Can Oxygen-Pricing Help Save the Environment?

By: Robert McCroskey 9043 184 St Surrey B.C. Canada V4N 3T7

Developed countries continue to move forward in their relentless and destructive reach for more of everything - more crop land, more river water, 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 study published February 2013 in Energy Policy.

A study 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.

Dr. Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research said recently in an interview on the "Democracy Now!" program: "...in terms of what we need to do in terms of policy, this is not about everyone in the world making big reductions in their energy consumption. It's about those of us who are responsible for the lion's share of the emissions making those big changes.". 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.

In spite of airlines supposedly "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 20, 2012 editorial, The Washington Post recommends a carbon tax. However, much more drastic actions are 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 at a meaningful level. They talk of hundreds of billions of dollars when the amount needed is many trillions.

An oxygen tax would provide the funds to make good on those pledges and help to preserve the remaining living parts of this planet, and is thus a better system for eco-justice than carbon pricing schemes.

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 simply hands over money from the general population to those who created the emissions problem - the government itself, which promotes everlasting growth on a finite planet.

Most forms of carbon taxes or "tax and dividend" schemes such as proposed by conservatives such as Dr. James Hansen, collect the tax at source and distribute supposedly 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. This proposal for handing the funds collected back to the consumers is simply a method of "buying their vote" to get the general population to go along with this largely useless scheme, which amounts to too little, too late. The funds collected from any pricing scheme need to accrue to the UN Green Fund as our contribution to mitigation and adaptation in the developing countries. The Trudeau carbon tax scheme which is supposedly "revenue neutral" (by reducing other taxes) is not a "climate action plan" because there are no firm caps on either emissions or consumption, just wishful thinking that the financial burden of the tax will reduce burning of fossil fuels. Talking about being "revenue neutral" while continuing subsides for the fossil fuel industry severely deceitful.

Other schemes such as cap-and-trade merely establish complex market schemes which end up handing a handsome income to Wall Street brokers, or like the cap-and-trade scheme in California, the indigenous peoples of México are being forced off their land to make way for the government to sell carbon offsets to California.

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.

Various schemes are proposed for "carbon sequestration" which most often involves capturing CO2 at source or (more pie-in-the-sky) extracting it from the atmosphere (and some studies and U.N. documents show that we cannot meet global temperature rise limits without doing this) and forcing it deep underground where hopefully it stays and does not leak back out to the surface. Besides all those "iffy" issues as well as promoting earthquakes, the big issue should be the problem of the loss of all that oxygen - the oxygen should be stripped off the CO2 and returned to the atmosphere, leaving behind black carbon powder. But a quick review of the laws of thermodynamics shows that such a process would consume more energy than was obtained in the original oxidation of the fuels. Thus it becomes more imperative that all burning must stop, regardless of whether or not the carbon-fuel source is fossil or bio-fuel origin.

The main problem with carbon taxes is that you can't balance that set of books. In normal economics, with the funds collected from a price on carbon, you pay others to produce more carbon. If you divert that money elsewhere, you can't balance the books. But with an oxygen price, you collect money from those who destroy oxygen, and pay it to those who produce oxygen, thus that set of books can be balanced.

The big problem is this - people are stealing 2/3 of their fuel from the commons by outright stealing the oxygen from the atmosphere as the oxidizer for their carbon fuels. 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 privatise 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, 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. [See also Under a Green Sky by Peter D. Ward PhD, 2007, Smithsonian Books, Harper Collins Publishers Inc., N.Y.]

An oxygen price should be equivalent to what you pay now per weight 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/petrol 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. Recent articles claim that British Columbia's carbon tax has reduced consumption, but since the tax is so well hidden, never appearing on your fuel purchase receipts, people do not get the market signal that this tax is costing them anything.

Thus we should have been working toward developing a price for oxygen, to be paid to an international body such as the UN Green Fund, 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-caused environmental degradation. What can we do? We are apparently locked into 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 fossil fuel 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, it 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 stop sending that carbon up into the atmosphere and into our oceans. What fools these mortals be!

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