Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

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dyqik
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by dyqik » Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:03 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:39 pm
Mini-splits are what people tend to have retrofitted in Portugal. They're pretty quick to adjust the temperature, with the advantage that they can heat in winter and cool in summer, which might help to reduce the death toll of heatwaves.

They also give you control over different rooms, if you keep doors closed at least. Must be possible to link them to some "smart" technology to run a home automatically?
Yeah, that's common here now. The mini-splits usually have a controller for each room, and adding presence detection like on Ecobee thermostats is relatively easy.

They can probably be optimized to work a little lower in ambient temperature for the UK than for here (because of the lower cooling demand), which would eliminate the need for backup heat.
Last edited by dyqik on Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by dyqik » Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:08 pm

dyqik wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:29 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 7:40 am
Bird on a Fire, sorry I don't have time to go through your points individually.

Overall, you seem to be ignoring the large costs of transition to low carbon alternatives.

Yes, someone who swaps an ICE car for an electric car probably won't have a big change quality of life (unless they usually drive long distances).

But the costs of buying an electric car could well have a major negative effect on their quality of life. There will be lots of things that they can't afford because the money is being spent on car payments instead. The aim of a carbon tax is to push people into making different choices. So someone that drives an ICE car will see their transport expenses increase until they calculate that it will be cheaper to buy an electric car. So there will be a long period when they have to allocate more of their income to transport. The people who will be hit hardest will be those for whom an electric car isn't practical (eg if they rely on street parking). They'll just have to cope with the increasing transport costs.
Most people change cars every 10 years or so at most, and those that go longer between changes usually are doing fewer miles. Switching to EVs will happen over that kind of time frame - few cars on the road are older than 15 years. Those that pay the premium for new cars frequently do so on lease or in ways that they can get another new car in a few years, passing the used one on.
Oh, and trying to accelerate this process significantly would: a) make cars cost a lot more, as temporary production capacity would have to be added, which would then have to be decommissioned (with an assisted carbon cost). In any case, worldwide battery and parts production is already stretched.
b) not take advantage of lower carbon production that is slowly coming online.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:36 pm

dyqik wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:08 pm
dyqik wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:29 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 7:40 am
Bird on a Fire, sorry I don't have time to go through your points individually.

Overall, you seem to be ignoring the large costs of transition to low carbon alternatives.

Yes, someone who swaps an ICE car for an electric car probably won't have a big change quality of life (unless they usually drive long distances).

But the costs of buying an electric car could well have a major negative effect on their quality of life. There will be lots of things that they can't afford because the money is being spent on car payments instead. The aim of a carbon tax is to push people into making different choices. So someone that drives an ICE car will see their transport expenses increase until they calculate that it will be cheaper to buy an electric car. So there will be a long period when they have to allocate more of their income to transport. The people who will be hit hardest will be those for whom an electric car isn't practical (eg if they rely on street parking). They'll just have to cope with the increasing transport costs.
Most people change cars every 10 years or so at most, and those that go longer between changes usually are doing fewer miles. Switching to EVs will happen over that kind of time frame - few cars on the road are older than 15 years. Those that pay the premium for new cars frequently do so on lease or in ways that they can get another new car in a few years, passing the used one on.
Oh, and trying to accelerate this process significantly would: a) make cars cost a lot more, as temporary production capacity would have to be added, which would then have to be decommissioned (with an assisted carbon cost). In any case, worldwide battery and parts production is already stretched.
b) not take advantage of lower carbon production that is slowly coming online.
The overall UK target is a 68% reduction compared to 1990 levels by 2030, which is only 8 and a half years away. The average age of a UK car when scrapped appears to be 13.9 years, so lots of cars would normally be running beyond 15 years (the Choppermobile will be). Passenger cars are one of the biggest sources of UK emissions. Passenger cars are also easier in some respects as a mature alternative technology is already being sold. So the decline there probably needs to be greater to make up for slower progress elsewhere.

