Elon Musk – a Robust Carbon Tax would Speed the Clean Energy Transition

solar-and-wind-energy

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Elon Musk, the renewable energy entrepreneur, has given a speech in which he claims that a robust carbon tax would grossly enlarge his profits speed the global transition to clean energy.

According to The Guardian;

Innovator tells Sorbonne students that failing to price in damage done by carbon pollution is a $5.3tn a year subsidy for the fossil fuel industry

Addressing students at the Sorbonne University on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit, the electric car, Powerwall battery and space tycoon said the obvious solution to runaway global warming was to remove the effective subsidy of not pricing the damage done by carbon pollution, urging the students to campaign and lobby governments to implement the policy.

“To make it neither a left nor right issue we should make it a revenue-neutral carbon tax – increasing carbon tax and reducing tax in other areas like consumption taxes or VAT and in order to give companies time to react it should be a phased in approach,” he said.

“If countries agree to a carbon tax and it’s real and it’s not super watered down and weak we could see a transition [to clean energy] that has a 15- to 20-year timeframe as opposed to a 40- or 50-year timeframe, we could probably cut it in half and that would have a huge impact on the … welfare of the world … it really matters where we do this transition sooner or later.”

“For developing economies, they could leapfrog the fossil fuel situation with power lines, you could have remote villages with solar panels and a battery pack. Just like mobile phones – a lot of countries just didn’t do the landlines, they skipped right over landlines.”

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/03/elon-musk-says-robust-carbon-tax-would-speed-global-clean-energy-transition

The problem with the “skipping over” theory is it completely ignores the reality of poverty. Poor countries in Africa and elsewhere are struggling to afford what Musk claims is a “subsidised” price for fossil fuel electricity, let alone paying high upfront costs for renewables.

Worse, when energy needs change, heavy dependence on renewables, to the exclusion of other sources of energy, can throttle economic growth.

For example, WUWT recently reported how Zambia is struggling to balance soaring demand for energy from mining companies, energy which is mostly sourced from renewable hydro schemes, with the need to supply water for irrigation and drinking. The obvious solution is for Zambia to use their resources revenue to build a few cheap coal generators, to provide their mining boom with all the energy it needs to flourish, without ruining local farmers. But this solution would be unavailable to Zambia, if Elon Musk has his way.

I love what Musk has done for the space race. I even once wrote a positive article about Musk’s solar business. But to try to bar poor people from access to cheap fossil fuels with a global carbon tax, to condemn them to continued brutal poverty, to palm them off with low intensity local energy solutions, which prevent poor people from experiencing real economic development – in my view, that would just be wrong.

141 thoughts on “Elon Musk – a Robust Carbon Tax would Speed the Clean Energy Transition

  1. Someone needs to ask Musk if he favors a “Total Environmental Footprint Tax.” Methinks his tune would change.

      • Muskrat, readin by, candle light
        Doin’ the town, in the day light, in the town park’
        Cause the nighttime is too dark’
        Muskrat Talulah, Muskrat Elon
        Do the jitterbug and lookin for Funds
        As they shimmy, Elon is so skinny
        And they whirl and they twirl and they tango
        Singin’ and jinglin’ a jangle
        Float like the heavens above
        Looks like Muskrat Love
        Sellin us Cars and
        Rakin in Dough
        Elon says to Talulah
        Honey, would you Sho be my Mrs
        Talulah says, yes, with her kisses
        Now, he’s ticklin’ her fancy
        Rubbin’ her toes
        Muzzle to muzzle
        Now anything goes as they wriggle
        Talulah starts to giggle
        And they whirled and they twirled and they tango
        Singin’ and jinglin’ a jangle
        Floatin’ like the heavens above
        Looks like muskrat love

      • I might even be persuaded that a “Robust Carbon Tax” would speed clean energy transition; such as encourage Coal Plants to invest in chimney scrubbers.
        But I would only work in favor of a robust carbon tax, so long as not one dime of that tax money would ever become available to anyone seeking to fund some supposed “clean energy” project.
        Let the “clean energy” promoters, prove their case in the arena of free enterprise, by risking their own money in their own ideas and schemes.
        g
        So get off my back Elon Musk. But more power to what you can do with your own money.

    • The average person already pays about 50% of what they earn to the gosvernment in taxes. Billionaires rarely if ever pay taxes and if they do it is a pittance. Often they get millions in subsidies in return for campaign contributiona. Easy for him to talk.

      • Billionaires pay plenty. Check the IRS website to download tax revenue by income level if you don’t believe me. People earning over $200,000 paid more than 50% of all the personal income tax for 2013, the last year for which the IRS has posted data, but represented only 5,000,000 of 94,000,000 returns.

      • Elon Musk is a poster child for green energy rent seekers looking for handouts (disguised as concern over the environment) from the rest of us.
        I have no problem with billionaires as long as they are not becoming such off the government teet (which is really just someone with lots of money reaching into my rather austere wallet and telling me that this won’t hurt much).

    • Exactly, clean energy systems are not so CLEAN when considering the environmental impact of production, distribution and installation of the things!!! All on the back of………..oil to boot.

