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TEQs & Carbon Taxation
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jo



Joined: 20 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 12:03 pm    Post subject: TEQs & Carbon Taxation Reply with quote

Despite months of encouragement from Colin Forrest to support Carbon Taxation, I was dead against it :-

http://www.changecollege.org.uk/html/let_the_poor_pay.html
http://www.changecollege.org.uk/html/the_great_american_pipedream.html
http://www.changecollege.org.uk/html/let_them_eat_carbon.html

I'm conservative, so I don't like taxation as a blunt instrument for everything. So, I put the idea of a Carbon Tax into the same bucket. "It's regressive", I kept saying, and then had to explain what that means :-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regressive_tax

So, I've been against heavy-handed State Carbon Control. That is, until this morning, when I watched this :-

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/243

I now think that slapping a Carbon Tax on everything, as long as it's properly done and income-neutral to the taxpayer, could be helpful.

Although, it should not be the only policy, nor the final policy : that would be Carbon Energy Quotas.

Whatever you want to call them : Carbon Rationing, Personal Carbon Allowances, Tradable Energy Quotas and/or variants, depending, but TEQs still looks best as long as corporate and citizen quotas are not mutually tradable.

Here's my epiphany :-

http://portal.campaigncc.org/node/2095

Basically, Carbon needs Government Intervention.

And if the UK Government take up the Climate Change Bill targets, that means some heavy State Intervention indeed.

Or they could just shilly-shally and dilly-dally as they have been doing and allow emissions to rise. That just would not do.

If Carbon needs to be controlled, we need to control it. And that takes laws and economic implications.

You can't just say we need to make "hard choices", like Gordon Brown-Green and Kevin Ruddy-Green have been saying this week :-

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/kevin_rudd_and_gordon_brown/
"Act now on climate change"

"Hard choices" is usually code words for "Nuclear Power", which is a bit silly really, as the accounting numbers don't add up, unless you tax the taxpayer to clean up the waste. For "hard choices", read "Nuclear Tax".

It's vacuous for Gordon and Kevin to tell US, the PEOPLE, to act on climate change, when they should be taking full responsibility for the actions, as they have the power to actually change the law. Or at least, influence it VERY STRONGLY.

Voluntary behaviour change doesn't work, you know. You can't go on telling the British and Australian public to change their behaviour, because they don't see any real reason to.

Oh yes, there's a few sane intellectuals out there and green spirits who have moved to a Lower Carbon Life. But there's millions of piston heads and obstructionists who keep trying to pick apart the Science on Climate Change (and fail).

They blather on about the fallacy of Global Warming and get all tetchy when they get challenged. So I don't bother talking to them. Wasters. All of them.

They smugly drive around in their fat polluting dangerous cars, sounding their horns when they see people WALKING, yes WALKING, across the street (such a CRIME), scaring the poor pedestrians out of their way. Dinosaurs.

You can't drive a car fast in cities, and that's where most of you live, because there are far too many cars in cities, so why oh why do you fall for the advertising to BUY A NEW, FASTER, SLEEKER, HARDER CAR ?

Sorry. My diatribe is showing. Back to peacefulness. Let's be kind to Jeremy Clarkson-ites. They've all been poisoned by diesel fumes from inside their cars.

What I REALLY need to see is UNITY on WHAT TO DO about CLIMATE CHANGE. I get annoyed by the "Global Warming deniers" community, but they are mere flotsam and jetsam in the end, even Nigel Lawson, and well past their sell-by dates, like Nigel Lawson come to think of it...

No, UNITY and common purpose must be the goal here. If the "Global Warming skeptics" (for American spellers) or "sceptics" (for British spellers) would be rational, then we could have a proper, fair dialogue about the limitations of Climate Change science. But we can't, because they aren't. Deliberately aren't. Their mission is to stir.

Not mine. My true mission is unification of purpose. So let's start here : I'm going to try to hold my tongue and not be so confrontational. And focus on what REALLY, REALLY MATTERS.

This is what I am trying to digest today :-

http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf

James Hansen : brave, but not pushy. That's a role model to follow.


Last edited by jo on Mon May 19, 2008 1:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Shaun Chamberlin



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jo, you may be interested in the work of the Green Fiscal Commission: http://www.greenfiscalcommission.org.uk/

They recently launched to try to promote revenue neutral green taxes in the UK. I went along to their launch event recently, which I found interesting. A number of questions were asked there about carbon rationing, but they seemed to adopt a similar approach to your new epiphany - let's get this in now and hope carbon rationing (TEQs) follows on..