It seems to me that there isn't time to rely upon people naturally replacing their cars and encouraging them to buy BEVs. Of course rapidly changing the means of transport will be expensive.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by dyqik » Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:03 pm

Woodchopper wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:36 pm
dyqik wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:08 pm
dyqik wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:29 pm


Most people change cars every 10 years or so at most, and those that go longer between changes usually are doing fewer miles. Switching to EVs will happen over that kind of time frame - few cars on the road are older than 15 years. Those that pay the premium for new cars frequently do so on lease or in ways that they can get another new car in a few years, passing the used one on.
Oh, and trying to accelerate this process significantly would: a) make cars cost a lot more, as temporary production capacity would have to be added, which would then have to be decommissioned (with an assisted carbon cost). In any case, worldwide battery and parts production is already stretched.
b) not take advantage of lower carbon production that is slowly coming online.
The overall UK target is a 68% reduction compared to 1990 levels by 2030, which is only 8 and a half years away. The average age of a UK car when scrapped appears to be 13.9 years, so lots of cars would normally be running beyond 15 years (the Choppermobile will be). Passenger cars are one of the biggest sources of UK emissions. Passenger cars are also easier in some respects as a mature alternative technology is already being sold. So the decline there probably needs to be greater to make up for slower progress elsewhere.
You want the median time to scrappage, not the mean, and you also need to adjust it for miles driven in those cars. There's a reasonable number of 40+ year old cars out there that do very few miles, and which will distort the mean age to scrappage relative to the carbon emissions of driving.

From the same link, the average age of a vehicle on the road is 7.8 years, which is a far more relevant measure of turnover in the stock of vehicles being used.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:17 pm

dyqik wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:03 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:36 pm
dyqik wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:08 pm

Oh, and trying to accelerate this process significantly would: a) make cars cost a lot more, as temporary production capacity would have to be added, which would then have to be decommissioned (with an assisted carbon cost). In any case, worldwide battery and parts production is already stretched.
b) not take advantage of lower carbon production that is slowly coming online.
The overall UK target is a 68% reduction compared to 1990 levels by 2030, which is only 8 and a half years away. The average age of a UK car when scrapped appears to be 13.9 years, so lots of cars would normally be running beyond 15 years (the Choppermobile will be). Passenger cars are one of the biggest sources of UK emissions. Passenger cars are also easier in some respects as a mature alternative technology is already being sold. So the decline there probably needs to be greater to make up for slower progress elsewhere.
You want the median time to scrappage, not the mean, and you also need to adjust it for miles driven in those cars. There's a reasonable number of 40+ year old cars out there that do very few miles, and which will distort the mean age to scrappage relative to the carbon emissions of driving.

From the same link, the average age of a vehicle on the road is 7.8 years, which is a far more relevant measure of turnover in the stock of vehicles being used.
That's much quicker than I thought. It means banning ICEs tomorrow would lead to about 50% update of BEVs by the 2030 deadline ;)
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by dyqik » Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:21 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:17 pm
dyqik wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:03 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:36 pm


The overall UK target is a 68% reduction compared to 1990 levels by 2030, which is only 8 and a half years away. The average age of a UK car when scrapped appears to be 13.9 years, so lots of cars would normally be running beyond 15 years (the Choppermobile will be). Passenger cars are one of the biggest sources of UK emissions. Passenger cars are also easier in some respects as a mature alternative technology is already being sold. So the decline there probably needs to be greater to make up for slower progress elsewhere.
You want the median time to scrappage, not the mean, and you also need to adjust it for miles driven in those cars. There's a reasonable number of 40+ year old cars out there that do very few miles, and which will distort the mean age to scrappage relative to the carbon emissions of driving.

From the same link, the average age of a vehicle on the road is 7.8 years, which is a far more relevant measure of turnover in the stock of vehicles being used.
That's much quicker than I thought. It means banning ICEs tomorrow would lead to about 50% update of BEVs by the 2030 deadline ;)
I expect that naïve estimate would be distorted a bit by range issues - cars that spend the most time on the road are the ones most likely to run into range anxiety and limitations. But maybe not by that much.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by IvanV » Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:41 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:17 am
Yes yes, obviously batteries/storage (and a mix of generation technologies) are necessary, not just a solar panel plugged directly into the telly. Everybody knows this already.
What everbody doesn't always get is the inadequacy of batteries/storage to solve this issue, even in combination with a mix of low carbon generation technologies. The scale of the issue is beyond us.

The largest storage device (rated total capacity in MWh, ie quantity of energy stored, not instantaneous output as is usually quote for batteries) in Britain is Dinorwig which is about 9100MWh. Cruachan is about 7000MWh. Ffestiniog and Foyers are the other two main examples, and a fair bit smaller. I haven't got their capacity, but probably the total of the four is in the vicinity of 20,000MWh or 20 GWh of pumped storage. Germany has something like about 5 times as much as us, because run-of-river hydro is relatively easy to convert to pumped storage. But they have several large rivers such as you can find on continents (Rhine, Danube, Elbe, Oder, Weser, etc) suitable for large run-of-river hydro stations, which in our case we have not got.

