that would encourage public-private partnerships to develop renewable energy."


  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 3:39 PM, keninden wrote:

    "The warmists' claims rely totally on the idea that CO2 in the tropical upper troposphere is warming faster than any place and that it is warming the surface by IR radiation downward."

    Actually, that's not how the greenhouse effect works. Over 100 years ago, an American mathematician wondered why, if the earth and sun are relatively near each other in a vacuum, isn't the earth as hot as the sun? Sounds silly, but think about it. He deduced that solar energy was being reflected, absorbed and emitted in a steady state, and published a model.

    Still over 100 years ago, a physicist wondered how energy was being lost and determined that was as infrared radiation. He also determined that two atmospheric gases modulated this energy loss by absorbing IR: water vapor and CO2. This is why it is so cold at night in the desert - typically dry, cloudless air. Its also why the coldest, crispest winter nights are starry. So we've all experienced the greenhouse effect personally. CO2 is, of course, not as regionally variable.

    Greenhouse may not be that accurate of a metaphor, but the greenhouse effect is an old, established fact. That doesn't mean it hasn't been refined, since we now know there some additional gases with lesser "greenhouse" activity.

    Incidentally, a warmer planet will hold more moisture in the air, a bit of a positive feedback loop.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 4:58 PM, mdk0611 wrote:

    So in other words, a bureacracy will be created to mangage the payment to taxpayers of a tax that was collected specifically to be refunded. "Vote for me and I'll set you free!" with props to The Temptations.

    After all what are a few bureaucratic expenses to help me get reelected?

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 5:39 PM, CoSyBob wrote:

    A tax based on a willfully stupid fraud against the very molecule of life can only do harm . All the O2 we animals require was locked in CO2 until photosynthesis evolved .

    We are just 10c warmer than a gray ball in our orbit having warmed perhaps 0.3% while plants are thrived on 30% more ( 4 molecules per 10,000 rather than 3 ) of the molecule along with H2O out of which they build themselves .

    Even the basic physics of 33c "greenhouse effect" so ubiquitously bandied is an unsupportable fraud . See .

    Only the retardation of the teaching of hard science could have produced a population so gullible .

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 6:29 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:


    Actually, the oxygen created from photosynthesis comes from water, not carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is converted into sugars and starches.


  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 7:42 PM, keninden wrote:

    Right, Maxx (Never seen two x's in a row before; awesome! Where you from?). And having an atmosphere, we're not on a gray ball. But its only slightly more complicated (see above).

    And the oxygen we breathe in an metabolize - it goes out as water, not CO2. Sorry, I just think its a cool fact. Not pertinent. :( sorry

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 7:51 PM, MogumboGono wrote:

    This is such a discredited argument. First off, the biosphere is currently starved of CO2:

    Next, global warming has STOPPED for at least sixteen years now, despite a steady rise in harmless, beneficial CO2:

    Finally, there is zero long-term correlation between CO2 and global temperature:

    CO2 is a completely harmless trace gas. It is beneficial to the biosphere. More is better; life cannot even exist without CO2, which is as essential as H2O.

    Please try to rise above the climate alarmists' demonization of "carbon". It is simply propaganda intended to pave the way toward increased taxes.

    Note that the alarmist crowd always ignores China, India, Russia, and a hundred smaller countries that emit much more CO2 on a per-capita basis than the U.S. If they were sincere, they would put those countries at the top of the list. But as we now know, taxation is the real reason for the "carbon" false alarm.

    The "carbon" scare is a scam, intended to make the public open its wallets. Do not fall for it. It is not science, it is based entirely on pseudo-science.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 8:20 PM, NickD wrote:

    Dude this chart goes up and down we are just in the up trend give it 50,000 years.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 8:47 PM, sakkara1234 wrote:

    We've got it in Europe and it IS a scam.

    We pay it on our gas bills, our electricty bills, our home heating bills and when we fill our gas tanks--and it is a huge scan that simply fills goverment coffers.

