Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson argues that a cap-and-trade system will be ineffective in leading development away from high-carbon technologies. “If I was the one writing the rules, I would just tax carbon,” he says.
Solazyme describes itself as “a synthetic biology company that unleashes the power of marine microbes to create clean and scalable solutions for the renewable energy, industrial chemical, and specialty ingredient markets.”
One of these days, I will (as promised back when the Liberals were still promoting their failed “GreenShift” approach to the problem) explain in more detail why cap-and-trade is a specious corporate scam. But in the meantime, good on Mr. Wolfson for being so blunt in rejecting that approach to tackling the problem of carbon emissions and for being so forthright about the quid pro quo that should (but sadly doesn’t in most cases) exist when government backs research and development efforts that lead to profitable enterprises.
Oh, I almost forgot. The complete ForaTV piece is available here.
On to more interesting things… Here are two excepts from a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and NYT columnist Tom Friedman at the Sixth and I Synagogue last month concerning his new book Hot, Flat & Crowded. In the first, he criticizes the U.S. government for inaction on the fight against global warming, and calls for a “Code Green” approach to clean energy development.
In the second excerpt, he discusses the increasing trend of developing nations to aspire to U.S. levels of economic consumption, and warns that this trend may be extremely detrimental to the global environment.
The complete talk can be viewed at the Fora.tv website. Quite amusing that the corporate sponsor is Chevron. Oh, and by the way, here’s a little something Friedman had to say recently on NPR’s Fresh Air speaking about energy taxation being a burden on the working class that might ring a bell with some:
…[I]t should be revenue-neutral: we should tax what we don’t want, such as people using fossil fuels, raising taxes on that, and lower taxes on what we do want, which is people working. Which is why whatever tax increase we impose on oil, coal, or natural gas we should then take off on the other side from people’s weekly payroll deduction. To me, it should be revenue neutral for all but the wealthiest Americans.”
How nice that a couple of hundred economists have weighed in to tell that pricing carbon is a sensible thing to do. Gee, that might have been good to have heard back in the summer when the Conservative government launched their “Tax on Everything” advertising campaign and almost every pundit in the land was dismissively slagging the Liberals’ “Green Shift” proposal, don’t you think?
Too bad that Dion can’t explain his “Green Shift” plan as clearly as Elizabeth May seems able to when discussing the Greens’ own proposed carbon tax. If you missed this face-off between her and Jack Layton over their respective plans on CTV’s Question Period earlier this summer, here it is again.
Contrary to Jack’s glowing assessment of the European experience with cap-and-trade, the reality is quite different as this article from last year that appeared in the Washington Post details. Another report from Business Week indicates that despite creating a massive new level of bureaucracy, the EU Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) has little to show for itself in terms of environmental benefits. In fact, Europe’s carbon dioxide output actually rose 1.1 percent last year.
Well, notwithstanding keen promotion by kooky right-wing blogs and even a prominent advert on the National Newswatch news aggregator, the petition associated with the disingenuous “grassroots” movement to “STOP the Carbon Tax!” (sorry, I won’t link to it) launched by Guelph Conservative party activist Barry Osmond, has so far only managed to attract slightly more than 200 signatures. Excuse me for being thoroughly underwhelmed.
It’s noted that the petition to “Save Polaroid Film!!!” currently has 23,750 signatures and, at 396 names, even the one titled “Do not eat Filipinos!” is almost double Mr. Osmond’s pathetic outing.
Campaigns of Hope & Fear
Aside from posting on some of the more frivolous aspects of the Liberals’ proposed “Green Shift” (not to be confused with eco-friendly urinal cakes, napkins and disposable coffee cups bearing the same trademarked name), I haven’t really delved into this pivotal issue to date, but now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading through the plan in its entirety, I’d like to explore it in some more detail over the coming weeks.
In following the “debate” since the plan’s release, I have to say that I’ve found the largely uninformed, knee-jerk reactions of “Conservative” politicians and supporters to be both needlessly alarmist and deeply pessimistic. And at the risk of vastly oversimplifying the matter, to a certain extent it doesn’t seem entirely unfair to regard the contrasting views of Stéphane Dion and Stephen Harper about the issue as those of “hope” and “fear” respectively.
Conservatives would have us believe that a carbon tax is nothing more than a nefarious “trick” that will, as Stephen Harper put it so eloquently back in June, “screw everybody” (especially those in “the West”), but to me, the reasons why this is automatically assumed to be the case seem founded more on an irrational paranoia and a deep-seated distrust of government rather than being based on any empirical evidence or sound economic principles. Quite to the contrary, most economists agree (in itself a somewhat unusual occurrence) that taxing carbon is a sensible idea and some, such as Don Drummond, the chief economist of the TD Bank Financial Group, have even described the Liberals’ carbon tax plan as “a good start” that will, at least in his estimation, leave the general Canadian taxpayer “better off.”
Of course, it would be entirely foolish to blindly place bets on the side of “hope” without failing to mention that the Liberals haven’t always been noted for their sound management of complex government programs in the past. One only has to look back to monumental boondoggles like the scandalous waste associated with the Human Resources Development grants program or the long gun registry to see how badly things can go wrong in this regard. While those are certainly more than fair enough points to raise by way of objection to the Liberals’ “Green Shift” proposal, I want to leave that aspect aside — at least for the time being — and focus instead quite strictly on the principle of the matter.
So, if you have any ideas on how you’d like to see this discussion run, I’d be more than open to suggestions. By way of full disclosure, I may be participating in a conference call with Dion about this issue in the coming weeks, so what transpires here will likely help to inform my questions about the program and its implementation in the rather unlikely event of a future Liberal government.