      • I’d be willing to accept ‘that failing to price in damage done by carbon pollution is a $5.3tn a year subsidy for the fossil fuel industry‘ as long as Musk et al were willing to factor in the benefit that cheap fossil fueled energy provides. I’d wager that that benefit would make $5.3tn look like chicken feed.

      • Not to mention that “renewables” still require fossil fuel sourced energy to build them, mine their component minerals, process them etc. And really, they are not even renewable in the strict sense.

    • I wonder if Musk would consider his $1 billion in Federal grants a subsidy, without which his companies would not have any profit.

    • Rob Dawg writes: “Someone needs to ask Musk if he favors a “Total Environmental Footprint Tax.””
      I agree completely. Elon seems more than happy to share his customers undeserved opinion that since his cars aren’t burning gasoline, the energy they use is carbon neutral, which any thinking person knows is total horsehockey.
      If Elon were to, for example, take an active interest in deploying Toshiba’s 4S is a fast neutron sodium reactor (or some equivalent technology) along with his adventures in high energy density storage solutions, he’s have a more complete story and one I think he could be honestly proud of, but pretending his cars are clean and reduce customers carbon footprint using today’s coal/natural gas dominated generation infrastructure is disingenuous to put it mildly.
      Coupling 4th generation nuclear designs with ultra-capacitor mobile storage such as the graphene based prototypes developed at UCLA with funding from Maxwell Technologies would be a very large step forward. It would be nice if he decided to walk the walk while talking the talk. I hate to cite Science magazine now McNutts has gone public with her “Two Degree Inferno” screed, but he should read “Laser Scribing of High-Performance and Flexible Graphene-Based Electrochemical Capacitors” by El-Kady et. al. published in her rag. There’s some good work there. When he can charge a car with a three hundred mile range in less than 5 minutes, the war will be over.

  2. Elon Musk feeds at the government trough. His “wealth” is dependent upon the taxpayers, is it any wonder he would favor a “robust carbon tax”?

      • Musk wants the government to pass law that would make money for him. Subsidies on oil companies give me a break. Look at the taxes already on gasoline at the pump. How stupid does Musk think we are?

      • The oil companies invest in other energy projects besides oil. And they have the funds to pay carbon taxes. Their competitors don’t. So oil companies are betting they would be welcomed at the public trough too, just like snake oil salesmen like Elon Musk.
        g

    • My understanding is that Musk makes more money out of trading his ‘certificates’ than out of the rest of his subsidy business … exactly how are those rapid charging stations and fancy ‘batteries’ actually going?

    • george e. smith writes: “The oil companies invest in other energy projects besides oil. And they have the funds to pay carbon taxes.”
      George I have to disagree with that one; oil producers aren’t going to be paying carbon taxes any more than tobacco companies pay tobacco taxes. You’ll be paying the carbon taxes and it will go throught he hands of the oil companies before it makes it to the government, increasing tax flow. There’s quite a bit of opportunity to profit on a revenue stream in the billions passing through your hands every quarter, even if it doesn’t belong to you. In my opinion there’s no mystery at all as to why oil companies favor a carbon tax.
      Ferd’s opinion that oil companies have been lobbying in “secret” to shut down coal is a good one I think. It makes a lot of sense.

  3. Punishing “carbon” in favor of so-called “clean” energy would of course be a boon to him and his ilk, but be hugely detrimental to humanity, harming economies and lowering living standards. I suppose he figures students at a university would be low-lying fruit and easy picking for his lies, and that they’d make good proselytizers for his Greenie propaganda.

    • Bruce, realize those were “Sorbonne University on the sidelines of the Paris” Like Paris, France; like where no CO2 nuclear is 80% of their electrical supply. Really “low-lying Fruit.”
      Eric –
      grossly enlarge his profits ???
      Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups.
      http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-83663044/
      To say nothing of gross revenue.
      energy which is mostly sourced from renewable hydro schemes, with the need to supply water for irrigation and drinking.
      My mother, when asked what was the stupidest question she ever heard asked of a tour guide would reply;
      “At the end of a tour of Grand Coulée Dam after being shown the generators, pipes and turbine, some woman asked “Is the water any good after you take all the electricity out of it?”
      The above line is kind of like that.

      • DD More writes: “My mother, when asked what was the stupidest question she ever heard …”
        “Columbia Basin Project” anyone? 🙂
        My grandfather on one side built the Grand Coulee, on the other side farmed the Columbia Basin, so you could say it’s in my blood.
        “Is the water any good after you take all the electricity out of it?”
        Never heard that before but it’s a keeper. Thanks!

  4. Nice quote from Bjorn Lomborg: “Instead of trying to make fossil fuels so expensive that no one wants them – which will never work – we should make green energy so cheap that everybody will shift to it.”

    • What? A FREE MARKET approach to the ‘problem? Actually supplying a product – in this case energy – which is “green” at a cost which is less than existing non green supplies? What a novel idea! [But it will never work because government will step in and mess it up] And someone other than Al Gore might actually make money on it and that is not allowed!

