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Exploring a Carbon Price for Colorado

In May of 2013 I gave a talk at Clean Energy Action’s Global Warming Solutions Speaker Series in Boulder, on how we might structure a carbon pricing scheme in Colorado. You can also download a PDF of the slides and watch an edited version of that presentation via YouTube:

The short policy overview:

  • We should begin levying a modest carbon tax, in the range of $5 to $25/ton of CO2e.
  • The tax must be applied to the fossil fuels used in electricity generation (coal and natural gas). Ideally it should also be applied to gasoline, diesel, natural gas used outside the power sector, and fugitive methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, but those are less important for the moment.
  • New electricity generation resources must be allowed to compete economically with the operation of existing carbon-intensive facilities, and fuel costs must not be blindly passed through to consumers without either rigorous regulatory oversight, or utilities sharing fuel price risk.
  • Carbon tax revenues should be spent on emissions mitigation, providing reliable, low-cost financing for energy efficiency measures and a standard-offer contract with modest performance-based returns for new renewable generation.
  • Over time the carbon price should be increased and applied uniformly across all segments of the economy, with the eventual integration of  consumption based emissions footprinting for imported goods.

But wait… I can hear you saying, I thought the Citizen’s Climate Lobby was rallying support for a revenue neutral carbon tax proposal?  Even the arch-conservative American Enterprise Institute was looking into it, weren’t they?

Read on to understand why we disagree on the issue of revenue neutrality.

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What Value Should We Place on Our Future?

Courtesy of the Old Marlovian

Courtesy of the Old Marlovian

By: Alexandra Czastkiewicz

October 2013

The social cost of carbon might not be a conversation that comes up at the dinner table, but realize it or not the implications of global climate change are far reaching and daunting. How important is the fate of the future generation? When your children grow up, what kind of world do you want them to experience? Putting a numeric value on the future is difficult, but it must be done if we are to change the direction of our energy future, and introduce cleaner energy technologies that produce less harmful pollution and emissions.

Coal is perceived as a more economic energy source then many renewable technologies. The Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences recently published an article about the implications of modernizing our electricity systems. The US government needs an official cost estimate associated with the production of CO2 from fossil fuels. According to report, without counting pollution and carbon emissions, coal, on average, costs 3.0 cents/kWh versus wind energy (8.0 cents/kWh) or photovoltaics (13.3 cents/kWh) (Johnson et al. 2013). The government is now trying to take into account the environmental costs of using fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas. This includes adding a cost of potential damages caused by the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. These potential and already realized costs include damages and deaths incurred from drought, floods, heat waves, hurricanes and other natural phenomenon that have been exacerbated given human induced climate change. Additionally, the social cost of carbon has serious public safety and health implications. Increased pollution has led to increases in asthma, water contamination, and rises in climate sensitive diseases. Every day our health and wellbeing are being compromised and if we do not change our current energy practices, and it will only continue to worsen for our futures. Read more

Cleaning Up America’s Power Plants

By: Stephanie Borsum2013DirtiestPowerPlants

October, 2013

Carbon dioxide emissions are one of the largest contributors to air pollution and climate change and the United States is responsible for the largest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The main carbon emission sources in the U.S. are electricity production and power plant operations. It is necessary to regulate the direct sources of carbon dioxide emissions in order to prevent further irreversible damage to our environment and society. It is time for our nation’s carbon emissions to drastically decline in order to prevent dramatic climate events and destruction to our living environment.

The United States has about 6,000 electricity generating power plants, most of which are coal fired and emit a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These power plants alone account for 41% of the total U.S. carbon emissions. A report by Environment America which ranked the top 100 dirtiest power plants in America, states that about half of those carbon emissions come from the 100 dirtiest power plants. The top 50 dirtiest plants alone produced 30 percent of all power-sector carbon dioxide emissions, but only generated 16 percent of electricity nationwide in 2011, which illustrates the urgency to increase efficiency. The report also states that if the top 50 dirtiest power plants in the United States created their own country, it would qualify as the seventh-biggest polluter in the world. That is just a small fraction of the power plants currently operating in our country. A main reason these coal power plants in the U.S. are exceptionally dirty is because until recently, there have been no federal policies in place to put limits on emissions.

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