Personally I'll stick to working for TEQs now Smile
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jo



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:39 pm    Post subject: It's not OR, it's AND. Reply with quote

Hi Shaun,

I really hope you don't walk away thinking I've walked away from TEQs.

Far from it !

I now see that there's a ROLE for Carbon Taxation, at least in the first few years leading up to a properly implemented Carbon Cap.

That role would be to enforce the knowledge that we DO take Carbon SERIOUSLY, and that we do take CLIMATE CHANGE seriously, and that we TRULY ACCEPT that Global Warming is our collective Fossil Fuel Folly.

Carbon Taxation is like putting our cards on the table. Carbon costs. It costs the Planet, so it should cost financially if we cannot censor our bad Carbon behaviour.

Most of the Carbon Rationing Action Groups (CRAGS : http://www.carbonrationing.org.uk) come to a point in their development where they have to decide what to do about defaults, whether they should pay money into a collective pot for going over their Carbon Rations, or whether they should have some other kind of forfeit.

Carbon Taxation could be useful for implementing a REGIME of charging for over-use of Carbon, which would enforce the idea of PENALTY.

Those who can already see the negative effects of Climate Change wouldn't need this kind of convincing. Climate Change is already causing them penalties, of all kinds, financial included.

But for those of us in the "Sheltered Economies" (why, we even use public money to bail out banks who made dodgy loans !), in temperate climes, we need to be made to UNDERSTAND Carbon Damages.

The ultimate position is going to be rationing of Carbon, whichever way you look at it. We cannot pay with money currency. We have to make Carbon the item of value (in this unusual economic case, a negative value).

The Quotas that we impose will eventually lead to de-Carbonisation, when the intrinsic value of Carbon will be Zero, because nobody will want to burn coal/oil/gas any more, or log old growth forests (great sticks of Carbon) for timber/tissue/soya-growing-land.

I don't subscribe to a dual universe : there is not one policy or another that is the only policy to use while we ramp up to tackling Climate Change. We need a smorgasbord of measures and regimes to combat the smog of gas abord (very bad pun, I know).

For me, it's no longer Carbon Taxation versus Carbon Rationing. It's BOTH, not EITHER. The policies are not mutually exclusive.

If we imagine a positive, liveable future : there will be Renewable, Sustainable Energy sources, there will be very little waste of Energy and materials and products, there will be high efficiency in every industrial and agricultural process, very little international transportation of food and goods.

To get there must involve a range of measures, because the changes required are so vast, and the timescales to achieve them are spread out.

In order to obtain social opprobrium (some say "approbrium") for Carbon , it first needs to earn/garner/be awarded a STRONG NEGATIVE VALUE, and that can be achieved through taxation.

The "Oh my word, they're going to tax my flights !" kind of realisation that someone's gone TOO FAR in Carbon Abuse.

But since currently a very high percentage of everything we do is based on Carbon Energy, taxing Carbon cannot be the sole solution for achieving a Carbon Cap.

Carbon Trading is probably not going to get very far, either. And don't get me started about the uselessness of Carbon Offsetting. The Carbon Poor cannot create enough Carbon Credits for the Carbon Rich to assuage their Carbon Debts. And besides, it's a return to Colonialism.

The long term view is Carbon Quotas. And to generate the revenue necessary to build the Future Renewables, we need to cast the net to include all energy in the Quota : Energy Quotas. For now, the Energy is Carbon Energy. In the future it will be a general Energy Budget for all, to discourage waste. In the near-term it will be a revenue creator, as people will need to buy Quotas from outside their personal allowance, and this fund should be used for building new Renewables infrastructure.

Or you could simply go right ahead and say : CALLING 50 EXTREMELY HIGH NET WORTH INDIVIDUALS LIKE THE KING OF JORDAN ETC and get them to create a Renewables Fund that will invest in every country and get the infrastructure sorted out pretty much NOW-ish.

The TREC project is brilliant.

No, I haven't dropped TEQs. David Fleming is the only person who has made sense to me about a national scheme for Carbon Rationing (although the lovely, huggable Andy Ross of CRAGs is very persuasive about personal and small group action, especially one-to-one). David actually understands about the flow of value in the Economy, and the drivers for change.

