Weekend reflections

I’ve been a bit slack about open threads lately, but I’ll start again with weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. Side discussions to sandpits, please.

94 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. Fran, You’re making stuff up and guessing. And it has nothing to do with the point at issue. So irrelvant – just another distraction to avoid facing up to the issue under discussion.

  2. Peter Lang, you seem to be unaware that CO2 emissions are generated primarily by burning carbon-based fuels, which are already part of the tax system. There is no need to make additional measurements.

    If you want to make the point that some other emissions will be hard to measure, then
    (a) we already knew that, which is why the ETS is omitting most of these for the moment
    (b) there are analogous problems in every tax system, such as the difficulty of taxing formal and informal barter transactions – the answer is to develop ways of dealing with those we can and to ignore the rest

    (After writing this, I see that BilB has made much the same point).

  3. @Peter Lang

    I’m relying on your posts at BNC. I recall your line there very well. It’s notable here that you don’t even deny that the above (a–> c) are your views.

    You want a discussion about a non-problem you say is potentially catastrophic, because you declare that AGW is a non-problem that we say is catastrophic.

    It seems to me that until that paradox is banished there really is no “clear issue” to address. There’s really only a murky one living purely in your fevered desire to defend the right of the polluters to use the biosphere as an industrial sewer.

  4. Nice and succinct phrasing, Fran

    “the right of the polluters to use the biosphere as an industrial sewer”

  5. John,

    Peter Lang, you seem to be unaware that CO2 emissions are generated primarily by burning carbon-based fuels, which are already part of the tax system. There is no need to make additional measurements.

    You say I make silly statements. Why would you say I am not aware that “CO2 emissions age generated primarily by burning carbon based fuels?” I sugges that is a silly statement. Why would you make that assumption? Surely you could only make such an assumption if you had not read my comments on the April thread or on the ”The ultimate cost of the ETS” http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=13578&page=0

    I get the impression your comments are dismissive and are trying to avoid getting engaged in the substance of the question I’ve raised.

    The point is that we do not have precise and accurate measurements of CO2 emissions (or the other 23 Kyoto gases). The most important is CO2. But we do not have any measurements of it. We only have estimates. And they are very crude. I’ve explained that before. I am wondering if you have understood that point. Perhaps you have not.

    If you do think we have measurements of CO2 emissions – even from our power stations, let alone from other sources – let me know and I’ll explain why you are wrong.

    To assist me to understand your reluctance to deal seriously with this issue, could you please tell me what level of precision and accuracy you say will be ultimately required for CO2 emissions (and for the other Kyoto gases)? If you say a low level of precision and accuracy will be acceptable in the ultimate system, can you explain why that is so?

  6. Peter Lang,

    As an ex geologist you know only too well that all quantity evaluations are best measurement quantitative extentions so you have a cheek demand absolute measurements from other areas of enterprise. As a community we accept performance tolerances which we know average out over time to provide a high degree of accuracy. Your OnLineOpinion piece is just a typical repeat of the fallacious argument that you have been pushing for some time now.

    The fact is that it is not possible to make accurate measurements of CO2 releases at ground level simply because they are heavily climate dependent, and measurements made for one set of climatic conditions can be the opposite for another set of conditions in the very same area at another time. This was a lesson that Europe learnt some years ago when a hot dry period reversed their environmental CO2 flows.

    Further exacerbating the ability to be absolute about ground level CO2 emissions is the failure of the Coalition opposition (in Australia’s case) to accept the projections for climate change progress as put forward by our scientists. Politicians know more than these people it seems as do many at BNC. So your agument is futile as it operates in the margin of error which for the present time is largely political, on the one hand and largely undefined on the other. The undefined aspect is the product of the success or failure level of Climate Change Action.

    So in simple terms the answer is …….yet again……that the ETS CO2 monitoring is confined to the area of fossil fuel consumption that causes the greatest degree of damage. And as your enquiry to government pointed out the cost of managing that is around 80 million dollars per year, which I believe correlates with precisely with Professor Quiggin’s earlier answer.

