Thursday, May 25, 2006

If you want to reduce food miles, tax the food truck

I don't believe local food markets reduce the environmental burden of bringing food to our plate, although it may well be healthier and a good social outing. My back of the envelope calculations are that if there is less food to carry, the extra energy will be used bringing fertilizer for the local growers; extra fuel for the people who make a special trip to the food market etc. Infact, it really is impossible to tell whether it makes any difference, but it sure makes everybody feel better about it. Being pro-active doesn't require proof that it is making any difference. Contrast this to a simple carbon tax. Everyone gets punished or rewarded depending on how much they use/save. It is all proportional. Put the carbon tax high enough and the food markets will generate themselves if they really do reduce CO2 emmissions.

Does the carbon tax then give an overall burden on the economy? Not if there is no exemptions. The money that goes to the Government can be used for whatever purpose we feel necessary. If there are exemptions, the exempt will have more options and more incentive to consume carbon, and more of it available because the non-exempt are saving it for them.

4 comments:

Dr. Clam said...

Hmm. 'Would a big tax on everything hurt the economy? Not if there are no exceptions.' You forget that people with capital can choose to invest itsomewhere other than Taxandspendistan! You should have said: 'Would a carbon tax hurt the economy? Not if there were no exceptions and Al Gore (Peace be upon Him)was absolute ruler of the world.'

Marco said...

Yes, discretionary choice does make it hard to make global rules like that. However, even talk of a carbon tax (eg. New Zealand etc.) has had the effect of capital flight from carbon intensive industries. The net effect being that coal actually becomes cheaper than it would otherwise be - rebalancing supply and demand. If the carbon tax never eventuates, the cheaper price would tempt the investors back. However if there was a constant thought of "doom for coal-based industries" that stuck, it might have the desired effect. It will be much easier when we run down the resource. Maybe a cartel could keep the price high enough for people to accept alternatives?

Dr. Clam said...

I think it will take a while to run down coal- doesn't Bjorn quote 1500 years of proven reserves at current use rates?

Marco said...

No that should be 150 years of proven reserves. However, it would not surprise me if the actual reserves were ten times as much. However, I am starting to think that a "Coal exporter cartel" combined with stupendous increase in our Uranium export capacity would have a bigger inpact on CO2 than "Kyoto signing" and "measures". Plus we would become all-powerful Bhahahaha.