Friday, October 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Per Capita Davis: Turning away from fossil fuels on a dime

JohnMott-SmithW

By
From page A3 | July 17, 2014 |

The movement to persuade institutional investors to “divest” their portfolios of stocks of corporations primarily engaged in producing or combusting fossil fuels is picking up steam. The World Council of Churches, representing nearly 600 million churchgoers in more than 150 countries, voted to divest its own holdings and to encourage all of its member churches to do the same.

What started on college campuses has spread to more than 100 cities, counties, religious institutions, foundations and other citizen-based organizations. The targets for divestment are 200 publicly traded companies that control most of the known coal, oil and gas reserves.

Why focus on “reserves?” Scientists recently calculated our planetary “carbon budget.” First, they determined that if humans increase global temperature by just 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) we could expect to cross one or more “tipping points” and find ourselves in a world of hurt.

Next, they calculated the number of gigatons of carbon dioxide it would take to reach this threshold and how much of this amount has already been emitted into the atmosphere. Doing the math, they came up with the number of gigatons we could spew into the atmosphere in future years and stay below the target global temperature increase. Basically, we can add another 585 gigatons.

The problem is that “known reserves” of coal, oil and gas contain five times that amount.

So, the divestment movement is asking the companies that hold these reserves to: 1) Stop exploring for more; 2) Stop lobbying for tax breaks for fossil fuels and against development of renewables; and 3) Commit to keeping 80 percent of their reserves in the ground, never to be burned.

This is a big ask. For No. 3 it’s a huge ask: “Excuse us, fossil fuel companies, but we’d like you to write off about $20 trillion in assets in order to save the planet.”

And, this doesn’t count the infrastructure that supports our dependence on fossil fuels, such as gas- and coal-fired power plants, gas stations, pipelines and refineries.

It has been said that one reason the Exxon Valdez crashed and spilled tens of millions of gallons of crude oil in 1989 was that even when the people piloting the ship became aware that things were amiss, it was too late to prevent the disaster. If I recollect correctly, the ship was so large, more than three football fields in length, that just to stop the ship’s forward motion and begin turning it required more than a mile.

Turning the world off the fossil fuel path will require much more than just stopping or turning that one ship, and the enormity of the “ask” is some measure of the almost unimaginable effort required and the political and economic friction that will ensue. Bottom line, the transition from fossil fuels to a sustainable energy economy will not be without pain and it is difficult to imagine that the fossil fuel industry will quietly agree to go along.

So, what forces can turn the USS Fossil Fuel and keep it from spilling its guts on a reef? The divestment movement calculates that the top 500 university endowments collectively invest close to a half a trillion dollars, and if you add in pension funds and investments by foundations and religious institutions, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

The website www.gofossilfree.org/commitments lists some of the participating organizations, including, of local interest: Stanford and SF State, not to mention the cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, Richmond and Oakland, as well as numerous religious organizations.

Divestment is a potentially powerful tool in terms of influencing corporate change. Another is making people (corporations, in case you had not heard, are people) pay to dump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I’ve mentioned in a couple of prior columns the idea from the Citizens Climate Lobby of charging emitters a gradually increasing fee and, rather than keeping the money, government would return the funds to U.S. residents. This idea keeps popping up in the most interesting places.

What is that old saying? “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.” So now a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek cites a proposal from the Brookings Institute to charge $16 a ton for CO2 emissions and increase it 4 percent per year above inflation. This, they calculate, would raise the price of gas about 16 cents, and increase household energy costs by anywhere from 5 to 20 percent.

The proposal estimates the tax would raise $3 trillion over 20 years and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The article further indicates that this would permit the government to send a check for $300 ($1,200 for a family of four) to every resident in the country in year one, with the amount increasing over time. Or, to assuage any tax phobias, the offer could be made to reduce other taxes on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Sound crazy? Well it appears to be working in British Columbia. After six years of implementation, the carbon tax has cut carbon emissions, produced jobs and grown the economy, and B.C. now has the lowest income tax rate in Canada and one of the lowest corporate tax rates in North America.

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis; his column publishes on the and third Thursdays of each month. Send comments to johnmottsmith@comcast.net

Comments

comments

John Mott-Smith

.

News

Gardner guilty of murder, with special circumstances

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
State superintendent makes campaign stop in Davis

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Same-party races challenge incumbents

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

State races test one-party rule

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A2

 
Meet Poppenga at Saturday reception

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Bob Dunning: Lawn display causes a theological crisis

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Couple killed in Yolo County crash

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Indians celebrate Diwali with gala on Sunday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Rairdan dinged for late report

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A3

 
Veterans will tailgate at ‘Salute to Heroes’ game

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Wolk hailed for environmental votes

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Yamada honored for leadership on aging issues

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Embroidery group meets at mall

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Bones for Life classes offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Bet Haverim will hear Israel update

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Local artisans featured at holiday craft fair

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Kids walk for friends at Birch Lane

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Explorit: Creep out with some spooky science

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4

 
Shambhala offers Tai Chi class

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Enjoy wine, music and art at Sunday fundraiser for DHS choir

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A9

 
.

Forum

New-school cheating on the smartphone

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Vote for students, with Tuck

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

My choices on Tuesday

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Garamendi, Dodd get my votes

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

High hopes for Sunder

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Public service is in her heart

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

A calm, thoughtful voice

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Sunder is a perfect fit

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Best predictor is past behavior

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
.

Sports

DHS plays undefeated Pacers Friday night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Blue Devil girls net an easy win at Grant

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Aggie offense A-OK; now what about defense?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
In Davis, rugby is as American as apple pie

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
 
Niemi’s 43 saves aren’t enough in loss to Wild

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

 
Calling all artists for upcoming show

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

‘Birdman': A dark comedy that soars

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11

 
DHS Madrigals host singing workshop

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12

 
Marcia Ball to play at The Palms

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Big, capable luxury defines Yukon

By Ann M. Job | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Joseph Francis Gray

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Friday, October 31, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER2

Lyon Real Estate

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER3

RE/Max Gold

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER4

Kim Eichorn

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER5

Yolo FCU

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

Juan Ramirez

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

Susan von Geldern

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

Team Traverso

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

Susan von Geldern

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

Tracy Harris

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

Julie Leonard

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

Melrina A Maggiora

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER9

Joe Kaplan

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER9

Coldwell Banker

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER10

Julie Partain

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

Leslie Blevins

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

Jamie Madison

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

Diane Lardelli

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

Robin Garland

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

Lisa Haass

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

Karen Waggoner

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

Jamie Madison & Associates

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

Ciana Wallace

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER15

Travis Credit Union

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER16

Malek Baroody

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER17

Marcelo Campos

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER18

F1rst Street Real Estate

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER20