Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Senate Action on Carbon Emissions Expected Today

We've just been alerted that Senators Bingaman and Specter will be introducing the Low Carbon Economy Act of 2007 today. Senator Bingman will be making a floor speech at 9:30 a.m. U.S. EDT which can be viewed on C-Span 2.

Expect the text of the bill, along with supporting documents, to be posted at the Senate Energy Committee Web site by this afternoon.

More later.

UPDATE: From the New York Times:

The Bingaman-Specter proposal, dubbed the “Low Carbon Economy Act,” would set a target emissions cap for 2020 at 2006 levels and for 2030 at 1990 levels. Other bills set more stringent targets, but none so far have won majority support.

The new proposal would grant permits to all emitting industries, including oil refineries, natural gas processing plants, manufacturing facilities and coal-burning power plants. Cars, trucks and airplanes are not covered, but owners would face significantly higher fuel prices passed on by oil and gas companies.

Additional emissions permits could be bought at $12 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions in the first year, rising by 5 percent above the rate of inflation each year after that. The money from the permits would be widely spread to finance research into clean energy, mitigate the effects of global warming, compensate farmers for higher fuel costs and help low-income families pay their heating and gasoline bills. Under the bill, the United States would market green technology to China, India, Brazil and other developing nations whose economies are growing to help them bring their carbon emissions under control. But it would also impose tariff-like fees on imports of carbon-intensive products like steel and automobiles from those countries if the president deemed their cleanup efforts inadequate.
More later.


Alex Brown said...

I have looked at several graphs showing "all in" costs per kWh for different generation techniques (nuclear, wind, coal, natural gas, biomass, etc..) graphed as a function of carbon tax, and the consensus is that at 12$ nuclear will be approximately equal to coal to slightly less than coal. Also since we are talking plants that will last 40-60 years the average tax over their lifetime is what really matters which would be closer to 25$, at this price nuclear wins in everything i can find.

David Bradish said...


I don't quite know which figures you are looking at for coal but I'm sure it's for pulverized or possibly even supercritical coal. If you look at IGCC with and without sequestration, nuclear's construction cost figures are even more certain than the IGCC technology. Even with IGCC's cost uncertainty, nuclear still comes cheaper than or at about the same cost to build.

Alex Brown said...

Well different things I have seen included different coal technologies, but after reading your post i'm somewhat unsure what you are saying. My point was that the proposed tax would make nuclear the cheapest option of any fuel including all forms of coal natural gas and renewables.

On the downside though this will increase electricity prices by double digit percents, so it will be interesting to see how many people in this country are willing to pay the extra $$$ or if they are all talk. Not to be too cynical but there will be people from both sides of the isle that will oppose higher energy prices. Republicans will argue that will hurt America's ability to compete on the global market since it will raise the price of goods. Democrats will likely argue the "economic discrimination" path since poor people pay migher higher percents of their income for energy. They might be able to overcome this though by using the proceeds from the carbon tax to fund programs to help poor people with their energy bills.

I'll try to find some good graphs on this subject later when i'm not at work to try to make the point pictorally instead of in words.

David Bradish said...

You're exactly right. The idea about giving the money to the poor people would be a great idea. I've also heard of using the carbon fee and putting it right back into investment in nuclear, renewables and any other clean technology that could potentially reduce emissions.

A carbon fee or tax is the only thing that will reduce emissions. Cap and trade can do some. But CO2 reduction requires changing the entire economy.

The question is who in Congress can get it done...

Rod Adams said...

The real question is why do existing polluters get free credits while new companies with the same or even less emissions per unit production will have to pay for them.

Seems like protectionism to me.

I fully realize that a complete carbon tax will increase my cost of living since I have an above average energy consumption lifestyle, but I have been getting a free ride on the common atmosphere for too long.

JimHopf said...


A $12 CO2 tax will add ~1.2 cents/kW-hr to coal generated power. As coal generates ~50% of our power, this would result in a ~0.6 cent/kW-hr increase in the average US electricity cost.

And this assumes that utilities just keep doing what they're doing now and pay the tax indefinitely. The idea is that other sources (nuclear?) would be cheaper than the fossil price plus the tax. In that sense, the 0.6 cent figure would (in theory) be an upper bound increase, although this analysis might be simplistic.

Anyway, given that the average electricity price is ~8 cents (I think), we're talking about a single-digit (~8%) increase in electricity prices. And, BTW, given that we generate ~4 trillion kW-hrs annually, this 0.6 cent increase corresponds to a total annual cost of $25 billion, which is ~0.2% of US GNP. Barely noticeable, as far as I'm concerned.