Can Oxygen-Pricing Help Save the Environment?

A study just published in Science, the most comprehensive “Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years” ever done, shows that recent warming has been “amazing and atypical” and will destabilize the climatic conditions which have allowed civilization to develop, unless there are dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. As if the emissions situation isn’t bad enough in exposing large areas of the planet to excessive heat and drought, the recent bout of “land-grabbing” across the middle of the planet in all the equatorial regions, in order to increase both the human food supply and “biofuels,” will further help to destroy these sensitive ecosystems. Even without global warming, the “belly-band” of the planet can become a desert in the same way that North Africa did during Roman times. Therefore there is a double urgency to rein in our over-consumption.

Developed countries continue to move forward in their relentless and destructive reach for more of everything – more crop land, more rivers, more fuel supply, more minerals, more fish, etc. and employ whatever means necessary, from financial to military, to maintain their position of privileged consumption. Yet, we somehow have to figure out how to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2020, as pointed out in a new study published February 20 in Energy Policy.

In spite of “flying carbon neutral” carbon offsets and taxes, Kyoto and many UN climate conferences, in 2012 we had the biggest ever single-year jump in the planet’s CO2 level. In a January 12 editorial, the Washington Post recommends a carbon tax. However, a much more drastic action is needed to control consumption of energy and resources which would have to include, given that we have gone so far beyond the time when simpler remedies might have sufficed, both energy rationing and an oxygen tax. The developed countries have at every UN climate conference agreed to provide assistance to the developing countries for climate mitigation and adaptation, but the developed countries have yet to find a way to fund these initiatives. An oxygen tax would provide the funds to make good on those pledges by helping to preserve the remaining living parts of this planet, and is thus a better system for eco-justice than carbon schemes.

Energy Quotas

How might an energy quota be calculated? To determine an energy quota based on 1990 levels, look at 1990 tax records, everyone who filed a 1990 tax return gets the equivalent energy allocation equal to the energy in 200 gallons (or pick some other value) of gasoline. They can then decide whether to use that energy quota to heat their homes (or convert to PassivhausTM standards) or to drive. If they choose to operate a business, they can try to ask their employees to contribute a portion of their energy quota to the business. If they reproduce, if two people have two children, then their two quotas are now divided into four parts, each person now gets a 50 gallon equivalent. If those children reproduce, they again divide their small quota even farther. That is how it has to now play out – there cannot be an ever-expanding per-person allocation of resources. People rarely mention the twin elephants in the room, increasing population and over-consumption. This paragraph provides the first step in dealing with those elephants. Yes, an energy ration cuts into your assumed “privileged consumption,” but how is it going to look to people in developing countries, who are already suffering from being forced off ancestral lands in Congo, Indonesia, Burma and many other countries to make way for industrial plantations of “biofuels” and export crops, as well as the indigenous peoples of México being forced off their land to make way for the government to sell carbon offsets to California for their pathetic cap-and-trade scheme? If the developed countries are not willing to bring their consumption down towards world-average levels, it is imperial thinking to assume that the rest of the world is going to ignore our gluttony.

Oxygen Pricing

An oxygen price should be equivalent to what you pay now per unit of carbon fuel, times two, since the by-product from burning the fuel is CO2 – which is TWO oxygens for every carbon! Take your present price for gasoline and add to that slightly more than double that amount for the oxygen price, and you have a total amount which will definitely reduce energy consumption.

Regarding various proposals for carbon pricing, there are all kinds of failures inherent in putting an artificial price (taxes) on carbon. The usual idea of a carbon tax (such as here in British Columbia, Canada) simply hands over money from the general population to those who created the emissions problem – the government itself, by promoting everlasting growth on a finite planet.

Another proposition for a carbon tax would collect the tax at source and distribute 100% of the funds to the general population, which is a short-circuit, since what are consumers all about except for consumption, and the money stays within the same destructive empire – there is no eco-justice.

Other schemes such as cap-and-trade merely establish complex market schemes which end up handing a handsome income to Wall Street brokers.

Carbon “offsets” are merely indulgences to sooth the conscience of the marginally-climate-aware. If any of these upper-middle-class carbon notions ever succeeded in raising the costs of fuels to a level that would actually reduce consumption, people would simply burn everything they can get their hands on to heat their homes, therefore, goodbye trees, a repeat of the scenario in Africa where complete forests disappear to be made into charcoal for cooking fires.

The big problem is this – People are stealing 2/3 of their fuel from the commons. Everyone knows that they already pay a price for their (carbon) fuels, albeit a price not sufficient to cover the social and environmental costs, since of course, all business is set up to privatize the profits while socializing the expenses. The real monkey on our backs is that we steal just over 2/3 of our fuels from the commons by not paying for the oxygen. Nobody accounts for the oxygen which gets tied to the carbon when we burn fuel for “energy”. We simply steal that oxygen from the commons, and worst of all, that oxygen is fossil oxygen, since we are now consuming more oxygen than is being produced on this planet. On one hand we tie oxygen to carbon at ever increasing rates and on the other hand, we destroy entire ecosystems on land and poison the oceans by acidification, thereby killing off the planet’s mechanisms to produce more oxygen. Soon we will discover that the apparent “surplus” of oxygen in the atmosphere was required to promote the ozone layer, as we begin to fry under unstoppable UV radiation.

Thus we should have been working toward developing a price for oxygen, to be paid to an international body which would distribute the funds from those who consume oxygen to those who produce it. These funds would then be available to assist countries in maintaining their intact tropical forests and other areas of natural soils and ecosystems. This would be the best form of “eco-justice” and help fund re-wilding programs and help fund people who help protect natural areas from the onslaught of “development”. But big business would do everything possible to prevent that from happening, which is part of the reason that they have co-opted governments world-wide. The business model has all wealth flowing “upwards”, never downwards.

So here we are in the worst of all possible worlds – paying a useless carbon tax, stealing fossil oxygen from the commons, being lead by a developer government intent on building yet a bigger and bigger glorified version of the past with their “energy” (read fossil fuel) developments and national governments which fail time after time to get a grip on solving human environmental degradation. What can we do? We are apparently locked in to the present system of “business-as-usual” by a governance system consisting of antiquated laws – present law throws climate activists in jail, while new laws for the 21st Century would throw anyone proposing a pipeline or well into jail. We are further locked in by being represented by self-appointed wanna-be environmentalists, locked-in to their own unscientific mental state, who refuse to even acknowledge let alone seriously consider this proposal for oxygen pricing. These people know who they are – they continue to fly in airplanes and/or are shills for the nuclear industry.

Many carbon offset programs use tree planting schemes in developing countries, but it must be noted that a tree does not properly “sequester” carbon until the tree falls into the swamp and is pressed into soft or hard coal. Until then, it is subject to logging or fire or aerobic decomposition any of which can send the carbon back into the atmosphere. Yes, that takes thousands of years to properly sequester the carbon in a tree. Given that difficulty, we should absolutely STOP mining properly sequestered carbon in the form of oil, methane and coal and sending that up into the atmosphere and into our oceans. What fools these mortals be!