Relative Strength: Regulatory Tax Risk Plus Higher Insurance Premiums Confronts The Economics Of Unsustainable Fuels And Technologies

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Ice loss in Antarctica increased by 75 percent in the last 10 years due to a speed-up in the flow of its glaciers and is now nearly as great as that observed in Greenland, according to a new, comprehensive study by NASA and university scientists.”

305 tornados hit the U.S. between April 25 and 28, making it the largest outbreak in history. “The previous tornado outbreak record was set in 1974 from April 3 to 4, when 148 tornadoes were recorded. In April of this year, the NOAA estimated that there were more than 600 tornadoes, shattering the monthly record from May 2003 when there were 542. Additionally, there have been an estimated 327 deaths resulting from tornadoes this year, making it the third deadliest tornado outbreak on record.

Meteorologists from AccuWeather predict that water levels along the Mississippi River from southern Illinois and southeastern Missouri to western Tennessee and Northeast Kansas are likely to be higher than the previous flood levels set in 1937.”

What do these reports have to do with relative strength analysis?

Potentially plenty if at some point in the future the U.S. political process links the need for tax reform with issues of climate change and energy independence.

In such a scenario a perceived benefit could emerge for taxing “unsustainability” as a path that can shift the current tax policy’s heavy emphasis upon taxing income (productive use of human and financial capital) onto the taxing of consumption (a depleting and emitting activity). This path also solves the question of what consumption to tax? The answer is to tax the type of consumption that is creating externality costs like health care costs tied to pollution or the cost to protect foreign oil fields.

This scenario also offers a path for defining the size of the tax. Credible third parties including the CDC have calculated the health care costs tied to pollution. The military has calculated the costs created from our dependence upon foreign oil. And the insurance industry has  posted estimates of the cost created by climate change. The combined totals are hundreds of billions of dollars annually. This size that could be attractive to a Congress seeking to reduce a similarly sized national annual deficit.

It also creates a potentially compelling political symmetry of taxing those who are creating the externality costs.

Such a scenario holds the potential for a sea-change in relative strength between unsustainability and sustainability.

Here’s a telling quote:

“The EPA’s rules to regulate CO2, which went into effect January 2nd (2011) will affect many American balance sheets. If companies wake up one day to find it costs $15 to emit a ton of CO2, a financial analyst considering ExxonMobil would see it emitted 128 million metric tons in 2009. That adds nearly $20 billion to the oil giant’s operating costs…”Curtis Ravenel, Bloomberg’s Sustainability Director

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017, a website that posts blogs and tweets on the emerging smart, healthy and green $10 trillion global annual revenue sustainable economy. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles best practices of businesses making money going green.

About Bill Roth

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017, author of The Secret Green Sauce and a nationally-followed contributor to, Triple Pundit, The Green Economy Post and Media Post on best business practices emerging from the smart, healthy and green global economy. He coaches entrepreneurs, business and community leaders on how to grow revenues, profits and jobs by going smart and green.
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