The largest battery in Europe recently started operation near Swindon. As usual with batteries, they are rather keener to tell you its maximum output, 100MW, and rather less keen to tell you its capacity. I think someone on this forum suggested its capacity is about 100MWh.

So the largest battery in Europe has about the capacity of 1% of a Dinorwig. But, recognising that a low carbon Britain will at least double its electricity consumption, we would need about 500 Dinorwigs, to store power for when people wanted it, if all our electricity was renewable. Or 50,000 of those largest-batteries-in-Europe.

The National Grid therefore sees getting to net zero to require substantial amounts of:
gas power stations with CCS, and
hydrogen storage, to feed hydrogen power stations.

This relies on two technologies not yet demonstrated at the scale required: CCS, and renewable hydrogen production. They are currently only demonstrated at small scale and implmenting them at anything like the scale required, not to mention an acceptable cost, remains a big problem

So far we have been able to build lots of wind and solar. It's "cheap". And if it fails to deliver the service you'd be willing to pay more money for, ie, electricity when you want it, we can get away with that because for the moment we have plenty of despatchable power (gas) and neighbours who can turn up their depatchable power (coal) when we need it.

Some, not Germans, would say that nuclear can be a valuable part of the solution, but falls a long way short of solving it.
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:17 am
My impression is that electric (especially underfloor) heating is what people are generally going for in new builds. I might be way off on that, or people might be choosing a rubbish technology I suppose. And fossil boilers are being banned from 2025 anyway so I'm sure the market will find good solutions quickly.
Underfloor heating is a method of making it easier for the lower temperatures of heat pump water to heat your house, avoiding the alternative of much larger wall radiators. If, instead, they are installing electrical resistive heating, that will use about 3 times the electricity of the heat pump.

If people are routinely installing underfloor resistive heating in climates like Britain, they will have very large bills, and the demand on our electricity system will be phenomenal. But it could well be acceptable in places like Iceland where they have lots of cheap electricity, or Portugal where you only need the heating for relatively short parts of the year. I would consider an offer to fit underfloor resistive heating in Britain to be a con. Someone very sensibly mentioned the risk of social housing being fitted with costly-to-run and doesn't-keep-you-very-warm systems, because it was cheaper for the landlord to install. We already know that landlords have insufficient incentive to fit a suitable amount of insulation.

I have a friend who is a manager of a local housing association. He is currently engaged in a project to build a block of 50 social houses at a location well off the gas grid. We have discussed it considerably. He is currently unable to find any low-carbon or low-carbon-ready heating system of acceptable running cost he could practically install in those houses at point of construction. So they will have, for the moment, external gas tanks and gas central heating, much as he tried to avoid that. This remains much the most practical heating method available, and which delivers acceptable bills for the tenants. Unfortunately heat pump installations remain a custom job, not a routine job, with the implications that has for the cost of implementation. I see no sign that the building industry is at all ready to suddenly convert to some new heating technology they have little experience of installing. Meanwhile, in some other countries, heat pumps are a routine installation. We can get there. But at the moment, there seems to be no real attempt to do that.

But new houses are the easy case. Housing completions are currently running at 215,000 per year in the UK. There are currently about 28 million dwellings. So between 2025 and 2050, at that rate, only about 1/6 of the housing stock will have been built in the preceeding 25 years - it depends on how many of the completions add to rather than replace existing stock. So we still have to worry about the 5/6 of the rest. If my housing association manager can't devise a practical solution for a new estate, the easy case, the typical case of a 60-yr-old dwelling is rather tricker and more expensive to address.

A serious problem remains the fact that the running costs for heating your house with a hea pump are higher than for gas central heating. A common trick is to compare heating a well insulated house with a heat pump and a poorly insulated house with a gas boiler. But once you have done the insulation, it is still cheaper to heat your house with a gas boiler. And this is surely part of the problem for the housing association manager. How can he burden his tenants with a heating system that has higher than necessary running costs?
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:17 am
In urban areas there's always the option of doing ground source etc. at scale with community heating (and even hot water), like they have here in Iceland.
And I think this has to be the answer for urban areas. Unfortunately it is barely known in this country. There is a demonstration scheme in Oxford, but with new houses.

I think it is the only practical solution for most urban houses in this country. I recommended it to my housing association manager friend, and suggested he talk to the people in Oxford, which is not far from here. But I think they got a lot of money for a demonstration scheme, which he won't get.

