Carbon taxes unpopular but effective

I am a lifelong Democrat, but I am starting to lose faith as science loses ground in our D.C. administration. The latest climate scientist, Secretary of State John Kerry, has labeled global warming skeptics as members of the Flat Earth Society.

Our government is spending billions trying to lower carbon dioxide(CO2) emissions. None of their plans include unpopular but effective carbon taxes. Note Europe with high gas taxes and lower emissions. 

At the same time, President Obama trashes Yucca Mountain for storage of nuclear waste. Nuclear is far and away the most powerful carbon-free energy source on the planet. Nuclear helps to limit CO2’s contribution to ocean acidification.

In the end, much of CO2 is plant food. Trees and plants take it in and exhale the oxygen for us to breathe. We inhale the oxygen and exhale CO2 for the plants when we breathe (nearly half a ton of CO2 a year exhaled by each person). I’ll take the Flat Earth Society on this one.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/20/2014 - 03:39 pm.


    This letter is so short on logic I’m surprised MinnPost didn’t reject it outright.

    Yes, plants do indeed use CO2. That, however, does not mean they use ALL the CO2. And therein lies the rub: where does the rest of it go? It doesn’t automagically get used up or disappear into outer space.

    This is akin to saying plants use water to grow and we use water to drink, therefor if you get a flood it’s no big deal.

  2. Submitted by rolf westgard on 02/20/2014 - 07:19 pm.

    Tracking CO2

    As my letter indicates, the oceans are a big repository for the CO2. The oceans contain perhaps 50 times as much carbon as the atmosphere.
    As to logic I am a little confused by Mr. Hintz last sentence. If he reads my letter carefully, he will understand the logic.

  3. Submitted by rolf westgard on 02/21/2014 - 04:04 am.

    CO2 flood

    There are currently 40 parts CO2 per 100,000 parts of atmosphere. Every few years we are adding one more part CO2. That is why it is called a trace gas.
    Burning coal is a big source of CO2 and other emissions that we don’t want. So lets hear of some real measures to replace it. Variable renewables won’t work for base load power.

  4. Submitted by Lance Groth on 02/21/2014 - 12:19 pm.


    The logic problem I see, Rolf, is that you continually, in many posts, undercut your own position. On the one hand, you tout nuclear energy as a solution to carbon emissions (a position with which I heartily agree – and which James Lovelock advocated decades ago). Then, invariably, you go on to say that CO2 is no big deal (it’s even good, plants use it!)

    Well, which is it? If CO2 is no big deal, then why go to the expense of building nuke plants and having to deal with long term storage of nuclear waste? If, on the other hand, it is a big enough deal to justify nuke plants, why do you insist on turning around and saying, well, it really isn’t (wink, wink)?

    You may know where you stand, but your posts are almost always self-contradictory on this issue. Maybe you just need to re-tool your message? It’s OK to disbelieve climatology, really – it may not be consistent with the science, but you can stake out whatever position you want. But at least be forthright about it. Using it as a justification for something else you want, when you don’t really believe it yourself, seems disingenuous. And that invites people to disregard the rest of your message too.

    Finally, Todd is right on with his flood analogy. Yes, a certain amount of CO2 is needed for plants, and to help keep the planet warm enough to be habitable. Too much is a problem. I don’t know why that’s so difficult to understand. It applies to many things in life.

  5. Submitted by rolf westgard on 02/21/2014 - 01:00 pm.


    We need nuclear aside from the CO2 issue. Nuclear is safe, economical, and provides round the clock power. Spent fuel can be handled in a facility like Yucca Mountain. Longer term it should be reprocessed the way the French do at La Hague.
    And the CO2 threat IMO is exaggerated.

    • Submitted by Lance Groth on 02/21/2014 - 03:35 pm.

      Best stick to that then

      If the justifications have little or nothing to do with CO2, then best stick to that in your advocacy. Otherwise it seems like you’re pandering to the poor duped AGW believers who don’t know any better. That was my original point. I mean it sincerely, your case is stronger without cluttering it with things you don’t believe.

  6. Submitted by rolf westgard on 02/21/2014 - 01:12 pm.

    Plants and CO2

    Actually plants are somewhat CO2 starved. The more the merrier.

    • Submitted by Lance Groth on 02/21/2014 - 03:33 pm.


      Cite a source, please. If plants are CO2 starved with present atmospheric levels 42% higher than the pre-industrial level, then they’ve been in famine conditions for most of Earth’s history. That seems … dubious, at best.

  7. Submitted by rolf westgard on 02/21/2014 - 02:53 pm.

    Co2 and global warming

    Quoting Dr. Richard McNider and Dr. John Christy who are professors of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Both were part of 2007 IPCC report which got the Nobel prize:

    “The warming numbers most commonly advanced are created by climate computer models built almost entirely by scientists who believe in catastrophic global warming. The rate of warming forecast by these IPCC models depends on many assumptions to replicate a complex world in tractable terms, such as how water vapor and clouds will react to the direct heat added by carbon dioxide or the rate of heat uptake, or absorption, by the oceans.
    We might forgive these modelers if their forecasts had not been so consistently and spectacularly wrong. From the beginning of climate modeling in the 1980s, these forecasts have, on average, always overstated the degree to which the Earth is warming compared with what we see in the real climate.
    Stanford’s Nobel physicist Robert Laughlin adds “Global warming forecasts have the further difficulty that one can’t find much actual global warming in present day weather observations”

    • Submitted by Lance Groth on 02/21/2014 - 04:16 pm.

      And yet it moves …

      … to borrow a line from Galileo. Or, in this case, and yet the ice melts. And yet 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st Century. And yet the oceans acidify. And yet animal, plant and insect populations are migrating north, or higher in the mountains. And yet the jet stream, and resulting weather patterns, are destabilizing. And yet the coral dies. And yet the seas rise. Shall I go on?

