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July 2, 2005
Brother, Can You Spare Your Personal Carbon Allowance?

The British government has started to research ways to ration energy use, not just for commercial ventures and government facilities but for each and every person in the UK. The Telegraph reports that Tony Blair's ministers have started thinking about imposing a system of "personal carbon allowances" that residents can barter or trade as they see fit, but which would restrict access to all forms of energy for consumers:

Every individual in Britain could be issued with a "personal carbon allowance" - a form of energy rationing - within a decade, under proposals being considered seriously by the Government.

Ministers say that increasingly clear evidence that climate change is happening more quickly than expected has made it necessary to "think the unthinkable". ...

Under the scheme for "domestic tradeable quotas" (DTQs), or personal carbon allowances, presented to the Treasury this week, everyone - from the Queen to the poorest people living on state benefits - would have the same annual carbon allocation.

This would be contained electronically on a "ration card", which could be the proposed ID card or a "carbon card" based on supermarket loyalty cards.

It would have to be handed over every time a form of non-renewable energy was purchased - at the filling station, or when buying tickets for a flight - for points to be deducted.

High users of energy would have to purchase points from low users, or from a central "carbon bank", if they wanted to use more energy.

Rationing has never led to efficient use of resources, and imposing such a system will lead to massive amounts of cheating, black-market trades, and a further growth in crime that can only be addressed by expansion of police powers. Rather than creating competitive pressure in the open market by subsidizing renewable energy resources -- an approach which has its own problems -- Britain wants to choose an even dumber approach to solve a problem that hasn't yet been proven to exist.

This is yet another example of the kinds of solutions developed when nanny-staters get put in charge. Imposing top-down rationing requires the abrogation of free-market principles, chiefly the suddenly-endangered notion of private property. High energy users already pay more for their energy, because they have to buy more of it from the private producers who sell it. This new system will create a high-level tax that will only put more of a drag on the British economy. That also will contribute to higher unemployment, which means more crime, more police needed, and so on.

Don't be surprised when someone proposes a similar system for the Unites States. Let's hope that American lawmakers have better sense than some of their British counterparts.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 2, 2005 10:01 AM

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