Would a carbon tax help to innovate more-efficient energy use?

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Taxing carbon emissions would drive innovation and lead to improved energy efficiency, according to a new paper published in Joule from Carnegie's Rong Wang (now at Fudan University), Harry Saunders, and Ken Caldeira, along with Juan Moreno-Cruz of the University of Waterloo.

Despite advances in solar, wind, and other , remain the primary source of the climate-change-causing . In order to halt at the 2 degrees Celsius limit set by the Paris Agreement, we must reduce and eventually stop or completely offset carbon released into the atmosphere by burning of oil, coal, and gas.

"It has long been theorized that raising carbon prices would provide an incentive to reduce emissions through improvements," explained lead author Rong. "So, we looked to history to determine how cost increases have affected energy use efficiency in the past."

The researchers developed their own version of the productivity model created by Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow.

They found that historically, in various countries, when the cost of energy comprised a larger fraction of the cost of production, those countries found new ways to reduce energy use or to use it more efficiently. Rong and his colleagues asked what would happen if these historical relationships between energy costs and efficiency improvements continued into the future. When this dynamic was continuously in play, according to their model, by 2100 energy usage would be reduced by up to 30 percent relative to simulations where this dynamic was not considered.

"Other studies have examined how taxing carbon emission would drive innovation in renewables," explained Caldeira. "But we show that it would also lead to more-efficient consumption of energy—not just by getting people to use better existing technology, but also by motivating people to innovate better ways to use energy. This means that solving the climate problem, while still hard, is a little easier than previously believed."


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More information: Rong Wang et al, Induced Energy-Saving Efficiency Improvements Amplify Effectiveness of Climate Change Mitigation, Joule (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2019.07.024
Journal information: Joule

Citation: Would a carbon tax help to innovate more-efficient energy use? (2019, August 27) retrieved 22 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-carbon-tax-more-efficient-energy.html
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Aug 27, 2019
This is such a political issue, how could anyone trust anyone's assertion in a study, or trust any study at all.

Aug 27, 2019
This is just the latest attempt at hobbling capitalism while funding communism with yet more of our money. Good bet that everyone involved in this "study" votes a straight Democrat ticket.

Aug 27, 2019
Why complain without reading? Go read the study and see the data yourself. There is a link at the bottom of the article: http://dx.doi.org...9.07.024

Aug 27, 2019
If they try to implement a tax, the Reprehensibles in the Senate will kill it. If they actually succeed, it's questionable whether any of the proceeds will actually go to alternative energy research. I don't see this as a favorable climate (pun intended) for this sort of thing. I think gas is out-competing coal, and that this will get rid of the worst excesses. We can deal with the rest later.

Aug 27, 2019
The effort to use climate science to promote redistribution of resources is a major stumbling block. Many people will rebel at any requirement to promote socialism. Science should not be subverted to promote a political agenda.

Since carbon fuel is essential to our industrial societies and since we have no viable alternatives, a carbon tax just burdens people -- particularly the poor -- to no good purpose.

Aug 27, 2019
Everyone gets how to get something you want, water, oil, corn, you have to pay. To take something you don't want, garbage, used oil, you largely have to be paid. What people act like they don't get is how the air works as a transport/logistics network, moving oxygen from trees for us to breathe, or CO2, or pollutants, and that avoids proper market principles like supply and demand being applied, because the billing isn't there. The reality is our current situation, a CO2 glut, should be stimulating planting everywhere for oxygen from CO2 production, but people don't get paid. Yet if the atmosphere were divided into tiny air tight cells connected by pipes, you could bet lapsing on your o2 subscription would be the LAST thing anyone did, everyone would pay for CO2 removal and O2 inflow to breathe.

Aug 27, 2019
The C tax won't help much as there are plethora of other factors operating that are currently destroying the Earth. E.g. Deterioration in N cycle, H2O cycle, massive fishing led to the destruction of ocean/lake ecosystem, massive redistribution of earth surface matter (ores, sand, rocks), depletion of coral reefs, ocean acidification, extinction of millions of species since Homo Sapiens appeared, human population explosion, massive erosion/accretion/siltation at river deltas/estuaries, ... I can keep going...

Aug 27, 2019
"Since carbon fuel is essential to our industrial societies and since we have no viable alternatives, a carbon tax just burdens people -- particularly the poor -- to no good purpose."

Well the destruction of Western industry and culture is the plan isn't it. AGW and a carbon tax both are just more arrows in the socialist's quiver.

