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Thursday, August 27, 2015

SHOULD HAWAII LEAD THE NATION IN REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS?

NO!  I don't think Hawaii should unilaterally invoke a serious carbon tax!  Hawaii has been a pioneer in land use reform, healthcare, and a variety of human rights legislation.  The problem with resolving the global climate change problem is that the entire world needs to together cooperate.  Why?

Say a community, like, say, Hawaii, decides to pass a law that suddenly jumps the price of fossil fuels by a factor of two.  Energy thus would now cost almost twice as much today as yesterday.  Companies doing business thus increase their cost of operation by a significant percentage.  They would not become competitive with other firms around the world.  Same for government.  Taxes would need to be increased to prevent bankruptcy, and the hit to residents would be compounded by both accretions.  

Hawaii's economy would go into depression, and, further, rule makers would be blamed and kicked out of office.  That in itself would not be all bad, but the point is that legislators are not be so stupid as to enact measures to reduce carbon emissions.  It's a non-starter.

However, today, the Star-Advertiser published an op-ed article by Jeffrey Kim, co-leader of the Honolulu Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby entitled:


He reports:
  • He recently traveled to DC for a climate change conference and met with James Hansen, who told him that under a business-as-usual scenario, sea levels could rise 10 feet in as early as 50 years.  (Frankly, I too know Jim, and I can't imagine Hansen so bullishly underscoring 10 feet in 50 years as an expected future outcome.  Worse case scenario, maybe, but hardly business-as usual.)
  • Kim says that Hawaii should enact a revenue-neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend.  He says this has worked in British Columbia.  Gasoline consumption dropped by a factor of seven while maintaining economic stability.  Factor of seven boggles my mind, but the reality is that fossil fuel consumption dropped 17.4%/capita and the economy appears to doing okay.  It is said that many Canadians simply went across the border to the U.S. to buy gasoline, and the carbon fee was limited.  For example, aviation fuel was not touched.


The Economist also seemed supportive, with this quote:

Stephen Harper, the prime minister, remains unimpressed. In June, when fellow centre-right prime minister Tony Abbott of Australia arrived for a visit, the two leaders dismissed the carbon tax as an iffy hedge against climate change and a destroyer of jobs. But the BC experiment makes that line harder to sustain. “There’s very little evidence—zero evidence—that carbon taxing is related to jobs,” says Brandon Schaufele at the University of Western Ontario, who co-authored the PICS report.

So, maybe there is something to just adding a tax to fossil fuels without hurting the competitiveness of companies.  Six years ago the Huffington Post published my :


This was a more draconian measure, but I used the term credit instead of tax, for Republicans hate that latter term, and, in effect, the collected revenues largely returned to the consumer, similar to the British Columbia program. 

I can imagine a pathway to a carbon tax working in Hawaii.  But the effect would take time.  There is value in money being recirculated into the local economy.  If we continue to purchase petroleum, most of this amount paid out leaves our islands.  In time, as renewables gain in percentage, more of our energy costs not only remain here, but multiply in value.  I have not seen a comprehensive study proving this point.

I'm still surprised that British Columbia is doing well with a self-imposed carbon tax.  However, I've been  wrong before, and this could well be a good example of my fallibility. 

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Tropical Storm Erica will remain at around 45 MPH and bring a lot of rain to those Caribbean islands in its path.  However, around the time Erica approaches the north side of Cuba, there will be strengthening into hurricane status, but instead of slamming Miami, the projected path seems to be along the east side of Florida:



Hurricane Ignacio is now at 90 MPH and will attain Category 3 status, before slightly weakening.  All signs point to a path north of the Hawaiian islands:



You can hardly see the islands, but that white composite path shows a northerly route.

However, perhaps even more ominous is Tropical Storm Jimena, now only at 60 MPH, but expected to attain Category 4 strength, and, while too early to project, seems inclined to move straight to the Big Island:



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