    Sadly, Peter Lang, you have become like a dripping tap on this issue, your volume rate and substance never changes, so I believe that the Professor’s earlier response was the correct one. Turn the faulty tap off at the mains.

  7. @BilB

    One might further add that emissions associated with the harvest, transport and processing of fossil hydrocarbons are very substantially captured by any system focusing on fuel/energy inputs. Yes it’s true that mines can release CH4 in ways not correlated with the actual rate of ore recovery — I believe also that there are coal seams in China that burn continuously, but in the grand scheme of things these are fairly peripheral.

    The driving force behind current emissions trend is the fossil hydrocarbon fuel cycle. Clean that up, plug up the gassy and emitting mines and orebodies, and almost all of the new forcing disappears.

  8. Amazing… John Quiggin is referred to favourably by Steve McIntyre as he breaks another hockey stick
    “John Quiggin, a seemingly unlikely ally in criticism of methods used by Gergis and Karoly, has written a number of blog posts that are critical of studies that selected on the dependent variable.”

  9. I looked this up, but it seems to refer back to some previous controversy that isn’t properly explained in the psot. Of course, there are problems if you select the data set on the basis of the dependent variable, but I can’t see how this would happen if the dependent variable is temperature.

    I spent too much time in the past responding to the silly errors of his co-author McKitrick to worry too much about what is going on here.

  10. John,

    the answer is to develop ways of dealing with those we can and to ignore the rest

    I interpret this to mean you believe we can measure CO2 emissions and ignore the other Kyoto gasses, and/or you mean we can measure CO2 emissions from sources that are easier to measure, and ignore the rest of the CO2 sources (i.e. like Australia’s starting position of about 500 companies).

    Firstly, that would be a breach of the UNFCCC. We will have to measure emissions of all the twenty-four Kyoto gasses eventually.

    Secondly, we will have to measure all CO2 emissions from all sources eventually. This is one of the main assumptions in the carbon pricing modelling (such as Nordhaus – see my previous comment). The assumptions that must be achieved to achieve the optimal price include:

    • Negligible leakage (of emissions between countries)

    • All emission sources are included

    • Negligible compliance cost

    • Negligible fraud

    • An optimal carbon price

    • The whole world implements the optimal carbon price in unison

    • The whole world acts in unison to increase the optimal carbon price periodically

    • The whole world continues to maintain the carbon price at the optimal level for all of this century (and thereafter)

    Face up to it. If the world is going to price CO2 emissions, all countries and all industries will have to be able to measure emissions from all sources at the level of precision and accuracy that will eventually be required. The same applies to the other Kyoto gasses. That is what will eventually be required. My question asks what will be the compliance cost?

    At the moment Australia does not measure CO2 measurements from any source. And the estimates (not measurements) of CO2 emissions are imprecise and inaccurate.

  11. Just to give readers some idea of what will be involved, eventually, in trying to measure emissions, I’ll post this comment by an retired engineer, Graeme Inkster

    I’ve retired from all that estimation but was involved when it started in NSW when I worked for a paint Company making some resins. The short answer is that we didn’t know what specific fuel types or amounts were combusted in our after burner (to reduce all emissions to CO2 and some nitrogen oxides).

    Firstly, a portion of the resin ingredients were chemically changed during reaction, and a mixture of the reactants and the changed substances went straight to the oil fired after burner. It was a complex and variable mixture, and analysing each reaction would have been a nightmare of complexity.

    Also into the afterburner went volatiles from the paint production. As there were over 6,000 products and hundreds of volatile ingredients it was impossible to calculate emissions.

    The 4 “methods” put forward by the public servants ranged from idiotic to bizarre. (No-one in the paint industry could supply the answer, but were threatened with fines if they didn’t).

    I moved on, thankfully, and my successor was a practical (unscrupulous) fellow who responded by generating a vast spread sheet of over 600MB. 16 pages of calculations, I’ve forgotten how many pages of information on composition, tonnage produced, batch sizes and frequency of manufacture. All in 10 point Arial font with no graphics. Factors were assumed and buried in obscure corners with no explanations.

