The EU will have to find another way to Confiscate Private Sector Wealth because the ETS is Kaput

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 20th, 2013

Week in Review

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was the European Union’s (EU’s) way of combating global warming.  By making carbon emitters pay for their carbon emissions.  But Europe is mired in recession.  And the Eurozone is suffering a sovereign debt crisis.  Which hasn’t helped to pull Europe out of recession.  And it appears that the economic reality in Europe is dooming the ETS (see If Carbon Markets Can’t Work in Europe, Can They Work Anywhere? by Bryan Walsh posted 4/17/2013 on Time).

But the ETS—and carbon trading more generally—is not doing well, and its problems are taking some of the green shine off of Europe. Since its launch the ETS has struggled, with the price of carbon falling as the 2008 recession and overly generous carbon allowances undercut the market. In the ETS business are given free allowances to emit carbon—too many free allowances mean they don’t need to reduce their carbon emissions much, which erodes the demand for additional carbon allowances on the market and causes the price to drop. Prices fell from 25 euros a ton in 2008 to just 5 euros a ton in February. There was a way to fix this—take 900 million tons of carbon allowances off the market now and reintroduce them in five years time, when policymakers hoped the economy would be stronger and demand would be greater. As anyone who’s taken Econ 101 would know, artificially reducing the supply of carbon allowances in such a drastic way—something called “backloading”— should force the price back up.

But on April 16, the European Parliament surprised observers by voting down the backloading plan. In turn, the European carbon market collapsed, with the price of a carbon allowance falling by more than 40% over the day. “We have reached the stage where the EU ETS has ceased to be an effective environmental policy,” Anthony Hobley, the head of climate change practice at the London law firm Norton Rose, told the New York Times. The ETS is a mess.

Backloading failed because even in very green Europe, economic concerns seemed to trump environmental ones. European Parliamentary members worried that any action that would cause the price of carbon to rise would add to European industry’s already high energy costs.

This should make China happy.  For there was no way no how they were going to pay for the carbon emissions from their airplanes entering European airspace.  In fact they warned they would cancel their Airbus orders and give them to Boeing if the Europeans tried to force them to help bail out the Eurozone in their sovereign debt crisis.  For this was what the ETS would ultimately do.  Transfer great amounts of wealth from the private sector to the public sector.  Which would have gone a long way in helping the Eurozone to continue to spend money they don’t have.

The ETS was nothing but a new tax on business.  Cloaked in the guise of making the world a better—and greener—place.  But the EU is suffering economically.  A large part of the sovereign debt crisis is due to having less economic activity to tax.  So the EU needs to improve the economy.  So they can generate more tax revenue from the current tax rates.  But increasing taxes on the carbon emitters will not help businesses.  It will only increase the cost of business.  Increasing their prices.  Making them less competitive in the market place.  Reducing their sales.  And killing jobs.  Which will generate even less tax revenue from the current tax rates.

The problem in the EU is not global warming.  Or insufficient tax revenue.  They have a spending problem.  This is what caused their deficits.  That gave them their soaring debt.  Just like every other nation that ever suffered a debt crisis.  Including the U.S.  Trying to fix a spending problem with more taxes just doesn’t work.  Only a cut in spending can fix a spending problem.  It’s not like the old chicken and egg question.  Excessive and unsustainable spending always comes before a debt crisis.  Always.

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