Any system that purports to support the installation of low carbon heating systems is not fit for purpose unless it works to facilitate shared-loop community heat pumps, whether at the scale of a 50 house estate like this, a large municipal scheme of some thousands, or even just a small group of neighbours who would save a lot of money by going for shared loop rather than dig-up-the-garden, but the minimum efficient scale is generally at handful of houses or more, depending how big they are.

So let's suppose we manage to solve these key impediments. First, electricity must be at most 3 times the price of gas, not 5 times as currently, because without that people will find it cheaper to run gas boilers, for any given building. Second, the institutions must be present to make it practical to install and manage shared-loop ground source schemes, both as municipal schemes on the 50-50,000 dwellings scale, and neighbourhood schemes on the 2-200 dwellings scale. This includes satisfactory contractual arrangements that people don't get ripped off or stranded, and the necessary powers to dig up the ground to install them Third, they must become routine installations that builders just do it, rather than go "well you can have that... It'll cost yer," and then botch the installation.

Then we only have the problem that a lot of retrofits are going to be heinously expensive, and how do we get the typical household to spend what might be £20k to £75k on doing it.

So, unlike the previous problem, I do think all the necessary technology exists, and a lot of it is in routine use elsewhere. There are no technological impediments to getting on with it. Just a lot of practical problems politicians don't want to address, because it involves increasing costs for a lot of people. Instead the politicians keep trying to lurch in the direction of hoping technology will come along and make it all a lot easier. Hydrogen is their main hope. There are several steps to that which remain undemonstrated at scale.
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:17 am
The UK is an odd place, in that it seems so often to have world-class experts coming up with sensible plans for stuff, but sh.t-for-brains heartless reptilians doing something totally orthogonal in government.
And the USA even stranger for being even more so like that. But poor governance is hardly uncommon the world around. But certainly many of our neighbours seem to be better governed, and we seem to fail to take full advantage of the leading expertise we have in many subjects. But house design and construction is a topic where no one would look to the UK or US for good ideas.

Overall, the domestic heating decarbonisation is an issue where we have a pretty good idea of the reasonable solutions, but are failing to take reasonable steps, mainly because it will involve a lot of cost and inconvenience to voters. Balancing the electricity grid is a much bigger problem which does rely on technologies not yet demonstrated at scale, to achieve anything like a realistic cost.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by bmforre » Tue Aug 24, 2021 7:10 pm

IvanV wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:41 pm
The largest storage device (rated total capacity in MWh, ie quantity of energy stored, not instantaneous output as is usually quote for batteries) in Britain is Dinorwig which is about 9100MWh. Cruachan is about 7000MWh. Ffestiniog and Foyers are the other two main examples, and a fair bit smaller. I haven't got their capacity, but probably the total of the four is in the vicinity of 20,000MWh or 20 GWh of pumped storage...
The largest storage unit in Norway is Blåsjø with capacity 7,8 TWh - that is 7800 GWh or roughly 400 times the sum of the 4 largest in the UK.

Unfortunately our reservoirs are only about 68% full at present while in a typical year they ought to be near full now in autumn.

We have the big reservoirs but need more wind turbines to collect power. Unfortunately the environmental movements are dead set against that.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:10 am

IvanV wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:58 am
Millennie Al wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:21 am
There are two reasons to have carbon taxes: to reduce carbon or to raise money to spend on mitigating the effects. In the second case it's impossible to redistribute the money raised as the defeats the purpose of the tax, so I'll only consider the first.
As an economist, I wouldn't agree with the words I have emphasized.
I think that's because I expressed it so badly you didn't understand me. Here's an example: carbon emissions cause global warming which causes sea level rise, which causes coastal erosion, which causes Alice's house to fall into the sea. The second case of taxation is that we raise money from carbon emissions to pay Alice to compensate her for the house she has lost.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:23 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:02 am
Fishnut wrote:
Sun Aug 22, 2021 12:40 am
I know this is a very basic question, but how does a carbon tax actually work? Speaking from a place of complete ignorance on the subject my fear is that the costs will simply be passed on directly to the consumer rather than them forcing companies to change their practices, which would hurt already economically-disadvantaged people the most.
That's generally how they are supposed to work. The consumer then does less of whatever is causing the carbon emission, so less carbon is emitted. In a capitalist society, it's unlikely one company then changes how they work so that the same consumption needs only the lower rate of carbon emission to restore the old price. This is because the new way of doing it will be more expensive (if it wasn't, there would be no need for the tax in the first place as a company would be already using the cheaper method).
What I'd like to see is a tax that heavily penalises carbon emissions at source, which means the companies taking fossil fuels out of the ground
That means countries like Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are imposing the taxes, because that's where the oil wells are.
I'm wary of the carbon credits / offsetting model, because it can and has been used for ineffectual b.llsh.t.
I agree. As we can see in the fires in America where the carbon offsetting trees have burned to a crisp, re-releaseing all the carbon they were supposed to be locking up for centuries.
I'd also like to see some or all of the money hypothecated for what's generally called a "just transition". Better mass transit. Insulating houses.
So you'd like Nigeria and Saudi Arabia to give us some of their tax money for our transition. Good luck with that.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:39 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:22 am
Millennie Al wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:21 am
The whole point of reducing carbon is that we need to reduce our standard of living and that means everyone. There is a very common idea that people have which is that they personally won't lose much but that there are other people who will pay. That is not possible. There just aren't enough rich people extravagantly emitting carbon that all reductions can come from them.
The richest 1% emit more carbon than the poorest 50%. The richest 10% are responsible for over half of emissions.
So where do you think the ordinary Bristish person falls on the scale?

