The City proposes an Energy Use Tax

I just read today that the Boulder City Council approved putting a measure on the ballot in November to levy an energy use tax on homeowners and businesses. The tax will be based on how much electricity they use. Anyone buying wind power will not pay tax on that portion of their bill.

They estimated that if the use tax is approved by voters, homeowners will be charged $12 a year and the typical business $53 a year. The money will be used to promote energy efficiency to Boulder’s residents and it will funnel money into various energy efficiency programs, such as renewable energy sources and public transportation. They anticipated they will also be able to refund the tax to low-income people.

This all sounds fine and good. It’s a “do-good” kind of measure, though I think economics is already communicating to people that they need to be energy-efficient. If you aren’t, you’re energy bills go through the roof. That’s a pretty clear communication, and people respond to it by finding technologies that are more efficient. This will give them what they want more cheaply in energy costs, and energy will be saved by default.

The fly in the ointment for me is this is part of a climate action plan the City Council also approved that sets the policy of Boulder on a course for meeting the Kyoto Treaty protocol. According to the referenced article in the Daily Camera, this will mean reducing carbon emissions by 24%. One can only guess what they have up their sleeves next. A municipal gas tax, perhaps? If they want to go after carbon emissions that would be a prime energy source to go after.

Though this tax measure targets energy efficiency, which is good in and of itself, I am concerned that their underlying motivation is to not only follow a protocol which has come into disrepute even in countries that signed on to it, but to reduce emmissions, because of their perception that climate change is being caused by industrial activity. Reducing emmissions for the sake of reducing particulate pollution is a noble goal when it comes to increasing human health and quality of life. I disagree with the notion that industrial activity is causing global warming, only because I have not been convinced.

Does the emperor have clothes?

I’ve seen climate scientists who are adherents to the idea of industrial-caused climate change attempt to show that humans are “forcing” (that’s the term used) this change. I’ve looked for a reason to believe them, but I have remained unconvinced. The problem with the notion they put forward is they draw connections between things without showing the proof, if they ever had it. They show you glaciers that are melting. They show you the northern ice sheet at the North Pole melting. They show you the snows of Kilimanjaro melting. Then they say, “There’s no question human activity is causing this.” They may be right, for all I know, but they do not show the evidence that A leads to B. They just assume it, by saying that we’re putting tons and tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide traps heat, therefore we have global warming. It seems like they’re saying “Nothing else we know of could be causing it.” There is a lot in that phrase, because there is plenty about the climate that climate scientists do not know.

For example, just recently I saw a show on Nova which talked about “global dimming”. It was a very good exposition of climate science. What it showed is that particulate pollution is causing sunlight to be reflected back out into space, causing some of the Sun’s radiation to be blocked before it hits the ground or the oceans. They gave a very clear presentation of the data, proof that it’s really happening, and its effects. One of the admissions made in the show was one or two climate scientists saying that this is a new development in climate science, and they had not accounted for it in the climate models–the models predicting the effects of global warming. This new effect is going to have to be incorporated into those models to make them more accurate. This just goes to show that climate science is still young, and it is too early for climate scientists to say definitively what’s going on with the environment and why.

My main concern with people buying into the message of the industrial climate change alarmists is if we as a society were to accept the message as truth and take actions in accordance with it, we could go through a painful process of changing over to low-carbon/no-carbon energy sources in rapid fashion (as the alarmists apparently want us to do), basically on an assumption, end up hurting our economy severely because of it, and come to discover years later that industrial influence was negligible in climate change; that in actuality the climate was just changing on its own, and we were just bit players in it, a mere speck. And in the meantime science will have been discredited as having fooled people into believing something that wasn’t true.

I like science. I want it to have credibility. Climate scientists need to do better in presenting their evidence. That much is clear to me. The scientific method must be observed with reverence, not as a relic of the past. Right now it seems as though the alarmists are taking advantage of media hysteria of the subject. This does not serve science. It serves the egos and fears of certain people in this community and their desire to control how society is shaped. Woe be it to scientists who take advantage of the good name of science to advance their own agenda.

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