Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Sustainable Energy Strategy: It's Time
Guest Perspective/Roy Morrison
The earth is getting hotter. Arctic ice and permafrost are melting. In New Hampshire, my neighbors are still harvesting tomatoes in October. It's time to act.
But there's good news. We can slash greenhouse gas emissions while eliminating dependence on oil imports and building sustainable prosperity.
This isn't pie in the sky. It's the law in California mandating greenhouse gas cuts of 25 percent by 2020. It's detailed nationally by the Sustainable Energy Network in a blueprint for efficiency and renewables.
We don't need new inventions. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory draft report finds that renewables could meet 99 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2020. We don't need to break the bank. And we can't depend on a deal with the nuclear power devil to save us.
Electricity is 19 percent of world energy use. Nukes contribute just 3 percent. Even doubling or tripling the number of nukes, at great expense per pound carbon saved, will only be of modest help.
Today, a nuclear plant's fuel cycle (mining, milling, enrichment, et. al.) produces about a third of the net carbon dioxide of a natural gas plant. But the world is rapidly running short of high-grade uranium ore. Low grade ore processing can release more net carbon than it saves. The available alternative for a high grade uranium shortage is reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to launch a global trade in plutonium.

We need to cut rampant energy waste and take advantage of efficiency measures and plentiful renewable resources.
It's not heavy lifting to double auto mileage per gallon over the next decade, or to reduce oil and coal consumption 1 percent a year.
Conventional electric plants waste two-thirds of their energy. Instead, home based cogeneration systems (to be sold by Keyspan) are 90 percent efficient, producing electricity and space heat. Existing power plants, like the Bow N.H. coal plant, should pipe heat to Concord for district heating instead of dumping it into the Merrimack River.
Oil, coal, and nukes remain "cheap" because they do not have to charge their true costs. We have pollution belching coal plants because the producers can shift costs to people downwind or to future generations. We pay for Middle East resource wars in blood and in treasure, but not at the gas pump. We endlessly subsidize nuclear plants and their waste.

The Path toward Sustainability
Our hearts tell us what we should do. Market prices tell us what we will do.
The challenge of the 21st century is to make prices reflect what we know is right.
The single most important step to help assure sustainable prosperity is to use ecological consumption taxes to make polluters and green house gas emitters charge their true costs.
By replacing income taxes with ecological consumption taxes, the market will send clear price signals. What's unsustainable will cost more. What's sustainable will cost less. Entrepreneurs and customers responding to price will quickly move emissions toward the sustainable.
Al Gore has proposed a carbon tax to replace payroll taxes.
My preferred alternative is stronger medicine. An ecological value added tax, or E-VAT, could replace all income taxes with consumption tax paid at the point of sale for all goods and services.
The E-VAT is a smart sales tax that avoids double taxation for businesses.
The more polluting, the higher the E-VAT tax rate. Phased in over 10 years, the E-VAT would replace all income taxes.
An average 18 percent E-VAT could finance the federal budget. There'd be no IRS and just a one page E-VAT tax form for businesses.
Get rid of greenhouse gases and the IRS. Ecological taxation is a good deal for America.
Roy Morrison's Democracy, Markets and Survival on ecological taxes will be published in 2006. He is a energy consultant working on wind hedges and smart metering.

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