  5. A “robust carbon tax” facilitates a robust subsidy for his companies. … Funny how that works…

  6. Use Stern’s present day cost estimate of the future cost of the repairing and replacement works needed as a result of even the most extreme disruption and damage forecast by the CAGW/Climate Change Industry. I stand to be corrected, but I think that was $US80 per tonne of CO2 emitted.
    Using this value and the UK Power Generation/CO2 data logged by the DECC for Coal, Gas and Wind Turbine power, and including the essential GT standby needed with WT’s for no/low wind conditions you can compare the “environmental” savings of using WT’s/GT s/b’s and GT’s acting alone as replacements for Coal Fired Plants; capacity for capacity the best CO2 saving option available per unit power generated. This saving works out at far less than 0.5 per kwhr. The only other saving is the saving of the cost of gas for 70-75% of the total WT/GT s/b system’s power generated by the GT s/b’s. In addition, for simplification, let’s also assume the base load GT is the same unit as the GT s/b’s in the Wind Farm total system, although the mix of OCGT’s and CCGT’s may have to be different..
    Comparing total CAPEX and OPEX costs of Base Load GT’s and WT/GT s/b’s the additional costs to the consumer for using WT’s is as follows:
    1. Full CAPEX/OPEX and Replacement Costs of the WT’s.
    2. Full CAPEX/OPEX Costs of the enhanced/additional Power Transmission Works needed to connect the remote WT’s to areas of actual Power Demand. Only needed for WT’s as GT’s can be located locally adjacent to replaced CFPS’s.
    3. Full costs of the overall more complex Grid System management/control system
    4. Additional CAPEX/OPEX costs of the GT’s including additional fuel costs, maintenance and replacement costs, arising solely because the GTs/b’s will operate intermittently and at varying and very often much lower power output than optimum due to them having to continually match WT’s capricious varying power output shortfall.
    5. Less the costs of the above mentioned less than 0.50 p/kwhr environmental saving
    6. Less the costs of the above mentioned gas fuel savings – something now much lower due to the dramatic reduction in gas prices.
    Given this proper cost comparison shows that the introduction of WT’s will never even match base load GTPS overall total unit power costs no matter how much R&D money is thrown at them, or even if gas prices fell back to previous levels.
    The trick that renewable energy supporters keep attempting to pull, and too often succeed in, is to compare WT’s alone with GT’s forgetting all the other necessary ancillary works and costs others incur and provide, for which the consumer has to pay for, within the over Power Supply System.

    • there is probably a primer available to define the acronyms but it will cost a pretty penny (no ugly pennies allowed)

    • I would say WT is a Wind Turbine. GT s a Gas Turbine. GTPS is probably a Gas Turbine Power Station. CAPEX is CAPital EXpenditure. Opex is OPeration EXpenditure. DECC?? s/b’s?? OCGT?? CCGT?? CFPS is probably Coal Fired Power Station. I don’t know, I find posts like this really annoying. I try to qualify all acronyms I use so that others can follow my posts.

  7. Reblogged this on pattikellar and commented:
    The author states: “I love what Musk has done for the space race. I even once wrote a positive article about Musk’s solar business. But to try to bar poor people from access to cheap fossil fuels with a global carbon tax, to condemn them to continued brutal poverty, to palm them off with low intensity local energy solutions, which prevent poor people from experiencing real economic development – in my view, that would just be wrong.”
    I say not just’wrong’, it is wilfully blind and morally bankrupt.

    • What’s to like about Musk’s “solar business”.
      You allow him the use of your roof and access to your solar insolation, rent free, and he will charge you a little less than PG&E for your own energy. And you don’t own his inefficient solar panels, so he collects the tax subsidies, and he has no incentive to make his solar panels work any better. The more they cost, the more subsidy he gets.
      I would rent him my roof at a cost based on my solar insolation at say 1,000 W/m^2 (normal to sun), and he can keep his energy collected and sell it to PG&E or whoever for what they will give him. That way, I don’t care how crummy his panels are.
      And of course he would prepay me for removal of his junk when they crap out.
      g

  8. The accepted pollutants such as particulate carbon, sulphates, and NOX emissions are already covered in western Clean Air Acts and Anti-Acid Rain regulations. The costs of this are relatively small when building new plants and affordable – but the Developing World is not even proposing this. CO2 is not a pollutant nor is it a problem but its loathing by the CAGW/Climate Change industry and supporters is costing us £billions.

  9. Given that there are already subsidies for renewables, do you not agree that it would be better to remove these and replace them with a revenue neutral carbon tax?
    Note that here I am notsaying there should be subsidies or tax, but that if we actually do have one or the other, a tax is better. So please no comments about CO2 being beneficial, because that is not the point I am making.
    If we have subsidies it involves the Govt trying to pick winners – e.g. solar panels or fuel efficiency for cars. The tax removes this problem.

    • Any tax on a specific item, or class of items, is also a case of the govmint picking winners or losers. If your really worried about pollution the best thing is to tax all consumption, and tax it transparently at the retail level. You can exempt food, and you should probably exempt many carbon-based products, like gasoline, propane, natural gas, etc., since those are the most regressive taxes possible.
      A retail sales tax can also be based on a progressive scale, for example, personal items, such as clothes, over $50, cars over $20K, I wouldn’t mind seeing a 15% tax on all sales that reach a threshold of “discretionary spending.” Granted, there’s a fair amount of judgement in that threshold, but there’s even more judgement in the current progressive tax structure, and in all the excise and tariff fees that are currently implemented.