I can see a Carbon Taxation strategy working for around 5 years, on around 5% to 10% of Carbon Emissions, if it were to be implemented tomorrow (next American election, i.e.).

But after that, all the gains possible under a taxation regime will have been whittled away, and we need to move on to a long-term regime. And that regime will need to have an ABSOLUTE Carbon Cap, with an ABSOLUTE value coming from that cap.

Money currency is always relative, which is why it cannot enforce an ABSOLUTE Carbon Cap. Carbon itself, however, in the form of allowances/shares/rations can create a Cap.

TEQs is the future, and I will continue to pronounce and announce it. But Carbon Taxation could help in the short-term if it's done right.
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kenneal - lagger
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem is that Grasping Gordon has messed up the economy so much that Darling Alastair needs to tax anything and everything that he can. And true to his predecessor and boss he will tax it to just before the point that the revenue stream starts to falter. We'll have green taxes on top of normal taxation.

So it's consume away folks Grasping Gordon needs your cash.
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RevdTess



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I still find teqs a very unnerving concept, no matter how many times I read David Fleming's book.

If teqs stay moderately cheap i doubt there'd be much change to business as usual, but one can imagine all kinds of curious impacts that a high teq price might have as individual and business quotas 'run out'.

There are many parallels with, say, the way that north sea oil is traded every month. There is a new allocation of oil for sale every month, and if this allocation is used up too quickly the price (as a differential to futures) skyrockets until the next allocation arrives.

Going back to the teqs, it's all very well putting a year's supply into the market up front, but if weekly demand exceeds weekly supply for long enough, the 'inventory' of teqs is going to fall, price is going to rise dramatically (probably asymptotically the closer we get to zero teq availability). At this point you'll get all the weird inefficiencies of the black market, with poor people who've used their quota simply unable to buy teqs to get fuel or heat homes. What they do as a result is open to debate. Take public transport? Buy from a black market that is supplied by stealing from vehicles parked in the street? You'd effectively have rationing, but only for poor people, and not just for luxuries but for the necessities of life. There seems to be some assumption among teq-advocates that the market would smoothly manage supply and demand, but my experience of watching oil markets every day is that this is definitely not the case. One day you could be paying ?1 for a teq above your quota, the next day ?10 and the next ?30, ?50 or ?100. One only has to look at what happens to the UK gas markets when our storage is exhausted or inaccessible. These spikes are not unusual in any commodity market, and most participants in the teq market and going to be regular joes, very naive in the ways of market moves. People who thought they were going to be able to pay a few quid extra to top up their car before the next week's quota was allocated might suddenly get a shock at the pump. Will they check the teq price before they travel?

If a farmer cannot buy fuel for his tractors because the country is close to using its teq quota and the price has skyrocketed, is the crop lost? Because of the speed with which these markets move, there may be very little prior warning. You all know this is how it is. No commodity market sensibly and smoothly prices-in gradually declining supply. It assumes business as usual, and then when that's clearly broken, the price goes asymptotic until demand is crippled, then it crashes.

Personally I think i'd do very well out of such a system. I'd almost be tempted to become a professional teq trader. On top of that, my carbon footprint is low compared to most Brits, so I'd be making an income selling my quotas... But I'd be very worried that there would be hardships and moral outrage and a collapse of the system. And meanwhile, China et al go on consuming - not that this is a reason for us to continue with business as usual, but you have to bear in mind what the Daily Mail would say.

Despite all the well documented problems with taxation as a motivational tool, I'd still personally be more comfortable with increased taxation of motorfuels for private use (and maybe lower income tax or a citizen's income as a balance). I dont believe having the amoral free market in charge of a transition to low-carbon is the most socially responsible way to go.
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Adam1