    One resin might be spread over 200 products. And with 6000 rows and 120 columns on a page, try following through that, esp. with references from page to page to another page. It looked impressive, but trying to check it was nigh on impossible, but the public servants were pleased and even recommended that other paint companies consult him! His view was that he retired in 5 years and they wouldn’t figure it out in that time. His comment was “Brains baffle b*llsh*t”.

    This I add happened more than 5 years ago.

  12. I find the conditions listed by Peter Lang not onorous in a theoretical context. They roughly correspond to some conditions in a theoretical model of an economy with complete commodity markets. However, these theoretical conditions are not fulfilled in practice for tradeable (‘marketable’) commodities (not even for tradeable things which are called commodities in commerce). Accordingly, Peter Lang seems to demand more stringent conditions for the pricing of non-marketable commodities (externalities) than for marketable commodities. To illustrate my point, I ask Peter Lang to provide evidence on the level of precision and accuracy of prices paid for the services provided by consultants, lawyers, CEOs and hospital staff.

  13. From a poster at CA
    It would appear that the Screening Fallacy may be an example of “selecting on the dependent variable”.

    The assumption is that trees are a proxy for temperature. By selecting only those trees that correlate with temperature, they are over estimating the confidence levels that trees are in fact good temperature proxies.

    By excluding those trees that do not correlate with temperature, they are hiding the data that shows that trees may not be very good proxies for temperature.

    The problem is the underlying assumption, that trees are good temperature proxies, has not been established. Thus, selecting based on the underlying assumption can lead to bias and faulty conclusions.

  14. Ernestine Gross,

    Thank you for your comment. I’ve asked a question and I am seeking a genuine answer to it. So before you ask me questions can we tackle mine first, please. [I may have a wrong understanding and may be chasing a non-issue; however, I will need to understand why I am wrong. I will only understand if I can get proper, persuasive answers to my questions. Obfuscation, diversion and avoidance of the substance of my questions doesn’t help at all. In fact, it suggests those avoiding the question and obfuscation are hiding something or more interested in an ideological agenda than in advocating good policy].

    My main question I’ve been asking is in my first post on this thread and better presented here:

    Can you tell me, and provide examples, of what level of precision and accuracy is required for measurement of quantities for trade in a commodity?

  15. Peter Lang,

    1. My post @13 is related to your post @11. My response to your post @15 relates to your post@11 and my post @13.

    2. I have nothing to add because I do not know that you have withdrawn your post @11.

  16. Ernestine #13,

    Good points.

    There is however a key difference. The Carbon Price is more akin to a payroll tax than an income tax. For a payroll tax the only figure required is the total annual payroll figure ie the employment fuel. Individual disbursements and their timing are not required to achieve the goal of providing consumption (employment) drag.

    With regard to Peter Lang’s #12 post above, today complex hydrocarbons are disassembled in Plasma Gasification processes to form a fuel building feedstock which allows the construction of new more readily used fuels such as diesel. This is the same process that is used to convert carbonaceous domestic waste to fuels.

    Peter Lang’s real problem is that, being a climate change denier, his focus is to prevent all renewable energy uptake and to disrupt the means of stimulating the uptake of renewable technologies. It is this focus that makes him missunderstand the operating principle of the Carbon Price and the subsequent ETS. Lang has latched on to the notion of charging for emissions and assumed that emissions therefore must need monitoring post combustion at the exhaust port, failing to see that monitoring is unnecessary for most if not all industries as emissions are to be taxed precombustion at bulk source.

  17. Peter Lang,

    Don’t you agree that the time has come when you should seek preselecion for a political party and put you arguments to the Australian people at large. This way you can proudly wear your Libertarain (I assume) colours and be an honest broker for change.

  18. I think Peter Lang’s claims are pure humbug regarding the difficulty of measuring CO2 emissions. He is a advancing a straw man argument. At the level of compliance control (via a carbon tax) the measurements will be an estimate with (my guess) plus or minus 2.5% error.

    It is very easy to put an estimate on CO2 emissions from major sources. For example, coal is already (chemically) analysed and (administratively) classified in many jurisdictions. Tables exist of the classes of coals, their percentages of carbon, of volatiles and of trace elements. From these tables it is very easy to calculate the total mass of carbon per ton of coal. All coal burning businesses know what class of coal they burn and adminstrative authorities already know too due to existing laws about sulphur content and other pollutants.