      • Nope – an exemption is no different than a subsidy at the end of the day – you are still favoring one person or product over another. Besides, any fool knows that those exemptions will immediately be altered by the political process. But all of this is predicated on the tax being justified by the “damage” caused by the CO2 and since there is no damage, the tax is unjustified. Personally, I propose that the first carbon tax be 100% of all net worth in excess of $100 million on persons and nonprofits – because do people like Musk (and entities like the Gates Foundation) really need that money? They sure seem willing to insist the government take a big chunk of money from relatively poor people to support their schemes.

    • If we have subsidies it involves the Govt trying to pick winners – e.g. solar panels or fuel efficiency for cars. The tax removes this problem.

      Simply eliminating the subsides removes the problem just as well and more simply.
      We do not need both, and we do not need one or the other.
      But really what did you just propose?
      Case 1: Subsidize renewables, no punitive measures on fossil fuels.
      Economic Advantage: Renwables
      Case 2: No subsidy for renewables, punitive taxes on fossil fuels.
      Economic Advantage: Renwables
      Absolutely the same outcome, with govt. picking the winner, and pulling more money from the taxpayer, to top it off.
      Big Deal.

      • Mark: A tax on consumption would have lower deadweight loss than a tax on any particular sector, but it would not be a replacement for the subsidies.
        TonyL. Eliminating the subsidies removes that problem, but was not the point I was making. IF we have one or the other, a tax is better. You are correct that case 1 and case 2 give an economic advantage to renewables, so in that regard they are the same. But very importantly the tax has fewer losses elsewhere, so is preferable.
        The example of the recent post regarding aluminium in cars applies here. If Government decides to try to reduce fossil fuel use by imposing fuel economy restrictions on cars, we might end up using more fossil fuel because more aluminium is used and aluminium uses a lot of fuel to smelt. If the government applied a tax, then there would be no incentive to use extra aluminium at the expense of more fossil fuels.

      • Why not tax stupidity? Stupid people are clearly not paying their fair share for the harm they do. We should make this revenue neutral so that in 10 or 20 years we will be stupidity free.

      • Stupidity could be defined in relative terms though. If you were placed into Deepest Darkest Africa straight from the halls of Harvard, and had a 180 IQ, the local tribes would most certainly view you as stupid as you wouldn’t know even the basics of living there

    • Just get govt out of the business of deciding which economic activities are good and which are bad.
      Eliminate all subsidies and taxes should be either income or wealth based, they should not be based on whether you are doing something the govt likes or dislikes.

      • Whose government specifically are you referring to? Governments have been taking positions to help particular industries for 1000 years. If you want to live in fairy tale land, go ahead, the rest of us live in the real world where government support of particular industries is a fact of life.

      • Let me get this straight. You are arguing that since govts have been bad for thousands of years, nobody should try to improve govt?

      • No, that is not what I am arguing. Your implication is that any government involvement in any industrial sectors is bad. Your view is “just let the private sector sort it out, keep government out of the way”. Without the US government, there would be no nuclear industry, the IT industry would be a fraction of what it was today. The US Transcontinental Railroad would not exist without government support as the banks would not take on the risk. I can cite examples all day long, both for the US and other countries. Please cite me one example of a prosperous economy that developed with little to no government support. The only example is Hong Kong, and that was more as a gateway to China than for any other reason.

      • As far as the Nuclear industry goes, without Government involvement, the industry would probably have been Thorium based rather than Uranium/Plutonium based. Thorium is far more abundant but Plutonium/Uranium was opted for, By Government, because Thorium can’t be weaponized

      • In fact, Critical mass can be achieved with only 12 kilos of plutonium, a sphere about 10cm (4 inches) in diameter
        Thorium won’t do this at all and so wasn’t fashionable into weapons.

      • Chris, the problem with your approach is that it has no boundaries.
        Government regulations, taxation, and crony capitalism impose large costs. Unlimited regulation, taxation, and crony capitalism impose unlimited costs.
        This is a frustrating topic because we’ve been through all this many times. State socialism is history’s largest mass murderer despite being “rational”, and “scientific”, and atheist, and representing “economic democracy”. There are hundreds of decrepit societies ruined by unlimited government yet you still write as though there is no problem here.
        There is a socio-legal basis behind free markets, and that is property law. I.e., rules against theft, fraud, and extortion and in favor of transparent accounting and clear, accurate labeling. Beyond that limited but crucial role, the government should be very wary about picking winners and losers.
        The deep logic of free markets is the principle of mutual informed consent. Buyers and sellers are largely free to make any exchanges they can, so long as this bedrock principle is observed. This arrangement has two big benefits. Because both buyer and seller tend to make the best deals they can in competition with other buyers and sellers, those exchanges, in an important sense produce optimal mutual benefit. In addition, both buyer and seller are placed under a rational incentive that encourages all players to increase the value of what they offer, and reduce the cost to themselves. That is why capitalism tends to cause a NET increase in wealth and productivity over time.
        When “well-meaning” regulators wander into this thicket of transactions and begin issuing instructions, that hubris very often generates huge unintended consequences which nonetheless become enshrined in law. No doubt you are against crony capitalism, but every single regulation that interferes with the Mutual Informed Consent process argued above creates opportunities for cronyism. Unbounded regulation creates unbounded cronyism.
        In your blase “government support of particular industries is a fact of life” view, where are the limits?

