• Ben Cooper

Some Arizonians Want Even Higher Gas Prices

Arizona Citizen's Climate Lobby collects signatures to push Senators to "tax carbon" and then pay some of it out as "dividends".

How do you justify theft? Well, just make up a good cause. It's a story as old as Robin Hood. Local members of the Citizen's Climate Lobby (CCL) were present at the Mesa Festival on 9 April 2022 collecting signatures for a letter to Arizona Senators Sinema and Kelly in order to push laws that put fees on carbon. We don't have any real problems after all...

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Some of this money would then be used to pay out dividends equally to all residents on a per person basis. The system would tax fossil fuel companies, who would pass this tax on to customers. Those same customers would then receive a dividend. This may sound fair, until you realize that:

  1. There will be a loss due to administrative costs. Indeed, in Canada and Switzerland where this has been implemented, only between 40 and 67% of the tax is paid back to citizens as dividend.

  2. Once the tax is instated, it will be raised and some of the money will be used for other purposes than the dividend and the administrative cost.

  3. It is a highly regressive tax, meaning poorer people will pay more as percentage of their income that richer people. This is because the percentage of income spent on energy/fuel driven things like heating, cooling and transport is much higher for poorer people than for richer people.

  4. It's taxing people paying for gas, while benefitting those who are not. People who don't pay the tax, because they don't drive, or they drive electric, nevertheless get pay offs.

  5. Any tax that is levied grows the government, which in turn creates a vested interest for raising taxes even more, since this benefits the government.

The idea of the carbon fee-dividend system in essence is to force people to use less fossil fuels by making fossil fuels more expensive via government taxation.

Electric cars are actually coal, gas a and nuclear powered

One Chandler CCL member present at the CCL stall at the Mesa Festival said that since owning a Tesla, he has not paid any gas bills. He did however have to acknowledge that he had to pay higher electric bills, since the Tesla has to be recharged. The electricity for this recharge was most likely generated in either a coal, gas or nuclear power plant. These types of plants generate the vast majority of the electric power in the United States. Thanks to policies of the Biden administration, fuel for cars, derived from crude oil, is now much more expensive on a per unit basis than coal, gas and enriched uranium fuel used in mentioned large electric power plants.

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However, because power plants, even fossil fuel power plants, do not have weight limitations, the engines used to generate electricity in these plants can be built with less weight saving compromise than internal combustion engines used in cars. As a result, their thermal efficiency is higher, 30 to 40% or so, than that of an internal combustion engine used in car, 20% or so. Since the electric systems in an electric car are around 80% efficient, electric cars overall use less energy than petrol powered cars on a net basis.

In city traffic this is very apparent, as electric cars can recuperate energy during breaking, while gas powered cars just lose it as heat generated in the breaking discs. On highways and other open roads where one rarely breaks, gas powered cars perform best. The effective miles per gallon advantage of electric cars over gas powered cars is much less dramatic during highway driving. This is also where range anxiety is more pronounced for electric car drivers as the 70mph or so driving on a highway drains batteries much faster than slow paced city traffic.

If the owner of a Tesla, or other electric car, has a solar cell system at the house, then the energy to recharge the electric car is not fossil fuel powered, although the making of the solar cell from silicon does require a lot of heating energy, which is typically generated in Chinese coal fueled power plants.

The CCL is a somewhat bi-partisan organization. Indeed, former Republican government official George Schultz and former anti-Trump Congressman Bob Ingles R-SC are key people in the organization.

Porsches for everyone

Overall, the price of any item you buy has some correlation with the amount of energy required to obtain or make it. If a metal ore is plentiful and close to the surface, copper for example, then it is easier and less energy consuming to get than say gold, which is rare and has to be dug out in small pieces from big holes or deep mines. This requires much more energy on a per unit basis than for copper.

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Electric cars are about twice as expensive as gas powered cars. This is largely because the lithium ion batteries that store their electric energy are difficult and expensive to make, requiring lots of energy to mine and refine lithium and then process it into the stuff that goes into batteries. The engine of a gas powered car on the other hand can be cheaply made from plentiful steel or aluminum. Absent political interference - like when Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline - crude oil is fairly easy to obtain also and is hence a relatively cheap source of energy, if politicians let it be.

Owning an electric car does free one from gas station trips and bills, however, this comes at the price of a much higher upfront cost of the car. Highlighting the ever increasing variety of models of electric cars, said Chandler CCL member did tell us that Porsche now has 3 electric models. Imitating Marie Antoinette, one could respond with: Let them drive Porsches.

Electric cars are great. Instead of using force, let them slowly replace gas powered cars over time, rather than impoverishing people by making energy more expensive and growing the government even larger than it already is.


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