    The same applies to hydrocarbon fuels. Industrial chemists in industry and in government departments already know the makeup of all major fuels in the fuel stream. These factors already need to be understood and measured for both industrial processing purposes and compliance with current pollution laws.

    In the case of burning waste products of a complex and mixed chemical character, we can note the following.

    (1.) These are not major sources of CO2 release compared to the burning of fossil fuels.
    (2.) Therfore a higher level of measurement error can be tolerated if necessary.
    (3.) A number of simplifying assumptions can be made (more below). *
    (4.) Under the aegis of simplifying assumptions the government can estimate and then “deem” the releases to be of a certain magnitude.

    * Note: Any paint manufactury will or should know the weight and chemical composition of all inputs to its manufacturing process. From this a calculation of the weight of carbon input can be made. It should also know the weight and chemical composition of all outputs put to wholesale. From this a calculation of the weight of carbon ouptu in product can be made. The missing carbon ( a simple subtraction operation) can be assumed (deemed) to have all disappeared up the flue of the waste burner. Doh! It isn’t that complicated. Most data will come from inventory data and industrial chemical analysis which is already performed for manufacturing process and business management purposes.

  19. Ernestine Gross,

    Do you really expect to be taken seriously when you play games like this? Won’t answer questions. Avoid, divert and obfuscate. How childish.

    If you don’t want to engage, why did you write a comment in the first place?

    If you or anyone else here had a rational answer to my question you’d be providing it instead of all the silly game playing. Every answer John has provided so far (that is not avoidance or a diversion) has been shown to be wrong.

    The fact you play games like this is pretty clear demonstration that I do not have a misunderstanding about this at all. It is becoming plainly evident that the compliance cost issue is serious and it will become a huge cost over time. The ETS legislation has clearly been advocated and imposed on Australia without the proper cost analysis having been done. This is another case of many others, such as the NBN, BER, ‘Pink Bats’ insulation program, grocery watch, green loans, green cars, and who knows how many others. However, this will be orders of magnitude greater cost than all the others put together. That is the message I get from your obfuscation and silly games.

    And this is what’s behind Australia’s policies. Wow!

  20. Ikonoclast,

    You are guessing and babbling about something you do not have the slightest clue about.

  21. I’ve re-read #13, to try to understand what Ernestine Gross point is. She asks:

    I ask Peter Lang to provide evidence on the level of precision and accuracy of prices paid for the services provided by consultants, lawyers, CEOs and hospital staff.

    I thought the question was silly and irrelevant to the topic. The precision is $0.01 and the accuracy is 100% on all of these. Labour, consultants and lawyers charge by the our or by an agreed fee for a service. Time is measured precisely and accurately, so precision and accuracy is not an issue. The fee for the service is agreed and that fee is paid. The question has no relation to the question about pricing carbon emissions, a commodity which cannot be measured with precision or accuracy.

    In the case of CO2 emissions, the commodity is measured in tonnes. We cannot weigh it like we can other commodities. So the issues is accuracy and precision of the measurement of CO2 emissions.

  22. OK Peter, I think we’ve established that further discussion is useless. Please don’t post here any further.

  23. May I change the subject?

    I just read this in a transcript from the link below and am wondering if it is true that the ‘self-help’ industry is growing so strongly.

    “Rachael Kohn: Well that’s so interesting. Steve Salerno, when it comes to unhappiness with ourselves, there’s nothing quite like the New Age movement to provide every kind of remedy, is there? So how big is that industry?

    Steve Salerno: Well it’s recently been tracked as an $11-billion industry, and I think it’s interesting that when you look at the fact that practically every other industry here in America is collapsing and needs a bail-out, self-help is the one industry that’s still growing at enviable, double-digit rates. Or at least 5.5% last year when nobody was spending money on anything else, they were spending money on self-help.”