      • Chris – “The US Transcontinental Railroad would not exist without government support as the banks would not take on the risk. ”
        Try the Great Northern Railway – Subsidies of large grants of land and cash had helped build earlier lines to the Pacific coast. Mr. Hill’s venture was unique in that land grants or other government aids were neither sought nor given. Only government lands ever received by Mr. Hill’s company were those attached to 600 miles of railway in Minnesota constructed by predecessor companies and acquired by purchase.
        https://www.gnrhs.org/gn_history.php
        The N part of BNSF.

      • Tom Yoke, I am not someone who believes that the government always knows best, far from it. But I have seen the impact of government policies, and the impact of a laissez faire attitude. For example, compare the UK and Germany. Germany has always had a strong policy of government support for industry. And even though German companies have high wage rates, and are strongly unionized, they have still prospered. In the UK, under Thatcher, a very laissez faire approach was taken towards industry – and the result was that large sectors such as shipbuilding, steel, automotive mfg – went into pronounced decline.
        I live in Singapore, which is held up as a paragon of free market capitalism. Except that’s not true. The government is enormously involved in the economy, targeting particular sectors (such as pharma) and then putting in place a series of actions ranging from training programs, recruitment of companies, incentives to locate here, which has led to growth in this sector. I fully agree that onerous or bureaucratic government involvement causes problems, but well designed policies and actions help an economy.

  10. There are, presently on ebay UK, lithium 18650 cells, 3.7V at 4400mAh for sale at 33pence.
    So 20GBP will get me 1kWh of storage, then add 10 GBP for a control circuit plus a box to put it in, say US$50 for 1kWh of storage. I know, the inveterate fiddler in me (and curiosity) got some.
    and Musk is proposing to sell his 5kWh batteries for US$3,000, a price mark-up of 12 times AND he’s wanting subsidy to acheive that low price?
    Where’s all this money coming from?

    • Its coming from Jerry and Nana Smith’s pocket, obviously (to the quesiton, “Where’s all this money coming from?”)
      P.T.Barnum: a fool and his money will soon be parted
      GoatGuy

    • Some problems big and smaller (in no particular order).
      – Packing lots of cheap Lithium batteries into a small space is a massively large fire hazard.
      – Cooling and overheat monitoring-alarm circuits are necessary.
      – As battery pack production scales up, demand will drive up prices in a currently slack Li-bat market. Hi Quality cells will be a premium.
      – Lithium batteries go bad and have to be replaced.
      -Hot environments will lead to much shorter service life.
      The Li or NiMH battery pack in newer hybrids autos is the best indication of where this is headed. Prius battery (which is NiMH in the hybrid, Li-ion in the plugin model) replacements (just the pack, not the labor) run about $2,800 for a new pack. Reconditioned packs can be had for about $800, but reconditioned [is] just a failed pack that had a few cells replaced and the whole pack discharged and condition cycled.
      A Tesla model S battery though probably comes in at around $15K-$20K though. But there none to little markt experience to know for sure.
      The bottom line is that the batteries, if used constantly, must be replaced, and the cost is significant.

  11. Another leftist rent-seeker wants govt to eliminate all competition to one of his businesses.
    How surprising.

  12. As others have correctly observed Musk operates strictly in the political economy. His PayPal co-founder Peter Theil calls him a Super Salesman. That’s somewhat different from the positive conotations of visionary.
    Mr Musk has perfected crony capitalism and the just rewards will come. Not in his pocket but in the tatters of his reputation.

  13. “Elon Musk – a Robust Carbon Tax would Speed the Clean Energy Transition”

    It would also speed the deaths of those already in energy poverty and move swathes of less affluent into energy poverty. This would be a worldwide regressive tax.

  14. I believe carbon taxes are defacto tax grabs. Governments and their organized employees are always desperate for your money to fund their lavish programs. I believe taxes on politically censured behaviours will increasingly become the norm. It’s the sneaky way to socialism.
    Consider that when such taxes are applied, they certainly do not lower the general tax rate in compensation. Consider also that, in the case of a carbon fuel tax, just the fluctuating price of fuel makes no practical dent on our driving actions. Yes I know all about the economic theories concerning price vs. volume.
    I’ve witnessed the price of fuel fluctuating from a Canadian dollar per liter to much more than $1.30. Why are the commute roads still plugged?
    Consumers consider the carbon tax simply the price of doing business. Besides, I guarantee you that here in British Columbia where we have a carbon tax, no one even has any idea how much the carbon tax actually is. Much like we have no idea, or even care, what the gas tax component itself is.

    • Good comment. Also what is this “clean” energy he speaks of? This is not a transformation of the sort that was, say, draft horses to delivery trucks. It resembles more nearly the transition ocean passenger liners to dirigibles, which might have happened, but didn’t. There are no real alternatives to fossil fuels at present, especially with so much opposition to nuclear.

    • “Yes I know all about the economic theories concerning price vs. volume.”
      The economic argument is that at the margin price affects volume. The marginal consumer is ambivalent between spending a particular dollar on fuel or something else. If the fuel goes up, he spends on something else.
      The elasticity of demand says how much of an efffect there will be. For something that is totally inelastic the volume will not vary at all with price. Fuel is not totally inelastic, therefore volume will vary with price.

