Sun going down behind oil drilling platform Holly off California. A major pipeline leak led to the closure of the rig. Image credit Glenn Beltz Creative Commons
Total Carbon Rationing is a system to bring CO2 emissions down to zero. It’s rationing, with a major enhancement.
It’s rationing across the whole supply chain, from citizen/consumer to oil, gas or coal producer.
It is a tuning mechanism for the economy that lets society balance CO2 emissions reduction against the economic carnage that it could have, that stimulates all the right businesses, and is also fair and equitable.
To ration is:
to limit the amount of a particular thing that someone is allowed to have; government intervention in a state of emergency (typically war) to ensure that the population is guaranteed fair allocation of scarce commoditiesCambridge Dictionary
Carbon rationing does not quite meet this definition: fossil fuels are not a scarce commodity. Otherwise it is the same: a carbon ration is a simple allowance, given in kilos of carbon, paid electronically into a digital ration account, to citizens. Children would receive a percentage, increasing from a small fraction to almost 100% for teenagers. We, the citizens, are the ultimate reason why CO2 emissions occur and we would directly determine how CO2 emissions are reduced, by choosing where we spend those rations.
Total Carbon Rationing covers all CO2 emissions from all human sources. The total amount of rations in the economy directly limits the amount of carbon – fossil fuels – that is allowed to be pumped out of the ground.
All rations used in industry, government, finance – everywhere – would come originally from the citizens. Industry and commerce, without any rations of its own, uses these rations in every stage of its business.
For example, whoever wants to purchase a new car, must pay the car dealer in money and rations. The car dealer pays the car manufacturer with rations as well. The manufacturer pays several suppliers, also with rations, including a steelworks, an energy provider, a battery manufacturer and so on.
The steelworks obtains its rations from its customers, like the car manufacturer. It knows how many rations to charge, because it has to pay rations for the energy it uses in its furnaces – whether to a fossil fuel supplier or, in much smaller quantities, to a renewable energy source.
Why is it “Total” Carbon Rationing?
“Total Carbon Rationing” contains the word “Total” because every product or service that is bought and sold is subject to the system: every vendor, every merchant, every shopkeeper, every professional who trades in any sense must put a carbon ration price on their product or service next to the usual price.
The process is driven by the energy companies who must obtain enough carbon rations to account for the fossil carbon pumped out of their oil and gas fields. Anybody or any business that burns carbon-based fuels would not be able to do so without paying the carbon ration price to the fuel supplier. The carbon rations flow from citizens to energy companies in a direct chain of retail and wholesale commercial transactions.
Carbon Rations can be bought or sold
To prevent people or businesses falling off a carbon ration cliff edge, anyone can sell the carbon rations they don’t need on a well-regulated carbon market to those people and businesses that need to buy more.
What ensures that no-one cheats?
The energy companies who pump fossil fuels from the ground are audited to ensure they obtain rations for every kilo of fossil carbon extracted. This effectively polices the entire system.
A central carbon bank would take on this role, as well as being the primary distributor of carbon rations to citizens, and the regulator of the carbon ration exchange.
Check out the Q&A section for more info.
Isn’t there a Smarter Way than Rationing?
Many people think that carbon rationing is not just radical and drastic, but just outright extreme. There are some suggestions for smart solutions out there, but they all have key drawbacks that make them inferior to simple rationing. Carbon taxes for instance are unfair, difficult to target and subject to far more political interference. Carbon pricing is complex and difficult to administer. Government regulations such as frequent flyer tax or meat production licensing is unwieldy and piecemeal in approach.