Indonesia is releasing a gigantic amount of trapped CO2

The latest:

A catastrophic milestone has been reached. The carbon-dioxide-rich peat bogs (and tropical forests) being set ablaze in Indonesia to clear land for farming are now producing repeated single-day spikes of emissions exceeding the daily output of the entire U.S. economy, according to the World Resources Institute.

Background information:

79% of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions result from the destruction of its carbon-rich tropical forests and peat bogs for conversion into palm oil plantations, other agricultural uses, or development – according to the World Resources Institute.

This is a critical problem because Indonesia, which only has the world’s 16th-largest economy, is now the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Indonesia also has the third largest tropical forest cover by area. (And lots of marshy peatlands.) Still, this forest cover has rapidly declined in recent decades. For example, the large Indonesian island of Sumatra went from 50% forested to 25% forested between 1985 and 2008.

Troublingly, many of the uses for which this newly cleared land is being diverted (such as palm oil production) could actually be located on other sites with previously degraded or clear-cut land.

Additionally, Indonesia’s September 2015 climate action plan only promises emissions reductions against project 2020 levels, although it does include more pledges to limit deforestation.

This post produced in conjunction with The Globalist Research Center.

AFD 67A – Thailand Tea Party, Carbon Price

Latest Episode:
“AFD 67A – Thailand Tea Party, Carbon Price”

In a bonus half-episode recorded on 12/16, guest co-host Greg joins me to talk about why Thailand’s protesters remind us of the U.S. tea party and about how U.S. companies are planning for a carbon price that Congress isn’t close to passing.

Related links:

– AFD: “Is Thailand Facing Tea Party-style Obstruction?

– AFD: “Carbon Pricing and Economic Uncertainty

No new episode next week. Happy holidays. We’ll be back in January, but there will be lots more posts on here, in the meantime.

Carbon pricing and “economic uncertainty”

American Conservatives these days spend a lot of time insisting in the media that policy-induced economic “uncertainty” — i.e. being uncertain as to whether Congress plans to raise or lower taxes in the long run, which is inherently unknowable* but is used to argue for “permanent” cuts — but the solution to this “uncertainty” from the corporate perspective has always been obvious.

Companies can plan for scenarios with higher fees & taxes and go forward accordingly. If Congress does raise the taxes, then they’re already prepared. If Congress doesn’t raise the taxes after all, then there’s no real harm done to the companies (and they might even find savings while hunting for ways to cut costs to keep profits up).

We are seeing this in action now according to a New York Times article about how several dozen major U.S. corporations are preparing for scenarios where Congress imposes some kind of industry-scale carbon pricing or tax system. Although not currently being seriously considered in the immediate future, given the makeup of Congress at this particular moment, this pricing would eventually likely be put into place to discourage high carbon footprints on a wide scale and probably to pay for some of the damage caused by unmitigated carbon outputs in the past.

More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.


A new report by the environmental data company CDP has found that at least 29 companies, some with close ties to Republicans, including ExxonMobil, Walmart and American Electric Power, are incorporating a price on carbon into their long-term financial plans.

Without carbon pricing, dirty fuel and power sources like oil, coal, and natural gas are essentially given a big cost break compared to cleaner renewables by forcing everyone else to pay for their environmental damage (and health consequences) — a practice known as “externalizing” the cost. Carbon pricing aims to end the harmful externalities and force dirty fuel sources to compete fairly against cleaner competitors. It also forces companies to find ways of becoming more energy efficient to save money and reduce their tax burden.

So rather than dithering around being “uncertain” as to when or how exactly Congress will get its act together and establish carbon pricing schemes, major U.S. firms are solving the problem by preparing for the more expensive scenarios now, so they aren’t taken by surprise later. Poof! No more policy-driven uncertainty harms! And that’s why it’s never a valid argument that policy decisions should be undertaken solely to reduce uncertainty in the markets and business world.

Well, that and the simple reality that uncertainty is a basic fact of capitalism, so that’s understood to be part of the rules and risk of going into business.


*It’s “inherently unknowable” whether Congress will do anything “in the long run” because the Constitution prohibits any one cycle of Congress from passing a law that cannot be undone at any time by a future Congress. Thus it is impossible to pass a “permanent” tax cut that is truly permanent. So such measures, while enthusiastically received by their advocates, are of limited real benefit for ending alleged “uncertainty.”