      • Very good seaice1, exactly what they taught me in business school. But for all practical purposes the commuter karma is running over your dogma.

      • Sorry, couldn’t resist. I think fuel is far more inelastic than can be given credit. Maybe not quite like the price of insulin. The proof is in the pudding: what we see in the real world. Giving up the accessibility of a purchased car would call for massive increases in fuel prices and a willing substitution of significant inconvenience, to say nothing of the power of a seemingly fundamental social imperative to drive. As fuel prices naturally go down due to oil prices, a pump carbon tax is just suspect. Look at the hidden fuel taxes. Look at rising fuel prices. If ever there was the equivalent of a carbon tax, there it is. Stats might show commuters are substituting to some degree, but one’s eyeballs tell a different story.

      • One way fuel use is elastic is because people decide to buy smaller cars with better fuel economy. You don’t have to cut miles driven to cut fuel used.

  15. “Addressing students at the Sorbonne University on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit, the electric car, Powerwall battery and space tycoon said the obvious solution to runaway global warming…”
    WHAT runaway warming?

  16. A carbon tax won’t “enlarge his profits”, at least on Tesla, which has lost money every quarter except one, and that was because of carbon indulgences bought from him by Honda and Toyota.

    • Of course a carbon tax will improve Tesla’s profitability. It will make electric cars more financially attractive compared to gas or diesel powered cars, which will drive sales volumes.

  17. I think there should be a tax on people for remaining on the planet Earth. Besides Tesla, SpaceX needs some help too.

    • A head tax is indeed the one with the least deadweight loss. Since the tax cannot be avoided by changing behaviour, nobody changes their behaviour. Therefore it does not have a distorting effect on the economy.

  18. The damage done by the combination of general stupidity and carefully crafted self interest is $10.6Tn per year. Let’s put the kabosh on that.

  19. Isn’t this a conflict of interest?
    Elon Musk wants carbon taxes, and high fossil fuels prices, so people will stop driving fossil fuel powered cars, and start driving electric cars. Hopefully, Teslas.

    • The man is running a hobby shop for car production. I’d like to see him catch up with the production of Honda and AW-Audi of this world.

  20. It is precisely such a fellow that would be a major beneficiary of the new policy. Hey, I don’t see anything wrong with a businessman lobbying for his sector. I would lobby for it to be denied out of the same font of self interest.

  21. I am OK with the tax, provided everyone has to pay the tax for their ‘consequences’ as well. Fair’s fair.
    The carbon footprint of ‘renewables’ is massive and the price of ‘renewables’ is only as ‘low’ as it is because they do not have to manufacture it with power from renewables without subsidies, of course. The renewables are made using power from coal and hydro. For the most part, it is coal, not so much hydro.
    Elon’s batteries are an extremely expensive way to try to store usable electricity for making….batteries. His Power Wall would cost many times more if it’s manufacturing were powered by solar PV.
    The fact that Google engineers have admitted they cannot even run Google servers using renewables is proof enough that they will never be able to manufacture servers and hard disks and operate them.

    • Remember how Ballard Energy in Burnaby, BC was going to solve the storage problem? It’s now a small specialty fuel cell company. They sold their fuel cell technology to Daimler and Ford as they couldn’t make one that was cost effective for automobiles.
      They have worked hard at it for 35+ years, always with great hope just around the corner. Someday. But not today. Good for them for trying though.

  22. What I find most interesting about this mindset is how much the left embraces it. I have been lambasted on several forums over the years for supporting the variations of the “fair tax”. I was told this is a tax for the wealthy and keeps the poor down even when I explained we could set the level of tax reimbursement higher or whatever else to make sure it burdens the low and middle classes no more or even less then the current system. Yet many of the same people see no issues heavily taxing energy?
    Personally even if I thought this was a major issue, this seems the wrong way to go entirely. Rather we need workable affordable solutions first. thorium reactors? solar arrays beaming energy from space? no idea, but unless we can retain most of our current level of lifestyle its just going to fail anyway imo. People will just vote in those who dismantle whatevers built.

  23. The argument should not be based on the impact it would have on the poor. If the assumption that the use of hydrocarbons burdens us with $5.3tn then carbon should be taxed. We could then see how we go about helping the poor.
    However, I would question calling CO2 emissions “carbon pollution” and challenge Elon Musk to document his 5.3 trillion. Maybe CO2 is preventing us from going into an Ice Age. Maybe it is feeding plants and helping green desert areas. Maybe it is warming the planet which will open new areas for human habitation. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe Elon Musk makes his money from government subsidies and is not such a great businessman. I do not know.

    • What does SpaceX power it’s rockets with? Unicorn farts? (Sorry, the answer is liquid oxygen and RP-1 … RP stands for Refined Petroleum – basically high grade kerosene) But that’s ok, cause it’s for the common good, right? Spell h_p_c_i_e. It’s just business promotion so that’s ok, we understand.

  24. “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
    Adam Smith, the Wealth of Nations.

    • I notice that the above quote went to moderation. Because it contains the “c” word.
      But, now that it is posted, it can be used by Lewandowsky as the basis of his latest psychological paper on the link between skepticism and not agreeing with Lewandowsky.
      Lewandowsky can add Adam Smith to a cherry picked list of c*nsp*r*cy theorists, who support libertarian politics!!!