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tess wrote:
... it's all very well putting a year's supply into the market up front, but if weekly demand exceeds weekly supply for long enough, the 'inventory' of teqs is going to fall, price is going to rise dramatically (probably asymptotically the closer we get to zero teq availability). At this point you'll get all the weird inefficiencies of the black market, with poor people who've used their quota simply unable to buy teqs to get fuel or heat homes. What they do as a result is open to debate. Take public transport? Buy from a black market that is supplied by stealing from vehicles parked in the street? You'd effectively have rationing, but only for poor people, and not just for luxuries but for the necessities of life. There seems to be some assumption among teq-advocates that the market would smoothly manage supply and demand, but my experience of watching oil markets every day is that this is definitely not the case. One day you could be paying ?1 for a teq above your quota, the next day ?10 and the next ?30, ?50 or ?100. One only has to look at what happens to the UK gas markets when our storage is exhausted or inaccessible. These spikes are not unusual in any commodity market, and most participants in the teq market and going to be regular joes, very naive in the ways of market moves. People who thought they were going to be able to pay a few quid extra to top up their car before the next week's quota was allocated might suddenly get a shock at the pump. Will they check the teq price before they travel?...


But everyone will get ration of free teq units, so their basic needs will be met. The weekly allocation for government and business energy users could be a daily or hourly allocation.

TEQs aren't meant to be a fix-all panacea. To me, it's clear that they will only work as intended if all the rest of government policy was working with the same goal: to manage the enforced energy transition. I don't think you would have found anyone arguing that the introduction of ration books alone would save Britain from the Nazis.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam1 wrote:

But everyone will get ration of free teq units, so their basic needs will be met. The weekly allocation for government and business energy users could be a daily or hourly allocation.


Yes, i'm taking that into account. What I'm saying is that eventually the 'year-up-front' allocation will all be gone and people will be using teqs hand-to-mouth. And at that stage, being caught short even a couple of teqs at the end of a week could easily and quickly become a nightmare. It's all very well saying people will just have to learn to live within their quota, but there could be very severe penalties for those who suddenly find themselves short as the market price spikes. Many people probably won't even see it coming, no matter how much evidence and warning they're given - much like peak oil.

At least with a rationing system, everyone knows where they stand, and everyone is equal. No gouging the poor by buying up teqs until there's a shortage and then taking advantage when someone who sold all their allowance up front to buy food or clothes for their kids needs a little more fuel for the car to get to work. With a rationing system it's back to the war spirit, dig for victory and all that. A sense of national unity, maybe.

I'm still more a fan of taxation and redistribution...
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Adam1



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tess wrote:
At least with a rationing system, everyone knows where they stand, and everyone is equal. No gouging the poor by buying up teqs until there's a shortage and then taking advantage when someone who sold all their allowance up front to buy food or clothes for their kids needs a little more fuel for the car to get to work. With a rationing system it's back to the war spirit, dig for victory and all that. A sense of national unity, maybe.

I'm still more a fan of taxation and redistribution...


My understanding is that TEQs are rationing. The only difference is that rations can be bought and sold openly with TEQs.
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RevdTess



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam1 wrote:
Tess wrote:
At least with a rationing system, everyone knows where they stand, and everyone is equal. No gouging the poor by buying up teqs until there's a shortage and then taking advantage when someone who sold all their allowance up front to buy food or clothes for their kids needs a little more fuel for the car to get to work. With a rationing system it's back to the war spirit, dig for victory and all that. A sense of national unity, maybe.

I'm still more a fan of taxation and redistribution...


My understanding is that TEQs are rationing. The only difference is that rations can be bought and sold openly with TEQs.


I hope I managed to make my case that the problem I have with teqs is precisely where they differ from rationing.

(I don't like that I have to oppose teqs. Those proposing them have such great intentions. Unfortunately I'm yet to meet anyone who is pushing the teq case that really seems to understand how such a market could go horribly wrong.)
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tess wrote:
Unfortunately I'm yet to meet anyone who is pushing the teq case that really seems to understand how such a market could go horribly wrong.)


I don't think I'm qualified to comment on the specific point you were making (don't know enough about it) but I think that how well TEQs work will depend on (1) whether other PO/CC policies are in place (my point above), and (2) the detail of how TEQs are implemented. It really is a case of the devil being in the detail.

