Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stepping on the Gas toward a Clean Energy Future

In a more regionalized economy, the distributed nature of renewable electrical power sources will be helpful to maintaining grid stability. That will be especially important if the country's current three grid system is broken up along regional lines. Base load generation, from thermal, hydro, and nuclear plants will be reduced within the smaller grids because of reductions in fossil fuel usage. The net effect will be less stable electrical grids, but owners of facility/building power sources will enjoy more reliable power than those who are grid-dependent.

Photo by Chuck Coker

The reason fossil fuel usage may decrease is that industry and society are waking up to the imperative of reducing carbon emissions. In a sign that the economics now favor a shift to renewable power, even influential Republicans are lobbying for measures to push for a clean energy economy. Meeting with the head of President Donald T Rump's National Economic Council Gary Cohn, former Secretary of State James Baker represented the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) in their call for a carbon tax, which even T.,Rex supported when he was at Exxon. Maybe Dr. James Hansen and the Citizen's Climate Lobby (CCL) have been clever enough to make the august team of Republicans on the CLC believe that this proposal is their own idea, but it is good to know that there is some bilateral support for it.

The proposal is coming early enough in the ramp-up of the Rump administration that it could be put into play by Cohn, formerly President of Goldman-Sachs which recently made a case to investors that a low-carbon economy is likely (driven largely by disruptive technologies in the electrical and transportation sectors). If it gets no play there, Congress has been hearing a lot about the idea from CCL and will probably be hearing from CLC now, too. The carbon tax could become a Republican-sponsored bill that Congress would be willing to force on the administration. Donald T Rump, in turn, could use an agreement to sign the bill as a bargaining chip to eliminate the Clean Power Plan and other EPA regulations, thereby saving face. Additionally, he would be able take credit for sticking to our Paris Treaty obligations, thus saving him the trouble and international censure from backing out.

For you and I, this carbon tax would mean more income (rebates) but, also equally more expensive energy. Burning fuel, either directly or indirectly, will be like maintaining a smoking habit. The taxes forcing tobacco prices to be so high are quite enough to deter people who know the value of a buck. If the government could also stop subsidizing fossil fuels, they would really be convincing, but that's probably too much to ask.

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