  25. “Elon Musk – a Robust Carbon Tax would Speed the Clean Energy Transition”
    ==========
    Why not a robust tax on poor people to and poverty? Or how about a tax on sick people to end disease? Or a tax on criminals to and crime? Or a tax on Isis to wipe out terrorism?

    • Seriously. If taxing something will get rid of the thing being taxed, why not tax drugs? If climate change is such a big problem how come fossil fuekfuels are legal and pot is illegal? Does that mean that reefer madness is a greater threat than climate change? Because the laws sure seem to indicate it is.

      • ferdberple

        Seriously. If taxing something will get rid of the thing being taxed, why not tax drugs? If climate change is such a big problem how come fossil fuekfuels are legal and pot is illegal? Does that mean that reefer madness is a greater threat than climate change? Because the laws sure seem to indicate it is.

        Ah, but you do miss the (intended) effect of taxes (raising revenue from those who will pay the tax (and can pay the tax), to give to those who will vote for the ones who will tax other people BUT who will pay the ones voting for the taxers.
        Thus, fossil fuels (a needed and essential part of life to those who live (1/2 of whom pay taxes)) IS a revenue source BECAUSE it is essential to modern life. Reefers and dopers – NOT a tax source of tax revenue, and who ordinarily won’t pay taxes anyway since they are already outside of the law – don’t care whether you tax weed and dope or not.

  26. “Revenue neutral tax” This is the same thing as a unicorn. Fictional. It is a fictional construct created to make the gullible believe they’ll not see less money in their wallet over time. Implement a carbon tax and watch for the other taxes to fall… No, I think I’d prefer not to try that. Thanks for the entertaining attempt to steal from us once again.

  27. So why doesn’t the US implement a revenue neutral tax on gun violence? If taxes are the answer then tax the beejesus out of folks that hose down their neighborhood with automatic weapons. i can hear the politicians already. Don’t you go setting off any bombs now, or we will sick a revenue neutral tax on your ass.

  28. There is a stain of failure of Elon Musk’s shining armor. No more public money for him. Carbon tax is public money by another means.

  29. I have learned and had reinforced over several decades the idea that “evil” is the willingness to allow other people to suffer.
    Musk, in his infatuation with his ideals for humanity regardless of their actual effects on people, is drifting in that direction.

  30. I think we should look at making the playing field even. Put a 30% to 100% tax on ALL vehicles from bicycles to Smart Cars, to Telsa, to every gasoline and diesel vehicle. The goal is to maintain our road systems; and to encourage people to travel less, thus using fewer resources. Telsa’s have the same tire wear leaving rubber bits in the ditch, you still need to put gravel and salt on the winter roads, you still need to fix potholes but if there are less vehicles, less maintenance.
    Yes, I know it affects the poor more. Give them a subsidy from a “Revenue Neutral tax” 😉 But having worked in developing countries where a vehicle had huge import taxes making vehicles twice or more the North American or Japanese cost, it clearly reduced the number of vehicles on the road. (Thailand at one time had a 300% import duty.) Transportation for most was by bus. taxi, bicycle or motor scooter. This was a simple thought out solution by several governments back in the 90’s when I worked overseas to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. It also lead to a huge black market but that is another issue.
    An exemption for big rigs hauling freight would be fine, they’ll pay at the pump. Telsa should also pay at the “pump” just like the gasoline and diesel drinkers.
    Make the playing field even. How about that, Elon?
    Of course if you have ever been to any of those countries, you know how well that kind of tax reduced pollution. Do I need a Sarc tag on any of this?

    • Actually, Singapore has implemented a system of high car taxes (called COE), time of day road taxes (ERP) and high fuel taxes. It has by far the least traffic problems of any big city in Asia, and the least pollution of any country.

  31. A robust carbon tax would speed the environmental destruction in second and third-world nations, and accelerate the effort of politicians, journalists, teachers, activists, and “green” entrepreneurs to obfuscate and deny the environmental disruption and corruption caused by “green” technologies excluding drivers.
    Perhaps he would like to restate his vision with a frame-based argument.

  32. a Robust Carbon Tax would Speed the CleanED MONEY Transition into Elon Musk’s bank account.
    Google (or DuckDuckGo) Elon Musk Rent Seeker.

  33. I like the Tesla, but hate that it is a rich boy’s toy that is supported by poor people’s taxes.
    I love his outlook on space but hate that he is a crony capitalist whose wealth is greatly dependent on taking money from productive areas and funneling it into his (and his pals) wallets.

  34. News flash. Government making billion off carbon taxes decides it wants taxes (carbon ) to continue.
    Anyone that thinks the government will want to end a carbon cash cow is either a liar or a fool. The government will end up creating co2 as a means of increasing taxes.

