Saturday, May 05, 2007

What Cost Carbon?

The cost to control carbon emissions is manageable--that's the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In IPCC's latest report, the authoritative panel estimates that we could stabilize the level of greenhouse carbon emissions by 2030 at a cost of roughly $100 per ton of carbon. To translate that into a meaningful figure, it would add about a $1 to the price of a gallon of gas. (See Washington Post story here.)

Of course, the Bush administration immediately reacted in knee-jerk fashion, declaring that such a cost "would of course cause a global recession."

What are these guys (i.e., the Bushies) smoking? The price of gas already went up a $1 a gallon in the past couple of years and guess what--no recession. Moreover, IPCC calculates the cost of the $100/ton of carbon as equating only 0.12 percent annually of global output.

Let's compare that to say, the cost of the War in Iraq, or the cost of rebuilding New Orleans (which will only flood again).

If anything, the Bush administration should hail the IPCC report as good news, declaring that "yes, this is something the U.S., at least, can and should afford."

In related news, the Senate Energy Committee is considering a new lighting standard, as part of a broader energy bill to be pushed by Democrats, that would effectively phase-out the standard incandescent light bulb in about 10 years. This would be a welcome development.

Philips Electronics, the largest European light bulb manufacturer, estimates that replacing all the incandescent bulbs in the U.S. would eliminate the need for 23 electric power plants of 1000 megawatts each, while saving $14 billion in electric bills.

(Some reports state that compact fluorescent bulbs cost more than incandescent bulbs. That's really not true. They cost more at the check-out counter, but the fluorescents last 5-8 times as long and recoup their cost in saved electricity, so they actually cost a LOT less than incandescent bulbs.)

Let's hope this measure--still being hammered out between environmental groups and bulb manufacturers--passes this year. It will then give builders of the millions of new homes, condos and apartments over the next decade a powerful incentive to install the right kind of lighting and bulbs, while everyone else retrofits.

Coming Next Week: Jamestown at 800--what will Virginia look like in 400 more years (feel free to comment with your suggestions).

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