Carbonomics: How to Fix the Climate and Charge it to OPEC


100 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2012 Last revised: 14 Jun 2014

Date Written: November 17, 2008


Carbonomics is a 270 page book that covers national and international energy policy from an economic perspective. Part 1 dismisses several popular myths including the view that any implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would wreck the economy, and that peak oil will herald an international economic collapse. In Part 2, global energy markets are shown to induce a "global rebound effect" such that every gallon of oil conserved or replaced by alternative fuels induces the use of an estimated 0.26 additional gallons by the rest of the world through a world-oil-price effect.

Part 3 proposes an "untax" as the central national energy policy. This would tax carbon and refund all the revenues on an equal-per-person basis. This is shown to be superior, because of distributional considerations, to using a carbon tax to pay down some other tax. The key assumption in this argument is that using a poll tax to pay down other taxes is generally rejected because of its distributional consequences. Second, a separate carbon tax rate on oil is proposed, so that the carbon tax can accommodate oil price fluctuations. A feebate for fuel efficient autos is also proposed. The suggested design would help the Big Three automakers by rewarding progress rather than absolute performance.

Part 4 argues that developing countries will never accept meaningful emission caps and that the Kyoto Protocol should be replaced by global carbon pricing. Enforcement and international fairness mechanisms are proposed. The fairness mechanism is designed to avoid perverse incentives and to provide an incentive for useful emission reduction measures that are not covered by carbon pricing. The fairness mechanism provides for transfer payments from countries with high emissions per capita to those with low emissions per capita. This leaves China at the neutral point because its emissions are almost exactly average.

The concept of an oil consumers' cartel is discussed throughout. First it is noted that any effective international climate organization will be, in effect, such a cartel. Second estimates of a cartel's impact are backed out of the results of economic models, such as the DOE's model of the impacts of the Kyoto Protocol. Next it is shown that climate policies could save a large fraction of their cost in reduced payments to oil exporting countries. For the first decade or two of a substantial climate policy, this fraction may be greater than 100 percent. Finally, Carbonomics proposes that this benefit be acknowledged during international climate negations. After all, China will soon be as "addicted to oil" as is the United States, so this provides the two countries with a powerful financial incentive for cooperation.

The first eight chapters are available from SSRN.

Keywords: global warming, climate change, energy security, OPEC, carbon tax, cap and trade, fuel economy, energy efficiency, energy policy, peak oil

Suggested Citation

Stoft, Steven, Carbonomics: How to Fix the Climate and Charge it to OPEC (November 17, 2008). CARBONOMICS: HOW TO FIX THE CLIMATE AND CHARGE IT TO OPEC, Diamond, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Steven Stoft (Contact Author)

Retired Economist ( email )

2910 Elmwood Court
Berkeley, CA 94705
United States
(510) 644-9410 (Phone)


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