Saturday, July 12, 2014

Can jaw-dropping visuals on CO2. BIG smokes vs. BIG OIL |

Can jaw-dropping visuals change the climate conversation? |

This week in the news we wave the merger of BIG tobacco. Lorillard Brands if getting bought out by Reynolds; that is, the Newport brands are getting married to a camel. This will make a formidable competitor to Altria's Marlboro man. (I still love the genius of changing your name from  Philip Morris USA to "Altria", it makes the company sound so Alteristic!:-)

So these are products, when used as directed will either kill you, or cause you to die younger... i.e., kill you.

The big difference between pollution into the atmosphere is that it is generally not the smoker (and their family it seems with 2nd hand-me-downs) that dies, it is everyone in the vicinity, down wind, and down stream.

The problems with burning fossil fuels, in addition to any other pollution that pollute in the traditional science, they create vast amounts more Carbon Dioxide (CO2) for the atmosphere than what the earth systems have become accustomed to dealing with. If 60% goes into the oceans, that causes increased acidification; what remains in the atmosphere, hangs around for about 100 years -- a deadly experiment that we are just beginning to see the effects of.

At least with tobacco, people enter into the deadly agreement under their own free will. The externalities of the well documented costs in life, income and economic product is largely offset by massive taxes. And it is really other countries that have fast increases in smoking while we in the USA have a rapidly dwindling market. (You could say that the market is dying off, if you wanted to add pun to death and sickness.) Although, electronic cigs are growing rapidly.

But, the BIG producers of fossil fuels, have it rather sweet. They tap a natural resource, like an oil reservoir, pump it dry, sell into energy markets and have no responsibility as to the costs of the use of their products. The jaw dropping visuals from the main article here, show the billions (with a B) of tonnes of CO2 created from/by the BIGgest oil producing companies.

The oil company pays some taxes to the country where it permanently depleted a natural resource. That seems only fair. The health costs of burning coal, direct pollution, are huge but generally not covered by the companies the produce and use it. Countries have taxes on transport fuel, to offset some of the costs of the vehicles. But nobody really pays the costs of the CO2 externalities. Or at least very little is done in that directly.

So the two, or three, questions for government: Should government shut down BIG tobacco? Or tax it more? Or allow it to move closer to a duopoly where they can keep raising prices to consumers and have them pay through the nose?

And the questions for government: Should government shut down BIG tobacco? Or tax it more? Or move to cap-n-trade? Or subsidize renewables?

The one that seems to work best, and economists all like best, is a direct tax. The tax increases need to gradually escalate, at least at the rate of inflation. This, of course is political suicide. So the tax is out, and no addressable solution is in.

This is a supply and demand world. In fossil fuels you have the BIG consumers, namely China and the USA, and the BIG producer companies. Both are to blame if what they sell/buy kills people. Right?

The sinful problems associated with the dirty companies go on.. and they keep getting BIGger.

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