Anyone earning more than about £14,000 after tax is in the world's top 10%. Note that minimum wage is £8.91, so a job working 40 hours per week pays £18,889.20 before tax. (Global income figures from the data source at https://howrichami.givingwhatwecan.org/how-rich-am-i )
Companies are not responsible for any emissions. Companies only emit because they are doing things which are ultimately caused by individuals. If you buy a bar of chocolate any emissions in its manufacture and transport are effectively caused by you. If you attribute them to the companies and people who contribute to supplying you with the chocolate you'll make it very difficult to avoid counting the same emission multiple times.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:43 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:07 pm
Governments already spend billions on subsidies, and give them to the fossil fuel industry, the meat industry, logging companies and so on.
What industries do you claim are not in receipt of subsidies?
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:50 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:23 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:02 am
What I'd like to see is a tax that heavily penalises carbon emissions at source, which means the companies taking fossil fuels out of the ground
That means countries like Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are imposing the taxes, because that's where the oil wells are.
Not necessarily. See for example the judgement against Royal Dutch Shell discussed extensively upthread. A court in the Netherlands is holding Shell responsible for all emissions from its products, wherever the wells are.

But yes, as I also said you'd need a border tax too.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by IvanV » Wed Aug 25, 2021 11:56 pm

Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:43 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:07 pm
Governments already spend billions on subsidies, and give them to the fossil fuel industry, the meat industry, logging companies and so on.
What industries do you claim are not in receipt of subsidies?
[rant=subsidy propaganda]

There are various papers around giving these large numbers for the amount of subsidy received by the fossil fuel industry, etc. These are basically propaganda. They have a definition of subsidy, and calculate it properly. But I do not find it a useful definition of subsidy, nor is it what any normal person would normally understand by subsidy. At least, that's my guess. It is a meaning which has a use, but not this use.

It's rather like the occasion, in reverse, when I criticised a denialist tract. The author was trying to disprove the claim that "temperature is getting more extreme". He showed, quite persuasively, that the standard deviation of temperature was if anything falling, not rising. Pretty intuitive too - nights are getting warmer more than days, winters are getting warmer more than summers. But that is not what anyone meant when they said temperature is getting more extreme, nor what normal people understood by it. They just meant that the number of occasions when the temperature is over a given level is increasing. His response was, it was what they ought to have meant. Ultimately it was a semantic argument. Propaganda.

To my mind, subsidising something means handing over money so that the item can be sold at less than cost. And I think that's what most people think it means. So, for example, bread is subsidised in Egypt. The government actually hands over $2.9bn out of its own pocket to bread producers, and they can then sell bread at a regulated price which is below the production cost. That, to my mind is a proper subsidy. Likewise, in several countries, government imports fuel at the international price, and sells it into the market below cost. That, to my mind, is subsidised fuel.

But, for example, these papers which say that the fossil fuel industry is heavily subsidised in Britain think that gas is subsidised because the VAT on domestic gas is only 5% instead of the standard rate of 20%. I'm not aware of many people in Britain who think the gas they buy is subsidised when they pay 5% VAT on it, they think it is taxed. It's a lower rate of tax than they pay on a new phone, and a higher rate than they pay on children's clothes, books and food. But who's to say everything should be taxed at the same rate? Did anyone think their imported Chilean fruit was subsidised by the British government because it has no VAT on it?