  24. Julie Thomas,

    Google is always your best friend with these sorts of things


    “Surrounding SHAM is a bulletproof shield: if your life does not get better, it is your fault–your thoughts were not positive enough. The solution? More of the same self-help–or at least the same message repackaged into new products”

    That is one point of view, anyway. I’m sure that there are many others.

  25. SHAM is not completely irrelevant to the Lang contortions in this thread. SHAM is the dominant religion in the western world. In it’s ‘prosperity goal’ branch it is a recruiting office for the Republicans in the US. Groups in Australia like Hillsong look alls et to become recruiting offices for the Coalition as well. SHAM is also the rigntwing cure to climate change. If we all just think it away then we can click our rubes;pipers together and it will be gone.

    Hockey’s claim that the economy may be going great but how much greater would it be going under a good (IE Coalition) government is really just more of the same.

  26. This may be old news, but JQ gets a mention by Paul Krugman on Great Minds with a reference to zombie economics. About 8 min in.

  27. Christine Lagarde of the IMF says

    To ensure development is sustainable, the quest for global economic growth must coexist with environmental protection and social progress …

    “We are facing a triple crisis – an economic crisis, an environmental crisis and, increasingly, a social crisis,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a speech at the Center for Global Development in Washington.

    “The global economy is still rocked by turmoil, with uncertain prospects for growth and jobs,” she told the audience. “The planet is warming rapidly, with unknown and possibly dire consequences down the line. Across too many societies, the gap between the haves and have-nots is getting wider and strains are getting fiercer.”

    As these threats feed off each other, she urged governments to pursue joint solutions by restoring financial stability, accurately pricing energy including renewable sources and promoting inclusive growth.


  28. @frankis

    With the IMF imposing austerity in an economic slump, financial stability won’t come anytime soon. Unless of course, this is what the neo-liberals want, to argue that acting on climate change will cause ‘economic armageddon’ like what the lunatic in catallaxy did.

  29. I think Tom she was arguing the case for saving the world by saving the environment and saving the poor developing peoples. So the opposite of “acting on climate change will cause ‘economic armageddon’”.

    I liked her comments particularly because I wrote on the 10th, above “We seem to be living in remarkable times … it would have to be sad were we to be overlooking or undervaluing solutions that might simultaneously address the world’s current economic, social (unemployment for instance) and environmental crises. And … economies absent plague or famine are increasingly psychological phenomena, aren’t they?”

  30. Fox News (yes you read that right) adds

    “Getting the prices right means using fiscal policy to make sure that the harm we do is reflected in the prices we pay,” she said.

    The IMF chief said not only would greenhouse gas fees or other tax-like policies help curb emissions, but they could also give a boost to government coffers in sore need of cash, as well as drive economic development of low-emission technologies. For example, she said the U.S. could raise over $1 trillion in new cash over a decade if it implemented a $25-a-ton carbon tax. Also, international charges for aviation or maritime emissions could help developing countries pay for strategies meant to protect against the impact from potential climate changes.


  31. @frankis

    I have nothing against what Christine Lagarde said in that article. I was worried however, that she maybe believe what she said by heart. With the current economic slump in Europe, it isn’t too difficult for the neo-liberals to argue acting on climate change will cause ‘economic armageddon’ (what Tony Abott is doing and what Samuel J did in catallaxy). Given her records of attitudes and policy towards Europe and Greece, I do have an impression that she is a neo-liberal.

    However, I have trouble understanding what’s going on in IMF or how that organisation operates to be honest when their chief economist, Olivier Blanchard speak things that is directly opposite of what the IMF is doing at the moment.

    Click to access spn1003.pdf


  32. @frankis

    My response in moderation. To simplify, I agree what she saying is a good thing (I have always supported acting on climate change) but given what the conservatives are doing (Abott, Samuel J in catallaxy), it may not have good outcomes for the climate change ‘debate’ given the current economic slump in Europe and since the IMF is kind of doing everything they can to keep them in a slump.

