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Is carbon trading a 'market mechanism'? (Read 8623 times)
freediver
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Is carbon trading a 'market mechanism'?
Oct 7th, 2007 at 1:44pm
 
updated article: http://www.ozpolitic.com/green-tax-shift/carbon-trading-market-mechanism.html

There appears to be a misconception among many 'lay economists' that carbon trading is a 'market mechanism' while carbon taxes are not. However, government control of the quantity of an item being sold is no more of a market based mechanism than government control of the price. Where it counts, carbon taxes make far better use of market forces than carbon trading schemes.

First though, a little speculation on why people might see carbon trading as more of a market based approach. The economic problems caused by taxes are well known and familiar. People still make this connection, even when the tax is applied to something which we actually want to cost more. On the other hand, government control over the quantity of an item for sale is far rarer and the associated problems far less familiar.

Carbon trading does result in a market where something is actually exchanged. However, while most items for sale have an intrinsic value independent of government action, the goods exchanged in a carbon market exist only as a result of government dictates. While the exchange may have the superficial appearance of a free market, the market itself is an unnecessary extra cost. Private ownership of resources is usually good for the economy, but where government monitoring of the ownership or use is still necessary, private ownership loses its advantages over government ownership. The 'stock exchange' itself is seen by some as beneficial as it employs people. However while stock exchanges typically reduce transaction costs for most privately held items, they actually increase it for CO2 emissions because the infrastructure for a tax based system is still necessary and the cost of seeking out a buyer or seller is an extra and unnecessary burden. Many people hope that Australia will become a centre for international exchange, however this is unlikely given our refusal to participate in current international trading schemes. Any local benefit would be in the form of a cost charged to the rest of the world for an unnecessary service. This benefit would also be insignificant compared to the local costs of choosing an inferior mechanism for putting a price on CO2 emissions.

The price of an item on the free market is the result of interactions between the forces of supply and demand. The price is the result which we are all familiar with and one we don't like seeing directly affected by the government. However, while we are not usually aware of the quantity of an item being traded, it is actually the more important outcome from an economic perspective. When governments seek to minimise the economic impact of a tax, they do this by choosing goods and services that are insensitive to price. That is, the government can increase the price while having as little impact on the quantity being traded as possible.

Carbon trading and carbon taxes both make some use of market forces. It is misleading to say that one makes more use than the other. However, there is a huge difference in where the power of market forces is directed. Carbon trading schemes direct market forces at reducing the price of emissions as quickly as possible while holding the total emissions (the amount being 'supplied') constant. It is up to a political or bureaucratic process to reduce the total emissions. As you would expect, the market operates much faster, which is why kyoto and the new trading scheme based in NSW face emissions prices low enough to cripple the trading schemes, while the total emissions have barely been reduced. On the other hand, carbon taxes direct the power of market forces towards reducing the amount of emissions as quickly as the economy can tolerate. Adjustments to the price may be necessary at some stage, but the process is nowhere near as dependent on continual government interference as trading schemes are.

While taxes make better use of market forces to actually reduce emissions, rather than just the price of emissions, by far the biggest advantage of taxes is that they allow for the reduction of other taxes, thereby mitigating almost all of the economic impact.

http://www.ozpolitic.com/green-tax-shift/carbon-trading-market-mechanism.html

http://www.ozpolitic.com/green-tax-shift/green-tax-shift.html

http://www.ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1191729051
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« Last Edit: Dec 20th, 2007 at 2:55pm by freediver »  

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Senexx
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Re: Is carbon trading a 'market mechanism'?
Reply #1 - Dec 20th, 2009 at 7:21pm
 
freediver wrote on Oct 7th, 2007 at 1:44pm:
Carbon trading does result in a market where something is actually exchanged. However, while most items for sale have an intrinsic value independent of government action, the goods exchanged in a carbon market exist only as a result of government dictates.


You know that plastic paper you exchange for goods daily, the market for that particular plastic paper exists only as a result of government dictate.

Do you have an item of no real value but of sentimental value?  That item has an intrinsic value independent of government action.

I'm also willing to bet some people think the same of carbon trading.  So carbon trading can have intrinsic value other than what is dictated by governments.

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freediver
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Re: Is carbon trading a 'market mechanism'?
Reply #2 - Dec 23rd, 2009 at 8:44pm
 
It has no intrinsic value because the supply is effectively infinite.
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Re: Is carbon trading a 'market mechanism'?
Reply #3 - Dec 27th, 2009 at 1:01pm
 
I suspect I know but In your sentence above, what is 'it'?

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freediver
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Re: Is carbon trading a 'market mechanism'?
Reply #4 - Dec 27th, 2009 at 1:13pm
 
The right or ability to emit greenhouse gasses.
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Re: Is carbon trading a 'market mechanism'?
Reply #5 - Jan 3rd, 2010 at 9:10am
 
Quote:
You know that plastic paper you exchange for goods daily, the market for that particular plastic paper exists only as a result of government dictate.

Do you have an item of no real value but of sentimental value?  That item has an intrinsic value independent of government action.

I'm also willing to bet some people think the same of carbon trading.  So carbon trading can have intrinsic value other than what is dictated by governments.


freediver wrote on Dec 27th, 2009 at 1:13pm:
The right or ability to emit greenhouse gasses.


I was wrong.  I thought you were talking about money.

Like I said I'm willing to bet some think carbon trading has intrinsic value in the same way the things above do.  There is a value in carbon trading due to the cap placed on it.

Like money and other things, the intrinsic value is in the eye of the beholder.
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Re: Is carbon trading a 'market mechanism'?
Reply #6 - Jan 3rd, 2010 at 10:31am
 
freediver wrote on Dec 23rd, 2009 at 8:44pm:
It has no intrinsic value because the supply is effectively infinite.


I remember visiting Mali once. In their capital city, Bamako, they don't have such a thing as garbage collection, or they didn't at the time. The pavements are basically lined with the stuff. When we visit such a country, we think of such practices as barbaric and uncivilised, but in fact, it has little or no environmental impact, and what impact is does have is only localised.

In Australia, municipal garbage collection alone is worth 3 billion dollars a year. It's possible to determine the size of the market by the amount of garbage produced.  The garbage effectively has an intrinsic value.

In Mali, the same thing doesn't apply.

Now think about the clean-up costs for carbon dioxide. Currently, people say that CO2 emissions have no intrinsic value. That's because every country in the world does nothing (or very little) to mitigate this emission. Thinking back to Malien garbage disposal practices, it sounds innocuous by comparison to vast CO2 emissions and their  implications for the global environment.

CO2 emissions should have an intrinsic value, just like garbage.

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