    It's a scam because there is no need for it, rising carbon polution can be reduced immediately and panlessly for Europe and the US and here's how and why:

    I visit my local supermarket and almost all the vegetales and seafood for sale come from the far east--flown here by air. Almost every manufactured good for sale in Europe is made in China. Flown and transported to Europe. Yesterday on TV an absurd report--a fish factory in France removes samon heads, freezes them, flies them to China where they are processed futher and flown back to Europe as pate. More carbon in the air. The biggest cause of rising carbon pollution is globalisation--tranport of goods from the far east on a mega scale. As a result, US and European citizens lose their jobs. Then they're also expected to suffer a double-whammy by paying for carbon taxes to cover the cause and cost of the athmospheric pollution caused by our goverments' backing for globalisation. How CRAZY is that???? We are idiots, for allowing governments to to this....

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 10:04 PM, diverdon56 wrote:

    Maxx Chatsko--Could you please send me a list of investments you recommend. Your economic thinking is so completely backwards that I could use this as a checklist of companies to avoid. A carbon tax would only handicap all economic activity in any country foolish enough to implement it.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2013, at 3:50 AM, ColumbiaEdu wrote:

    You are entitled to your opinion but not your facts. That chart you show comes from, which is a PR not a science site. We only have direct CO2 measurements (Moana Loa) for 50 years. The previous 1800 years are generally accepted from stomatal density in fossil pine needles. The 1998 Vostok Ice Cores are the main record that we have for CO2 levels historically but they only show back 400,000 years, NOT the claim of 650,000 years added to that NOAA chart, which is irresponsible. You can't add on 150,000 years because it boosts your claim.

    Other scientists are using other proxies for CO2 data, not ice. You can google for those papers.

    "Carbon Dioxide through Geologic Time


    Since of the Earth's atmosphere is out-of-balance with the conditions expected from simple chemical equilibrium, it is very hard to say what precisely sets the level of the carbon dioxide content in the air throughout geologic time. While scientists are fairly certain that a 100 million years ago carbon dioxide values were many times higher than now, the exact value is in doubt. In very general terms, long-term reconstructions of atmospheric CO2 levels going back in time show that 500 million years ago atmospheric CO2 was some 20 times higher than present values. It dropped, then rose again some 200 million years ago to 4-5 times present levels--a period that saw the rise of giant fern forests--and then continued a slow decline until recent pre-industrial time." U Cal San Diego.

    During the Ordovician Period 460 million years ago CO2 concentrations were 4400 ppm in West Virginia, according to fossil samples, while temperatures then were about the same as they are today. Scroll down to see the chart that goes back 600 million years.


    As for your assertion that it was dinosaur sauce (great term, BTW), the Russians discovered that oil is abiotic, meaning non-biological. (After WWII, Russia was bereft of oil, and the Allies wouldn't allow them access to any. Stalin put his PhDs to work--2,000 from one institution alone--to scour western science papers for two years to see if there was anything they missed. They discovered two things that we know about: Michael Faraday's equations were rewritten after his death but his original quaternion equations contained the scalar term for the unified field theory, and Wegener proved oil was abiotic.) So the Russians produced oil in the lab. They put laboratory-pure solid marble (CaCO3), iron oxide (FeO), wet with triple-distilled water, and subjected to pressures up to 50 kbar--the earth's mantle is 30 kbar--and temperatures to 2000 C. They got oil. They used this discovery to produce the huge Dneiper-Dunetz field in the Ukraine, producing more oil than the entire Alaskan reserves. And it's why they are the number one producer of oil globally today. They bring in oil in every field they drill, whereas American and British oil producers only hit one field for every 28 they drill (USGS).

    Upshot? Oil is renewable.

    The Ghawar oil field in Saudi Arabia, if produced by dinosaur sauce, would have had to be 19.5 miles by 19.5 miles by 19.5 miles to produce the amount of oil it has produced so far. Which is impossible because biologic material cannot exist at temperatures higher than the boiling point of salt water, which is reached 3 kilometers down from the earth’s surface.