  35. Odd isn’t it? In the past, new ideas developed, were developed, and became “the next best thing” simply by being good and economical. Yet when it comes to alternative energy, no one wants to invest in developing it better. We might have worthwhile energy coming from solar and wind if there was a “smarter and more efficient” system, yet they developed an idea part way and want to make a killing on the half azzed idea before they do additional research to make it only a quarter-azzed idea, and then a better idea. Alternative energy isn’t the only thing that suffers from this technique, but it is the current “big thing” that does. Are solar panels a good idea? I would say so if there was an efficient way to convert and store its output, but they don’t really want to develop a better panel until they have saturated the world with the half-azzed panels. As soon as the marketplace is saturated, they will bring out “the next best thing,” probably already tested and ready for market so they can saturate the recycle centers with the last batch.
    This is, of course, only possible by subsidy and tax support for true market forces would never accept the half azzed product in the first place. It’s a game the rich play because no matter how much money they have, if you still have a dollar or euro or a pound or whatever currency in your pocket, they don’t have enough. As for a carbon tax? It’s just another demonstration of “greed” over “need.” and if anyone thinks for a second that the money drain is from the wealthy nations to the poor nations, you are way off base. It is from the middle class and down from every nation to the richest people in the world, because for some, there just is no such thing as “enough money.” Don’t worry only about the existing poor, because the intent of something like a carbon tax is add to the numbers, not to subtract from them, and it won’t matter what country they are in.

  36. Let’s propose a consumption tax,no subsidies, no income tax only tax on purchase of new products. Let Al Gore and the like pay the 22% when they need to replace their jets. Let the person who wants a $150 sneaker pay the 22% also. This will encourage thrift. With no income tax everyone’s income will increase and underground economy would vanish as there is no need in hiding your income if it’s not taxed. The government will get its cut when you spend it. If you don’t like taxes then don’t buy anything. This will encourage thrift-but I repeat myself.

  37. I think that : “Elon Musk, the renewable energy entrepreneur, has given a speech in which he claims that a robust carbon tax would grossly enlarge his profits.” gives a very clear explanation of what is really happening. It can be extended to much of the rest of Warmista activity. Without the lure of money, the leading players would not bother to get out of bed.

  38. “…failing to price in damage done by carbon pollution is a $5.3tn a year subsidy for the fossil fuel industry”

    Whoa there. How much fossil fuels were used to get the raw materials, manufacture, transport, assemble on various sites and then to support. Lets include that in the cost of Musks impractical, costly, wasteful, poor people strangling, economy wrecking boondoggle.
    Also perhaps Musk can explain of the consumers who installed solar on their homes 60% had horror stories about financing, installation, and performance. giving a 1 star rating (five star is highest rating), and additional 4% give a 2 star rating. To put it in perspective if you install solar on your home you have a 2 to 1 chance of being screwed. In renewables this is a characteristic of a “mature” industry.
    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/solar-energy/#for-you-2
    Not to mention that government subsidies is like the weather, unpredictable as in California recently excluding rooftop solar.

  39. Elon Musk is a grifter working a long con, nothing more. Nothing he says should be taken seriously — and keep your hand on your wallet while listening to him.

  40. Taxing carbon would raise the cost of “clean” energy. Try charging one of Tesla’s cars with roof top solar panels. The free market will always be more efficient at using energy than any plan proposed by government. The “clean” energy systems only appear reasonable because cheaper fossil fuel energy is being used for the manufacture, transportation, installation, and maintenance. Elon best be stocking his preps at a South American bunker because soon enough his name will be mud.

  41. Elon Musk … his business model is one based on billions of dollars of green taxpayer subsidies. How many billions? Best not to check … you’ll have a heart attack. You really will!
    When Donald Trump becomes president, Elon Musk’s business will most certainly collapse.

  42. Eric,
    Splendid article: your first sentence [The problem with the “skipping over” theory is it completely ignores the reality of poverty.] hits the nail on the head.
    Regards,
    WL

  43. Musk is just one of many crony capitalists along with politicians and bureaucrats that make up the criminal organization known as the federal government.When they are caught stealing the media is as complicit as they describe “theft and corruption” as “waste and ineffciency”.

  44. I’m not in favor of any tax. They get enough already, borrow even more, and waste a huge portion of both. The “climate consulting” market in the US has grown to $800,000,000 annually, most of which is shouldered by taxpayers or government borrowing. Not to count the other areas of funding waste which we need not detail, with the exception of the related subsidies for ethanol, which have led to an unnecessary distortion of some markets, as well as personally cost me hundreds of dollars in small engine repair, higher food prices, etc., lol. Does this make me biased? Probably. 🙂

  45. Definition of Liberal Tax Subsidy: Allowing you to keep any of the money you make. Allowing you to profit vice taking it all. You, working for anyone other than the almighty state.

  46. “we should make it a revenue-neutral carbon tax – increasing carbon tax and reducing tax in other areas like consumption taxes or VAT”
    BWAAAA ha ha ha ha ha.
    Unicorns indeed.
    “reducing tax in other areas” ha ha ha ha hah ha.
    Stop it you’re killing me over here.
    ha. You’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath for the tax reductions

  47. As global warming increases due to man made CO2 emissions, the use of fossil fuels will decrease due to less energy required for domestic heating etc. This will lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions, a reversal of global warming and eventual global cooling. This application of Le Chatelier’s Principle to climate change means that a cycle of global warming followed by global cooling will be nature’s feedback control mechanism elimunating the need for carbon tax credits; and we can carry on burning fossil fuels for power and heating as we have done in the recent past.

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