      There is no doubt that the models are incomplete. They underestimate the influence of changes in solar output, for one thing. They are also incomplete in dealing with the ability of the oceans to absorb heat and CO2. But the need for further refinement does not negate the underlying reality, which ought to be obvious to anyone who takes the time to just look around and believe the evidence of their senses and of our measuring instruments, and especially to anyone old enough to remember what things were like 40, 50, 60 years ago. Winters like this one, which were normal when I was a lad, are now exceedingly rare. Cherry picking statistics and complaining that the models are incomplete is no more than obfuscation. Why are “greenhouse gases” called “greenhouse gases”? You well know, it is because of their fundamental physical properties, and the more you add of them, the more heat they retain. This is inescapable. Warming the world just one degree requires an immense amount of energy, and adding all that energy to the climate system inevitably has consequences. We are summing that immensity many times over.

      If global warming has temporarily plateaued because the sun’s output is marginally less than it was, or because the oceans are absorbing more than estimated, or some combination of factors, we should be glad of the breathing room and take advantage of it to mend our ways. Because eventually these temporary conditions will return to historical norms, and then warming, with all the additional greenhouse gases that have been emitted in the meantime, will return with a vengeance. You also ignore the very likely development of feedback loops, as methane is released from melting tundra, and possibly from methane hydrates in the sea floor. It is nothing to gamble with for anyone who cares about the effect it would have on people everywhere. Disruption of agriculture alone will condemn many people to misery and starvation.

      AGW is the single best argument for constructing nuke plants. Take that away, and you have expensive plants that have some of the virtues you mention, but also a waste problem and, let’s face it, a public image problem post-Fukushima that is going to be extremely difficult to overcome. Why you would wish to disarm yourself like that is truly a mystery to me.

  8. Submitted by rolf westgard on 02/21/2014 - 04:57 pm.

    Picking cherries

    There are four major agencies that measure global temperatures. They are all showing the current ‘pause’ in the global temperature rise. I don’t have to pick cherries; there is lots of low hanging fruit.
    I suggest the best explanation for the current pause is the 30 year Pacific Decadal Oscillation cycle which is in the middle of a cooling phase. This suggests about 15 or so more years of flat to cooling global temps.
    We are on a plateau where temperatures are warmer than in prior decades as we slowly recover from the Little Ice Age. The really big cycle is with earth orbital cycles which have brought us several big Northern Hemisphere glaciers during the Pleistocene.
    No reason to think we won’t have another one when this inter-glacial period ends. Don’t sell your winter coat.

  9. Submitted by Joel Fischer on 02/23/2014 - 12:49 am.

    347 Months and counting

    A pause in rising global temperatures should have put an end to this streak. The streak has not ended and shows no sign of ending.

  10. Submitted by Tom Karas on 02/24/2014 - 12:29 pm.

    give credit where credit is due

    Usually the Minn Post and Rolf point out his past as a fossil fuel engineer, and local adult education instructor. It should be expected then that ‘Member of Flat Earth Society’ be permanently attached to his resume as it appears to be his desire.
    The Los Angeles Times recently established a policy by which they would no longer accept letters ignoring the overwhelming evidence of climate change. I may not be MN Nice, but the MN Post might want to consider such a move to maintain credibility.

  11. Submitted by Tom Karas on 02/24/2014 - 02:01 pm.

    Give proper credit where due–

    From 1991 to 2012 there were over 13,000 peer reviewed studies supporting climate change and 24 that did not. Give Rolf and his ilk credit for being good cherry pickers.

  12. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/24/2014 - 03:18 pm.

    It’s all so simple

    I’m sure policymakers are smacking their heads in wonder. “Why didn’t we see this before? It’s a simple matter of levying a carbon tax! Why didn’t we think of that before?”

    Mr. Westgard, while I don’t disagree with you on the idea of a carbon tax, surely you can appreciate the political times in which we live. Do you seriously think imposing such a tax would be feasible today?

  13. Submitted by rolf westgard on 02/26/2014 - 01:51 am.

    Feasible carbon tax?

    Probably not. Politicians look for votes, not results.

  14. Submitted by Douglas Owens-Pike on 02/26/2014 - 01:15 pm.

    nukes are not carbon neutral

    while it is true that no CO2 goes up a stack at nuclear power plants they have tons of problems with the amount of energy needed to mine & refine the ore, building the redundant safety systems to contain toxic radioactivity, and then the energy needed to safely store the waste. All those steps emit CO2. At the plant excess heat is often released via cooling towers.

    One of the major impacts of climate change here in the upper Midwest is more tropical dew points that stress people & animals. We now need to upgrade or add summer air conditioning where it was not required prior to this change in our climate.

    It is silly to be arguing about whether we are experiencing climate change. The solutions are at hand. We need to seek greater efficiencies: vehicles that travel further on the same amount of fuel, lights that give us better working conditions with a fraction of the energy needed for incandescent bulbs, and either weatherized or more passive solar home construction.

    See an example we built at our website “solar home”

  15. Submitted by Eric Sandeen on 02/28/2014 - 02:38 pm.

    What’s the threshold…

    … for cohesiveness, relevance, and persuasiveness for the MinnPost editors when accepting a letter?

    I agree with Lance – you probably should have stopped at the implied “I like nuclear power.” The rest was just a jumble of technically accurate, but collectively disjoint, irrelevant, and/or unpersuasive factoids. 30% of your letter devoted to an elementary school description of the carbon cycle? Well, thanks for that, I guess, but I’m not sure why it merits publication.

    I bet you might have some interesting things to say about nuclear energy’s role in a low-carbon society, but none of it is to be found here.

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