Sat Jul 22nd, 2006 at 07:45:59 AM EST
From The Register
The government is ready to consider introducing personal, tradable carbon allowances, the environment secretary will say this evening, as part of its efforts to persuade members of the general public to reduce their energy consumption.
The move has been described as "a good idea whose time has not yet come" by environmental campaigners. They argue that it is premature to shift this kind of responsibility onto consumers who still have very little choice about the kinds of energy they use.
Environment secretary David Miliband said the scheme would cover people's use of electricity, gas, petrol and air travel. He argued that a trading scheme would be fairer than tax increases, because only those who exceeded their allowances would have to pay.
The idea is that everyone would be set a carbon ration. Those who chose to reduce their emissions could then sell the excess to other people.
Interesting, but - how can anyone monitor energy use accurately enough to police a scheme like this? There are obvious points in the supply chain where monitoring becomes possible, but making the monitoring personal will require a huge database, and possibly some kind of ID scheme.
From the front page - whataboutbob
And what about life or death situations where someone needs a hospital trip but has run out of carbon? How do they buy a surplus, and from whom? Does this mean there will be an eBay style carbon market for individuals, or a central carbon trading agency which will let you extend your ration with a credit card payment? Who sets prices, and how will carbon trades be monitored?
The Register feature does a good job of highlighting the schizophrenia of UK government policy, which on the one hand is considering initiatives like this one, on the other is cutting back on low-carbon transport schemes and building airports instead.
So can we expect a similar scheme for industry, especially nuclear engineering and construction, or will some businesses be inexplicably exempt?
I'd be all for a monitoring scheme that worked across the economy to make carbon costs realistic. But as the Greens point out - how can you cut back on consumption when there are no low consumption options for you to buy?