Upstream Carbon Regulation

Dear Sir,

While there is a widespread view that "something must be done" aboutcarbon dioxide emissions, there is extraordinarily little thought ofwhen and how.  There are many technologies for supplying energy forsociety, such as those suggested by Art Hobson, but all will costsomewhat more than the present fuels.  Some action is necessary toforce expenditure by society of the extra money.  Almost allpolitical proposals are for regulating downstream, e.g., egulating Miles per Gallon, or taxing (some) CO2 emissions. Yet for carbon it ispossible to regulate upstream at the coal mine, the oil well, the gasfield, and for a country control, port of entry. I argue this is farpreferable.  The control points are limited in number, are easy tomonitor and most already are. This is in contrast to the hundreds ofthousands of CO2 emitters. Once carbon is brought to the surface itwill be CO2 within a year. The government would only have  to takeone set of actions. It could insist on carbon permits for bringingcarbon to the surface and reducing the number  of permits until thedesired CO2 concentration is achieved. Carbon sequestration could beencouraged by a certificate of sequestration which is the opposite ofa permit. The free market could  then do what it does best  decide onthe preferred allocation of the carbon between the various societaluses.

I dislike the thought of the "Command and Control" mechanisms nowbeing discussed. Each of them is for an individual sector. Who is tomake the decisions sector by sector? Lawyers for environmentalgroups? Politicians? Starry eyed academics? I prefer the allocationto be by the free market. Any modification for helping the poor anddeveloping countries should be specifically noted as such.

Richard Wilson
Harvard University