And in fact this is not the only specific tax on gas in this country. If it is produced on the UK continental shelf, then the producer has to pay petroleum revenue tax (PRT) for the right to be able to produce it. This is what Britain has as a form of "mining royalties". Because you can produce it for rather less than the market price, merely because of geological advantage, why should gas producers pocket that enormous profit? PRT is a lot of tax the government takes, though plainly it was a lot more 20 years ago. And if it is produced somewhere else, often some local equivalent tax or royalty applies. Or in a petro-state, it just goes straight into the pocket of the royalty (bad pun, sorry.) But for the subsidy counters, PRT is another source of subsidy, because not everyone pays the same rate of PRT. Wells with less favoured geological conditions may pay less. That's rather like the fact that Taylor Swift earns more royalties on her records than my friend Alan who is quite a good folk-singer. But no one claims that the record company that sells Alan's music is "subsidised" because they pay less to the singer than Taylor Swift. But it is essentially the same economic observation hat one gas well can make you more money than another gas well, just as the sound of one singer can earn you more money than the sound of another. (Actually, Alan couldn't get a record deal despite doing rather well in various folk awards, so he set up his own label.)

And then there's a bunch more of "subsidies" in the corporate tax system, again whenever someone pays a lower amount of corporate tax than someone else. Although, as we know well, almost no one pays the full whack of corporate tax.

Now in competition law, paying less tax than other people would have to pay can be a "state aid". And that is a useful definition, because it sometims enables you to unfairly undercut your international competitors, with the assistance of the state. You can call that a subsidy if you like, but it is not what you and I generally mean by a subsidy when we say that fuel is subsidised. I think we mostly mean it in the way of Egyptian bread subsidies.

[/rant]

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Aug 26, 2021 12:08 am

There's a handy breakdown of the relative size of ore- and post-tax subsidies from the IMF here https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/climate-c ... -subsidies

Post-tax subsidies are the vast majority as you say.

I can see the argument for reducing tax on energy to the same level as on other vital services, like food. What the market has yet to do is price in all the negative externalities of fossil fuels, from QALYs lost to air pollution to the trillions being spent on climate adaptation.

I suspect a completely fair cradle-to-grave assessment would show that the biggest subsidy of all is failing to charge carbon polluters for f.cking up the whole biosphere. I bet there's a bunch of highly-cited papers showing as much too.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Thu Aug 26, 2021 2:40 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:50 am
Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Aug 25, 2021 1:23 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:02 am
What I'd like to see is a tax that heavily penalises carbon emissions at source, which means the companies taking fossil fuels out of the ground
That means countries like Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are imposing the taxes, because that's where the oil wells are.
Not necessarily. See for example the judgement against Royal Dutch Shell discussed extensively upthread. A court in the Netherlands is holding Shell responsible for all emissions from its products, wherever the wells are.

But yes, as I also said you'd need a border tax too.
If Nigeria add a huge tax on the Nigerian Shell subsidiary, there's nothng any foreign court can do to get at that money. And I don't see how a border tax helps.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Thu Aug 26, 2021 2:58 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Aug 26, 2021 12:08 am
There's a handy breakdown of the relative size of ore- and post-tax subsidies from the IMF here https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/climate-c ... -subsidies
That doesn't contain anything of much use as it just make extremely broad claims,
I suspect a completely fair cradle-to-grave assessment would show that the biggest subsidy of all is failing to charge carbon polluters for f.cking up the whole biosphere. I bet there's a bunch of highly-cited papers showing as much too.
That's not a subsidy at all.

What fossil fuels are recipients of the subsidies? Coal? Oiil? Gas? Something else? And where? Vague ideas that somewhere in the world sombody is subsidising a broad group of things are just not credible.

Is food subsidised? Clothing? Timber? Chairs? Lego? Visits to Disneyland?
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by lpm » Thu Aug 26, 2021 7:57 am

It's not just money, it's giving payments in kind.

If the government uses Royal Navy ships to transport fruit from Chile to Britain, that's a subsidy. If Taylor Swift holds a festival in Hyde Park and the council clears the rubbish away afterwards, that's a subsidy.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by lpm » Thu Aug 26, 2021 9:20 am

Having now read the IMF thing and its links like this paper, I'm particularly enjoying how some people think they can just wave it away by simply redefining what a subsidy is.

Apparently if you change the terminology so that a subsidy is only defined as a subsidy if it's cash in 20p coins handed over at dawn on the winter solstice in Tesco Basingstoke carpark while singing Paul McCartney's frog song, then we discover fossil fuels receive zero subsidies.

