Why CCS implies over regulation

carbon-tax-now I follow David Hone, though not the details. He's really keen on CCS, and has (I think) a strong commercial interest in it succeeding. But there is no real answer to "its not commercially viable" - and I think it remains non-viable even at plausible CO2-price levels ($80 / tonne is Sternish, no?). So, inevitably, sigh, the talk turns to regulation (um. Does that ring any bells?).

The latest is Can a technology specific policy exist in a carbon market? I didn't have the patience to read it all. Just reading a little bit of it is enough to convince me that this is not the right way to go. What is described there (in all seriousness, as far as I can tell) is the way to create yet more heaps of market-distorting environment-distorting regulations and yet more parasitic bureacratic classes.

Carbon Tax Now!

More like this

Quite stunning.

His argument seems to be that because interference has made such a balls up of the system therefore we should interfere more.


By Tim Worstall (not verified) on 13 Aug 2013 #permalink

His argument seems to be that because interference has made such a balls up of the system therefore we should interfere more.

Well, it's an extremely popular position when it comes to foreign policy...

Tim Worstall, do you try to win all your arguments by misrepresenting the case presented by your opponent?

In this case, David Hone clearly states:

"...a robust carbon market is the preferred approach for driving investment in technologies such as CCS...", and later
"So should we opt for CCS Certificates? Although they will deliver CCS, the approach isn’t as economically efficient as the carbon market left to its own devices."

Clearly Hones' preferred option is to have a carbon market with no further regulation than required for the existence of that market. It is only if that cannot be achieved politically that he presents as a fall back option a subsidiary CCS market, with the regulation required to create that.

Even his fall back position is not simply to propose any regulation. The fall back is that if certain specific regulations exist, certain other specific regulations may obviate some of their harmful effects. There is nothing self evidently irrational about this unless you adopt the view that all regulation is harmful - a view that is clearly not suportable on the evidence (nor supported by anyone).

By Tom Curtis (not verified) on 13 Aug 2013 #permalink

I have a proposal to make CCS economically valuable.
Work up a global panic about radiation in food, then make industries that capture fossil carbon -- depleted of all C14 already -- remove all the heavy toxic and radioactive metals from the fly ash, capture and store the pure, clean, nonradioactive CO2, and feed that into greenhouses to grow pure, radiation-free food. $$PROFIT$$

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 13 Aug 2013 #permalink

The reason for regulation AND taxation is to vitiate the free rider problem

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 13 Aug 2013 #permalink

" remove all the heavy toxic and radioactive metals from the fly ash,"

We know how to do all of that already. The problem is, no one wants to buy the vast volumes of such metals that would be produced.

There's actually two variations here. One is removing all those toxic metals from the environment: that's actually what fly ash is. So that's easy.

The second is to remove them and then separate them and use them to do something. The problem there is that if we were to do this with the world's annual production of fly ash then we'd end up with, just as an example, some 15,000 tonnes of germanium. And as we only use about 60 tonnes a year (often to make solar cells) there doesn't really seem much point. Plus enough thorium to run the fleet of thorium reactors that no one has got around to building yet.

There are a couple of people who do it though. Much of the germanium that is used to make solar cells comes from processing fly ash.

By Tim Worstall (not verified) on 14 Aug 2013 #permalink

> no one wants to buy the vast volumes of such metals
> that would be produced

I recall reading that nuclear proliferation concerns argued against even starting into "mining" the coal ash and slag.

Here's one 1993 mention at a secondary source (copy):. Note it also mentions global warming from CO2.

Coal Combustion: Nuclear Resource or Danger
ALEX GABBARD Oakridge National Laboratory Review (ORNL) - Summer/Fall 1993 v.26, n.3&4, 1jul1993
For coal, "... average values of uranium and thorium content have been determined to be 1.3 ppm and 3.2 ppm, respectively.... The concentration of fissionable uranium-235 .... has been established to be 0.71% of uranium content."

I didn't find concentration numbers for the ash and slag, but it'd be ... enhanced over the raw coal; more so assuming particulates are captured so they'd get anything going up the stack as well as out of the bottom of the burner.

For comparison, "Uranium ore of mineable grade normally range from 1000 to 5000 ppm"

Technology to "clean" the coal ash and slag -- and extract the uranium -- might be competitive with buying the ore from hard rock mines. The source would be available locally from any coal power plant. Not all those potentially interested have uranium ore accessible. All can build centrifuges tho'.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 14 Aug 2013 #permalink

Strikes Eli that the real problem is the monetary and economic costs in removing the heavies from the fly ash (which is mostly sand, alumina and iron oxide. Very much the CCS problem

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 14 Aug 2013 #permalink

Noticed Hansen's latest (from June)

“As usual the Democrats are going to take some of the money, 40 percent of it,” Hansen said. “Conservatives have to put their foot down and say you can’t use this as another excuse to make government bigger. Democrats have a problem they can’t keep their hands off our wallets.”


Hansen is playing a dangerous game here, though I like his Fee and Dividend approach if considered separately from national debts.

Applying his "government is too big" thesis to Canada, an economist friend recently told me:

In 2006 the median Canadian family income was $67,472. In that year, the median family received benefits from all levels of government (federal, provincial and local)that cost $40,716 which represents 60% of the median family's income. Of course they pay taxes to all levels of government. Taxes are the price of the $40,716 in benefits from public spending.

These statistics are found on p. 34 in "Canada's Quiet Bargain: The benefits of public spending", a study by Hugh Mackenzie and Richard Shillington for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in April 2009.

The vast majority of politicians are untutored in economics and public finance. Even fewer know how to do cost benefit analysis of government programs or program evaluations. That is one reason why citizens pay taxes to enable governments to hire economists.
Unencumbered by any relevant knowledge these politicians go boldly forward with their views about efficiencies. They eventually discover that the efficiencies are a very tiny portion of the budgets of the their government organizations. At the same time these same politicians are unaware of the huge waste of private sector companies who produce high-priced luxury goods or status goods that have no overall utility in the economy because the utility of the status depends on the disultility of someone who cannot afford the status good. The carbon imprint of the top 20% of income earners and the wealthy is much higher than the middle income groups and certainly the working poor. Economists have understood this for decades. Business people and plutocrats do not understand it because economics is an entirely different paradigm from the business economics with which they are familiar. I have little patience with politicians and business people who prey on the public most of whom are equally ignorant about economics and public finance. Unfortunately the majority of Canadians are heavily dependent on government programs an unaware of the bargain they are getting.

By Peter Shepherd (not verified) on 15 Aug 2013 #permalink

David Hone's post is very short. You can read it all 2 minutes. He's just arguing about whether, absent a comprehensive emissions market, and absent a fit for CCS (sorry if you just gagged), should tradeable CCS emission certificates be added to the EU's soup (renewables targets, biofuels targets, carbon credits etc).

I don't live in the EU. I live in British Columbia, which has a very modest carbon tax (which nobody except editorial writers and failed politicians cares much about).

The ETS and renewables targets the EU already has are bad policy. I'm not surprised they'd even think of doubling down on a FIT for any cleanish power technology (save the evil N word), even in the teeth of economic analysis that suggests a simple tax is better, and the real-world failure of FITS to scale up without causing massive political and economic headaches (like in Portugal, Spain or Ontario). This is land of the Euro: where they are still living through recessions worse that any since the great depression, causing huge unemployment and suffering, with no acknowledgement from the powers that be that the design of the Euro had anything to do with it and certainly no desire to change a thing about it.

Europe will stick with its silly climate policies and get more of them, just because.