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2013, at 4:21 AM, ColumbiaEdu wrote:


    You might be interested in listening to this Science Friday (NPR) show:

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2013, at 10:20 AM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:

    "That chart you show comes from, which is a PR not a science site."

    Does NOAA and NASA wanting to educate the public with scientific facts make the facts any less acceptable?

    "The 1998 Vostok Ice Cores are the main record that we have for CO2 levels historically but they only show back 400,000 years, NOT the claim of 650,000 years added to that NOAA chart, which is irresponsible. You can't add on 150,000 years because it boosts your claim."

    The chart above has a timeline that goes back 400,000 years. Did you read the article or the headline?

    "...biologic material cannot exist at temperatures higher than the boiling point of salt water, which is reached 3 kilometers down from the earth’s surface."

    Thus the point of it becoming fossil fuels well before reaching that depth aka amount of sediment above it.


  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2013, at 1:27 PM, Carbonicus wrote:

    @ keninden - "models expect this". after they are tuned to, and with the benefit of, empirical data. My 6th grader can do that.

    "From the mid-1940's to 1970, global temperatures appeared to actually decline a bit".

    They didn't appear to, they did.

    "..average curve since 1880 has climbed steadily". well, that's what one would expect coming out of the well-documented Little Ice Age. surprise. that's what happend.

    "...because o less than average solar activity, a preponderance of La Ninas....". I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was dealing with an accomplished climate scientist. Please explain how much of the ~1F increase in temperature over ~100 years is due to solar activity, ENSO/PDO, AMO, change in earth's albedo, changes in cloud cover, and the increase in atmospheric CO2 from ~280 to 390 parts per million.

    " warming energy is absorbed by the oceans". which contain 63 times more CO2 than the atmosphere. and when liquids warm, gases like CO2 dissolve. could it be that the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels is CAUSED BY the oceans warming, rather than humanity's addition of approx. 3.3% of the annual ~190 billion tons of Co2 naturally released to the earth's atmosphere warming the oceans? hmmm?

    "Spinning your facts depends on where you pick your time points." No. Facts are facts. Why is the time point of ~15 years (with no statistically significant warming) any more or less meaningful than the ~30 year period of warming from the 1970s - 2000, when we're talking about a 4.5 billion year old system for which we have shoddy records beyond 50 years?

    "Despite the 15 years of terrestrial flatness, the 2000's decade was warmer than the 1990's or 1980's". Fair enough. And it was equally as hot in the 1930s, (statistically speaking, no material difference) when there wasn't enough coal/oil being burned globally to make a difference. It was also hotter, much hotter, millions of years ago. And your point would be, what, that humans are causing the "warming"? Really? Exactly HOW MUCH of that ~1F?

    "So the published fact by the likes of Fox News and the WSJ op-editors was simply cherry-picking by people who knew what they were going to say even before the facts were released. Not scientists." Every item in my post comes from peer reviewed studies by "not scientists".

    Greenwash liberals. Ignorance/denial of fact matters none. Only good green intentions.

    World is waking up. I'm seeing to that....

  • Report this Comment On February 15, 2013, at 11:20 PM, keninden wrote:


    "From the mid-1940's to 1970, global temperatures appeared to actually decline a bit".

    “They didn't appear to, they did.”

    You are more generous with the facts than I am, but I think you are likely right on this. Then I expect you agree on the other 105 years of the graph, too.

    “well, that's what one would expect coming out of the well-documented Little Ice Age. surprise. that's what happened.”

    You’re getting all micro on me now. I thought this was a macro issue. Still, the present temperatures and CO2 levels well exceed pre-“Little Ice Age” temperatures. I.e., something’s different.

    “I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was dealing with an accomplished climate scientist.”

    You are not dealing with a climate scientist, but I am a scientist. And I am a conservative, though not a “Conservative”. But to your point, you are confusing short term variables with more potent (over the long term) changes in [CO2] increases. One of the two most potent greenhouse gases increasing steadily by 39% over 130 years greatly overshadows those factors which cause shorter term fluctuations. That’s why you have to go beyond fluctuations in a single variable which can last a decade or more, to understand what is happening (if you really want to do so). I bet your sixth-grade son can get that.