If the King of Ruritania charges a penny toll for everyone crossing a bridge but grants the monks of Gazprom Abbey the right to cross for free, everyone would say the monks are being granted a subsidy. They are getting something regular people have to pay a toll for, the king is paying to build a bridge and maintain it but the monks don't need to pay their share. The king himself, if in dispute with Gazprom Abbey, might very well tell the Abbot to quit moaning about money because they're generously being given financial support through zero bridge fees. It's remarkably silly to claim it's not a subsidy, on the grounds that you've redefined a subsidy to mean only the monks being given a penny every time they cross the bridge.

Read the IMF stuff and you can see various ways Gazprom Abbey is being subsidised by the king, without the actual handing over of pennies by the king to the abbot. The king transports their wool for them, sells them discounted timber to build looms, cleans up the river of the dyes leaking out of the dyeing sheds, entitles them to hold a cloth market for free, sends the sheriff to protect the market from thieves and waives away the normal tax on cloth being exported to overseas customers. Are we really going to listen to the Abbot when he boasts that their enormous cloth manufacturing profits came without receiving a single penny in subsidy from the King?

And this is the f.cking IMF. They're not a bunch of Extinction Rebellion hippies coming up with imaginary figures while have a relaxing joint.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by lpm » Thu Aug 26, 2021 9:42 am

Alternatively:

When I get my EV, the government is giving me a direct £2,500 in cash to reduce the purchase price of the vehicle. It's also giving me £350 towards installation of a home charging thing. If you narrow down the definition of subsidy, then that's all you see. This is Ivan's Egyptian bread subsidy.

But also the VED is zero, compared to £155 or something for an ICE car. Paying zero tax when most people pay a standard tax is not a subsidy if you follow Ivan's pedantic use of language.

The real benefit comes from fuel. Drivers are charged about 80p in tax per litre of petrol, which is about £6 of tax for every 100 miles driven. But when filling up an EV with electricity the tax is only 5% VAT. If I'm doing my maths right the EV only pays 25p in tax for driving 100 miles. This can only be seen as a subsidy for the EV driver, govt policy that gives EV a huge cost advantage to run. EV drivers don't pay for congestion, road maintenance, noise pollution etc like normal drivers have to do. Yet Ivan argues that how can it possibly be a subsidy when tax is actually being paid.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by IvanV » Thu Aug 26, 2021 10:00 am

lpm wrote:
Thu Aug 26, 2021 9:20 am
Having now read the IMF thing and its links like this paper, I'm particularly enjoying how some people think they can just wave it away by simply redefining what a subsidy is.
The trouble is that the people who claimed the subsidies are large began by redefining what a subsidy is, or at least took a definition of subsidy from somewhere else that was not relevant to the present discussion, and resulted in a definition that was utterly laughable. It seems to me to be a kind of Trump vs Sanders debating tactic, and about as likely to come to a useful consensus. It's unfortunate, but when the people on the "other side" are making hyperbolic arguments, it is easy to be tempted to do the same thing in the other direcion.

There is a very respectable argument for saying that fossil fuels ought to have much higher taxes on them, especially in the UK, gas. One reason they don't do that is that it is regressive and damages the situation of the poor. But even more prominent in their mind is the thing about annoying the voters. Even in wealthy, well-run, countries, the voters are inclined to riot over fuel taxes. And it less well organised places it' can be even less pleasant, eg, 1977 Bread riots in Egypt.

But that's a debate over the appropriate rate of tax. It seems to me that slamming a lower rate of tax as a subsidy is not a tactic liable to promote a sensible discussion and consensus so that we can take things in a sensible direction.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Fri Aug 27, 2021 12:23 am

lpm wrote:
Thu Aug 26, 2021 7:57 am
If Taylor Swift holds a festival in Hyde Park and the council clears the rubbish away afterwards, that's a subsidy.
If they won't do it for Ed Sheenan, it migh tbe regarded as a subsidy for Taylor Swift, If only music festivals get the service, it might be a subsidy for music. But if it's a service generally provided to everyone, then it isn't a subsidy.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Fri Aug 27, 2021 12:52 am

lpm wrote:
Thu Aug 26, 2021 9:20 am
Having now read the IMF thing and its links like this paper, I'm particularly enjoying how some people think they can just wave it away by simply redefining what a subsidy is.
Anything which has been waved in by redefing a common word can be waved out as easily.