Perhaps Shaun or David F. have some thoughts about your comparison of TEQs with the oil futures market. It may be that the implementation of TEQs needs to be designed to avoid the potential pitfall you have raised.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 11:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess a similar analogue is people receiving their pay packet at the end of the month, then going out on a bender for the weekend, and spending the rest of the month using their Credit Card. In a way, people are already rationed according to how much they are paid, and Tess is spot-on about how people are likely to mis-manage their TEQs in a similar way to how they mismanage their money. The system has to take human behaviour into consideration.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure that there are any claims on the TEQs "packet" that the contents mitigate stupidity. I'm sure that, during and after WW2, some people managed their rations, both the free allowance (ration book) and trading of them (under the counter), better than others. Plus, some were luckier than others. In the end, there are only a limited number of policy choices:

1) TEQs - rations that can be traded openly
2) Traditional rationing - with under the counter trading
3) No deliberate system of rationing - leave things as is

Under option (3), price will be the rationing mechanism. This is the current arrangement for energy within the UK and globally. Governments can modify the price rationing mechanism slightly by applying various forms of tax or subsidy.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam1 wrote:


1) TEQs - rations that can be traded openly
2) Traditional rationing - with under the counter trading


The problem with teqs remains the fact that you will assume you can always buy a top up at the till for a reasonable price - until you can't because the price has spiked up. This is dramatically different to the traditional rationing approach.

I agree with you that traditional rationing has its own problems and I don't necessarily favour it.

You missed off an option 4, which is increased taxation on fuels with a centrally-controlled redistribution of that revenue across the population, which combines a resource consumption tax with a dividend to the citizenry, whose resources are being exploited (against our will in many cases). This avoids the problem of carbon prices rapidly and uncontrollably fluctuating, which is the main problem I see with teqs.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tess wrote:
Adam1 wrote:


1) TEQs - rations that can be traded openly
2) Traditional rationing - with under the counter trading


The problem with teqs remains the fact that you will assume you can always buy a top up at the till for a reasonable price - until you can't because the price has spiked up. This is dramatically different to the traditional rationing approach.

I agree with you that traditional rationing has its own problems and I don't necessarily favour it.

You missed off an option 4, which is increased taxation on fuels with a centrally-controlled redistribution of that revenue across the population, which combines a resource consumption tax with a dividend to the citizenry, whose resources are being exploited (against our will in many cases). This avoids the problem of carbon prices rapidly and uncontrollably fluctuating, which is the main problem I see with teqs.


For me, (4) is a variant of (3). We are already doing (4) here in the UK. We either apply duty/tax on energy, as we do here in the UK with liquid fuel for land transport. Or we apply a subsidy, like the UK's winter fuel allowance or the Venezuelan's petrol subsidy. The latter helps protect the poor but encourages waste. Arguably, the former has encouraged more efficiency (compare EUR vs. US fleet efficiencies) but, without any other intervention, has added to some people's financial distress (rural people on low incomes). Post peak prices are going to be so high anyway, I'm not sure what tax/subsidy intervention could do to improve things.

In the TEQs talks that Shaun C delivered in at TT Lewis and David F delivered in Guernsey (both last autumn) they had some good slides that compared the pros and cons of TEQs vs. tax. On tax they listed its drawbacks; some of there were that they:

* offered no minimum allowance (guarantee)
* are regressive
* not suitable for fuel scarcity (post peak)
* are top down (push)
* administratively complex (isn't our tax regime complex enough?)
* take money from the energy user
* use money as a metric of energy use
* don't encourage the all important common purpose

I think that TEQs are the least worst option.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adam1 wrote:

For me, (4) is a variant of (3). We are already doing (4) here in the UK.


But we're not. If you think so, I must have failed to explain my case Sad

If a minimum guaranteed right to fuel without taxation is so important, that could be implemented without using teqs. Everyone could have a quota, and then once that's used up, there is a fixed tax rate to pay, set by the government annually. This has all the benefits of teqs without the evil trading component which will screw the poor (especially rural poor) and make some people very rich.

I think I would be entirely happy with the teq idea if it weren't for the trading aspect. It's not that I dont want people to benefit for reducing their carbon emissions. It's rather that I know how markets try to push towards extremes, like George Soros forcing Britain out of the ERM, or oil markets pushing the price upwards to test OPEC's resolve not to increase supply. Seriously, you don't want this to happen on the petrol forecourt.

I am really queasy about the idea of a single rich businessman turning up to get fuel and paying ?1.20/litre while the single mum following him is paying ?1.20/litre + ?5/litre or whatever the teq cost currently is because she needs to take her kids somewhere. She might not even know that the teq cost is now ?10/litre since yesterday until she arrives at the till. This is surely the more regressive option?

Let the govt set the price of the teqs, if you must have them. This is not something you should let the market F--k around with.
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