Aug 27, 2019
The safe nuclear fission methods are ignored. Thorium Molten Salt Reactors proven at Oak Ridge, are safe releasing no toxic weapons grade waste or any uncontrolled reactions.

There are no deaths from (even bad fission) nuclear energy despite it's dangerous reputation.

Aug 28, 2019
.....is any article suggesting actions to limit and/or control CO2 emissions and promote renewables ALWAYS a nest of Anti-Socialist Screamers? I mean, it's like any attempt to better something necessary by making it less harmful while trying to retain its use is suspicious and probably some Red URSS's plot to ruin the world.
Kinda weird and scary....

Aug 28, 2019
I'm all for raising taxes on fuel, I think they should also have the same tax for farmers and aircraft. The funds could be used for fixing roads and fixing all the flooding problems.

Aug 28, 2019
Talking about taxes and the 'mericans yelling communism again. If one has a common resource (air) that is being used by companies (polluted), it's only fair that those companies would pay for the use of the resource (pay for polluting air). This is pure free market economics, nothing to do with communism. Adam Smith would approve.

Ofc, it would be better if one could tax for all pollutants but carbon tax is a good beginning. The difficult things about carbon tax is that it needs to be as global as possible and the taxed money needs to be used for good.

Aug 28, 2019
One can measure the economic output well being of a population by the release of CO2. Tax CO2 and you are taxing the only thing that really fights poverty. Wind and solar cannot power industry because they are not 24/7 sources of energy.

Aug 28, 2019
Amazing all the FUD thrown around by the usual paid commentators here. Just get on with it already. We'll be absolutely cooked at 4c.

Aug 28, 2019
One can measure the economic output well being of a population by the release of CO2. Tax CO2 and you are taxing the only thing that really fights poverty. Wind and solar cannot power industry because they are not 24/7 sources of energy.

That's partly true but still lies. Finland was in hard recession in early 90's, yet Finland's emissions are lower today than back then. I can assure you that both the economic output and well being of population has increased.

Wind and solar cannot power industry but nuclear can.

Aug 28, 2019
At present we are on track for a 3-5C rise by the end of the century. The difference between pre-industrial temperatures and ice ages is only 4C. Let that sink in. The time for arguing about this should be long gone.

Aug 28, 2019
"Wind and solar cannot power industry but nuclear can. "

Correct! But do you see or hear any of the AGW crowd supporting nuclear? They are not really interested in a solution. Their goal is to weaken the west and form a one world government from the ashes. Yes they want to create power but not the type that an be measured in Joules.

Aug 28, 2019
Correct! But do you see or hear any of the AGW crowd supporting nuclear? They are not really interested in a solution. Their goal is to weaken the west and form a one world government from the ashes. Yes they want to create power but not the type that an be measured in Joules.

I don't listen to any crowds and I'm bit unsure what all this AGW cult talk is. But I know for sure that carbox tax can be useful.

Aug 28, 2019
Cortezz a carbon tax would raise the price of everything that we buy including rent and food! Also, industry spends a lot of effort to reduce fuel consumption since it is a major contributer to the cost of goods and a drain on profits. Thus taxing carbon would not really reduce consumption only increase costs.

Aug 29, 2019
Cortezz a carbon tax would raise the price of everything that we buy including rent and food! Also, industry spends a lot of effort to reduce fuel consumption since it is a major contributer to the cost of goods and a drain on profits. Thus taxing carbon would not really reduce consumption only increase costs.

The rent and food of those companies who use less carbon raise less and thus it supports greener alternatives. You're getting it wrong if you think the only good is from reducing fuel consumption. Here the paper companies have done a major job cleaning up the pollution they let out and using it for other purposes as much as possible. They can consume even more fuel but pollute less than before.

Also, it seems like you have never heard about emission trading. Basically it means that if a company actually does good with it's emissions, it has spare rights for emissions to sell. This means that very green and environmental companies can even make a small profit.

Aug 29, 2019
I too am in favor of nukes, but only if they are properly attended by people who are not constantly under pressure to shave pennies and accompanied by free insurance from the government. This will ensure proper regulation, and prevent the accidents we have seen. You gotta make it about money to get the accountants to back down.

Aug 29, 2019
"The effort to use climate science to promote redistribution of resources is a major stumbling block."

The only problem capitalism has here is that THE ATMOSPHERE redistributes resources (O2) and liabilities (CO2) without regard to merit. If your country greens up and your neighbor does't, you both breathe the same air, because the fruits of your labor are distributed on the breeze. THE ATMOSPHERE is a communist.

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