And that paper is crazy. Looking at Figure 1, it claims that the cost of "Local Pollution" for coal per GJ is hugely higher in the UK than in most other countries. While I could believe that there is some variation between countries in the type of generators used, the difference is just too big to be credible. Plus, of course, that's in no way a subsidy of anything. Both coal and gas are subject to VAT in the UK, yet that is not shown.

With regard to the road fuels, it includes categories such as "Road damage", "congestion" and "accidents". These are clearly not any kind of subsidy either.

And the treatment of VAT is deceitful. It's shown like the costs, as if the more VAT charged the bigger the retail price needs to be, which is exactly backwards. Even by their own deluded reasoning, if the retail price is as least as big as the costs, then there is no subsidy. Adding VAT on top does not mean the retain price needs to increase to avoid subsidy. That would mean that if the unsubsidised cost is $2 and you get charged VAT of $10, it shows up as a $10 subsidy.
Apparently if you change the terminology so that a subsidy is only defined as a subsidy if it's cash in 20p coins handed over at dawn on the winter solstice in Tesco Basingstoke carpark while singing Paul McCartney's frog song, then we discover fossil fuels receive zero subsidies.

If the King of Ruritania charges a penny toll for everyone crossing a bridge but grants the monks of Gazprom Abbey the right to cross for free, everyone would say the monks are being granted a subsidy. They are getting something regular people have to pay a toll for, the king is paying to build a bridge and maintain it but the monks don't need to pay their share.
If the king has built the bridge with his own money, then yes it is a subsidy. And it might be a subsidy to the regular people also if they are charged less than the true cost. But if the king has paid for the bridge out of general taxation, then no it is not a subsidy. If you claim otherwise then absolutely everything is subsidised as everything relies in some way on something provided by the state.
And this is the f.cking IMF. They're not a bunch of Extinction Rebellion hippies coming up with imaginary figures while have a relaxing joint.
Whatever they're on, it's clearly a powerful hallucinogenic.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 30, 2021 9:26 pm

As interesting as the definition of a subsidy might be academically, I don't think it's hugely germane to this discussion of the climate emergency.

Perhaps some sources are using the word 'subsidy' too broadly. If we replace it with "governments are providing $trillions in support to fossil fuels, via subsidies, tax breaks, in-kind assistance and other mechanisms," the idiocy of the status quo is still readily apparent. People need, and governments have committed to providing, a rapid reduction in fossil fuels. That means they need to end most forms of support as soon as possible, including but by no means limited to direct subsidies, and channel those resources into the transition to sustainability.

If you're stuck down a deep hole, it would be stupid to continue paying the salary of the guy digging it. But you also wouldn't lend him your spade, cook him dinner, or give him a back rub. You'd demand he stopped, and probably beat him up.

The climate emergency will continue to worsen until we shut down the fossil fuel industry. There is no sensible justification for continuing to support it by any means.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 30, 2021 9:30 pm

Interesting study in the Graun: Over-50s want climate crisis addressed ‘even if it leads to high prices’.
The majority of over-50s believe the UK government should be doing more to address the climate crisis, even if it leads to higher prices, a study has found.

A survey of more than 500 people aged 50 and over found that almost two-thirds want ministers to move faster on climate initiatives, regardless of whether it meant products and services would be more expensive over time, or more difficult to access.

Stuart Lewis, the founder of Rest Less, which conducted the study, said: “Our research shows that midlifers feel a huge sense of responsibility for the health of the planet and their role in reducing climate change.”

Rest Less, a website that supports and provides advice to older people, also found that only a minority of older people said they were unconcerned about the climate crisis, challenging assumptions about a generational divide on environmental issues.

More than two in three people polled said they had bought fewer clothes to cut down on waste in recent years, while half reduced their vehicle use and consumed less meat and dairy. One in five said they only bought seasonal food, while half said they had reduced home energy use.

“The vast majority of midlifers we surveyed are already making changes to their own habits, from recycling more to consuming less, changing their travel habits, with some even giving up their car altogether,” Lewis said.
I'm happy to admit that I thought many consumers, especially older ones, would be more averse to price rises. I'm even happier to find that I'm wrong about that. The majority are already doing what's reasonably in their power to reduce climate damage, despite its resulting in personal expense and inconvenience. They want governments to join them in taking action, and would accept further inconvenience and cost increases.

So, even accepting that price increases are realistically likely in most jurisdictions, it seems that most consumers are sufficiently well-informed to understand the motivation behind them.

I don't think people who care about evidence should particularly be emphasising concerns about costs as a reason to delay action.
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