    “…could it be that the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels is CAUSED BY the oceans warming…” Sure! Global warming causes warmer oceans which causes the release of CO2 from these vast aquatic stores. You are very wrong when you say “and when liquids warm, gases like CO2 dissolve”. CO2, like O2, is more soluble in cold water (that’s why cold water fisheries are more productive). But CO2 IS released from oceans when the climate warms. Following the last ice ages, CO2 concentrations increased in the atmosphere (following, the end of ice ages, not proceeding, so not evidently causative in ending prior ice ages).

    On the other hand, you might be right. Burning carbon-based deposits over the last 130 years to power the lives of billions of people, is probably without consequence. Increased release of CO2 from the oceans, perhaps by fish breathing more heavily, might very well be the more reasonable explanation. Makes total sense.

    Regarding your sources, you say “Every item in my post comes from peer reviewed studies by "not scientists".” Do you know what peer means?

    I get it now. Beyond the 8th post, things get stupid. I give up.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 11:15 AM, dmiles2 wrote:


    I would like to learn more about the Russian oil experiments. Can you tell me where to read about it?

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 1:39 PM, dmiles2 wrote:

    ColumbiaEdu posted a link that did not work very well. Here is another that I found useful.

    This article by J.F. Kenney is pretty technical. If you didn't take some pretty good physics and math in college, you will get lost in the equations. However, the graphs are pretty easy to comprehend and the conclusions at the end are important.

    Basically, the Second Law of Thermodynamics says that no hydrocarbon molecule bigger than methane can be produced less than 60 miles below the earth's surface. No mashed T Rex's are down that far, or any giant ferns from prehistoric times.

    These guys DID demonstrate with a lab experiment that hydrocarbons similar to natural petroleum can form from NON-biological materials. Their experimental results also agreed with their theoretical calculations.

    No one seems to have shown that petroleum-like hydrocarbons can be produced by squeezing rotten plants or animal matter at pressures they would ever experience in deposits only a few miles deep. In view of Kenney's success, that is a big problem for the idea that oil comes from Barney and his pals.

    BTW, I read a while ago that astronomers have found hydrocarbons in space. I have never heard of dinosaurs grazing in inter-stellar dust clouds.

    It appears that petroleum is probably NOT "dinosaur sauce."

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 1:43 PM, dmiles2 wrote:

    It sure would be nice if a poster could edit his post.

    I should have made it clear that the pressures down 60 miles are required to form petroleum-like hydrocarbons. Those pressures are simply not available at the depths Brontosaurus carcasses will reach.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 1:51 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:


    I'm not sure there is much of a debate surrounding the source of most, if not all, of the Earth's hydrocarbons. While there is obviously a non-organic set of reactions that yield similar products, all one has to do is compare the core of a chlorophyll molecule with that of various hydrocarbons found on our planet.

    Plenty of experiments have also demonstrated that organic material, aka biomass, can be converted into various petroleum like chemicals. It's called pyrolysis and has been around for decades.

    Basically what I'm saying is that it's dangerous to cherry pick the data that supports your claims. For every Russian experiment you can point to I can point to a biomass pyrolysis study, and visa versa.


  • Report this Comment On April 13, 2013, at 2:05 PM, RHO1953 wrote:

    Poppycock. There is no free lunch. All of it gets paid for by the consumer. Moving money from one pocket to another or taking it from this pocket rather than that pocket is just sleight of hand. The end consumer pays for EVERYTHING. Raise corporate taxes? The consumer or the investor gets the bill. You aren't going to change the reality that oil is going to be the primary fuel for the next half century and the fact that Chinese and Indian consumption are going to raise co2 emissions no matter what we do here. All a carbon tax is going to do is export our jobs AND the co2 emissions. And it may even make co2 go up, because developing countries aren't as efficient.

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