Chapter Seven of Thom Hartmann’s book, Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country, is called “Cool Our Fever.”
This week, Thom discusses two things: Stripping oil of it’s strategic value, and ways to clean up our atmosphere before we boil.
The United States has about 3% of the world’s oil, but we consume 24% of the oil produced around the world.
[O]il accounts for roughly 95 percent of the energy used for transportation in the United States (and our military is the world’s single largest consumer of oil), and that’s what makes it strategic. If we want to strip oil of its strategic value, so it can’t
be used as a weapon against us and we can use our remaining oil supplies for rational things like producing plastics and medicines, we need to shift our transportation sector away from oil and do so quickly.
If we change the way we power our transportation, then we won’t need such a huge, oil-guzzling military to invade countries like Iraq, who are sitting on “our oil.” That would be one huge problem solved.
But how can we do it?
In 1999 progressives in Germany passed the 100,000 Roof Program (Stromeinspeisungsgesetz), which mandated that banks had to provide low-interest 10-year loans to homeowners sufficient for them to put solar panels on their houses. They then passed the Renewable Energies Law (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz) and in 2004 integrated the 100,000 Roofs Program into it. The Renewable Energies Law mandated that for the next 10 years the power company had to buy back power from those homeowners at a level substantially above the going rate so the homeowners’ income from the solar panel would equal their loan payment on the panel and would also represent the actual cost to the power company to generate that amount of power had it built a new nuclear reactor.
Germany was trying to find a way to avoid building two new nuclear power plants, and they succeeded wildly. In eight year’s time, the 100,000 Roof Program was generating 8,500 MW of power to the grid — about eight nuclear plants worth. Enough power to make it easy to power transportation!
After all that, cleaning up the atmosphere would almost take care of itself. Yes, I know we’re not the only country in the world, nor are we the biggest polluters, but for some unknown reason other countries pay attention to what we’re doing, and they tend to want to do what we’re doing. Wouldn’t it be great if we were inspiring the world to make this a better place for our children and grandchildren?
Two things can help accomplish these goals: Taxes and tariffs, baby.
[I]n 1793 Congress passed much of Alexander Hamilton’s plan to use taxes—tariffs—on imported goods to encourage Americans to start manufacturing companies to meet demand and needs here in this country. Those tariffs stood until the 1980s, and American jobs stayed here along with them.
Similarly, two presidents—Republican Herbert Hoover (1929 to 1933) and Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933 to 1945)—supported high taxes on the rich. They believed it’s not a good thing for too much wealth to be concentrated in too few hands because it would lead the wealthy to influence government policy for their own good rather than the public good.
There are two pretty straightforward ways to tax carbon. The first is to simply assign a tariff or tax value to it at any particular point in its use cycle. The tax could be levied when it’s used, for example, or when it’s extracted. A tax on carbon that’s imported would serve to really speed our change from gasoline-only cars to flex-fuel and plug-in-hybrid cars.
The second way to tax carbon is to tax the industrial emission of it but also “allow” a certain amount of carbon to be released into the atmosphere by “giving away” to polluters what are referred to as “carbon credits.” A threshold is set for the total amount of carbon a country will allow to be emitted (a “cap”), and anything above that point is heavily taxed. Companies that don’t want to pay the tax can instead pay to buy carbon-emitting credits from companies that have a surplus of them (presumably because they’ve reduced their levels of carbon pollution), thus “trading” the carbon credits.
I’m probably living in a liberal dream world here, but these things make sense to me. Of course, I have to start with the assumption that everyone else is interested in the well-being of mankind and not continuing to poison the Earth. Most people might actually be in favor of making the world a nicer place to live, but the ruling class has made it clear that accumulating vast quantities of money is more important than anything else. It is discouraging…
This is our daily open thread ~ What do you think?