    Corrections in my previous (moderated comment) – “that she maybe believe what she said by heart” should be “that she may not believe what she said by heart”

  33. Why I’ll buy gold if Merkel and Associates agree to Euro bonds.

    For quite some time my intuition was that the conversion of national bonds, denominated in Euro currency units and issued by various EU governments, into Eurobonds would suit the proverbial Wall Street bankers (including those in Frankfurt and London) and nobody else (except perhaps some macroeconomists). A conversion of say Greek bonds into Eurobonds would spread the risk over more people and hence provide a cover for the proverbial Wall Street bankers (and macroeconomists) to carry on as before. I am not in the habit of trusting my intuition. But the other day I received a bit of information from an interview of a ‘finance expert’ who belongs to the proverbial Wall Street set. She said, on TV, something to the effect that, prior to the GFC her industry lent money to Euro member countries on the same terms because they have the same currency.

    Think about it. The content of this bit of news amounts to saying everybody who issues a debt security denominated in a particular currency unit has the same ability to repay the loan! Credit analysis goes out the window. Well this is how sub-prime mortgages were generated – NO? This is how the US citizens were made to pay for the proverbial Wall Street bankers and their allies, the rating agencies and those in politics who are responsible for legislation.

    This is how people who try to live within their means are being made to pay for the fantasies and incredible irresponsibility of others. This is how voters in some countries are robbed of their rights by being forced to pay for the decisions of other governments, whom they did not elect. This has nothing to do with ‘austerity’ versus ‘spending’ (or any of the other macroeconomic theories reviewed in JQ’s book on Zombie Economics). This has something to do with supporting a rip-off financial system that treats people as mere pawns in their grand scheme of enriching themselves via a legitimised Ponzi scheme. This is unsustainable. This is the Zombie of the Roaring Twenties that preceded the Great Depression (unfortunately, Paul Krugman doesn’t talk about this in public addresses, linked to above).

    The Greek people can be helped via EU development programs under the control of the EU commission. In other words, any wealth transfers between the still financially sound countries and the strugglers is to be under the control of the institutions that integrate the democratically elected governments in the Euro-zone and not under the control of the proverbial Wall Street bankers.

    So, the way I see it, either the G20 get together to change the rules of the game of the financial system (narrow banking is not enough) or one buys physical things, such as land, real estate, or gold.

  34. So, the way I see it, either the G20 get together to change the rules of the game of the financial system (narrow banking is not enough) or one buys physical things, such as land, real estate, or gold.

    We need better than this. Vague calls such as for ‘changing rules’ (!!!???) fill the internet.

    Vague blaming for peoples supposed ‘irresponsibility’ is a placebo.

    Surely, by now, honest Keynesians must seriously re-examine their doctrinaire stances. Hoping that good times will return, to obviate the need for stimulus, is not good enough.

  35. “changing rules (!!!???)”

    Question arises from copy error. The expression is: Changing rules of the game of the financial system. (ie changing the institutional, speak legislative, environment)

    Providing false data is irresponsible; the placebo is to say it is not.

    ‘Keynesians’ please stand up.

    “Stimulus” of what? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stimulus

  36. (This post belongs in the comments section of “High-cost basin plan water is bad for all” of 2 June, but comments in response to that article have been closed.)

    I consider these four embedded YouTube broadcasts of talks by Robert F. Kennedy Jr an a amazing discovery. Robert Kennedy seems to have every bit as much vision and compassion for humankind as his late father and his father’s elder brother, the late President Kennedy and even more talent:

    Robert Kennedy Jr. “Crimes Against Nature”

    How Corporations Threaten Our Environment and Democracy

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the media

    Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (6/16/11)

  37. Book review: Meta-Geopolitics of Outer Space by Nayef Al-Rodham

    Here is a book by a philosopher and neuroscientist about how to keep Outer Space safe for everyone. “Dr. Al-Rodham hopes his book will spark new conversations about ways to increase the benefits of space for all countries, while expanding the working definition of “sustainability.” Sustainability is no longer just about using recycled paper products or eating local organic produce grown by eco-conscious micro-farmers. It’s also about thinking far beyond the Earth. And, stresses Dr. Al-Rodhan, these are issues that affect each and every one of us. “Ultimately,” says Dr. Al-Rodhan, “space will either be safe for everyone or for no one.” (And we could use a little more common-good planning on earth as well

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s