The Instigator
brian_eggleston
Pro (for)
Tied
6 Points
The Contender
Blob
Con (against)
Tied
6 Points

It's time to privatize the provision of clean air

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/22/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,528 times Debate No: 23760
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (6)
Votes (3)

 

brian_eggleston

Pro

People take the air around us for granted, not realising it costs the government money to control the pollution that is said to cause global warming - not that global warming is proved to be man made, of course, that's just the opinion of a bunch of herbal tea-drinking, sandal-wearing, tree-hugging, organic lentil-munching, Toyota Prius-driving so-called "do-gooders" who are jealous of wealthy people having fun in their V12-powered sports cars, but anyway, it's time that the cost of maintaining air quality was shifted from the taxpayer to the user.

The government could divide the country into geographical areas containing approximately the same population and sell these parcels off to the highest bidders who, in return promoting green technologies, planting some trees and encouraging people to recycle household waste, would be permitted to levy an air-consumption charge on all citizens living in their allotted areas. Since animals also breathe air, owners of pets would pay a surcharge (although pet fish would be eligible for a discounted rate since they don't use so much air).

The amount of money charged by the new air utility companies will be dictated by free market economics: if they charge too much, people will simply move to another part of the country where the cost of breathing is cheaper.

There are three main benefits of privatizing air:

1. The windfall the government receives from auctioning these air franchises off could raise many billions, and this money could enable the government to cut tax rates for top-earners; thereby making the country a more attractive place for wealth creators to live and work.

2. The ‘user-pays' philosophy that is the hallmark of successful capitalist economies would be further extended.

3. The on-going cost of tackling pollution will be shifted from the taxpayer to the private sector.

Naturally, there will be some dissenters who refuse to pay their fair share: work-shy welfare claimants; woolly liberals; asthmatics and so on, but they should remember that consuming air without paying for it would be considered theft and they would be treated the same way as any other common criminal.

So, in conclusion, the benefits are clear: it's time to privatize the provision of clean air.

Thank you.
Blob

Con

Pro proposes that private corporations (air utility companies) charge citizens for the air they breathe, and that the amount charged be based on the amount of air breathed (free market economy). Pro seems to think this is justified because it costs (The Cost) the government to limit the pollution that is said to cause global warming i.e. greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s). However, breathing in itself does not increase The Cost at all. There is no logical reason for someone to pay to breathe if breathing does not increase The Cost. This would not be a “user pays” system, as Pro suggests; it would be an absurd system.

The Cost would not be incurred if the pollution were not emitted in the first place. People are responsible (directly and indirectly) for different amounts of GGE’s. Under Pro’s proposed scenario, Citizens whose GGE’s are high would pay disproportionately less for the air they breathe, and vice-versa. That is, people who are least responsible for increasing The Cost would pay just as much as people who are most responsible (all other things being equal). Clearly, this would not be fair at all. Furthermore, there would be absolutely no incentive whatsoever to reduce GGE’s, because it would not cost more to emit more.


The fairest system is one where the polluter pays (i.e. user pays). This is achieved by putting a price on GGE’s. Most economists would agree that this should be done via a Government carbon tax or emissions trading scheme. Hence, a number of countries already have such instruments in place. Such instruments, if set up correctly, provide an incentive to reduce GGE’s, which leads to reductions in The Cost, as well as less pollution.

Debate Round No. 1
brian_eggleston

Pro

I would like to thank Blob for accepting this challenge and reply to his arguments as follows:

The concept of polluter pays is fundamentally flawed on two counts.

Firstly, because there are many diverse causes of pollution - sources include farm animals emitting methane from their digestive systems; factories pumping out harmful gasses; exhaust fumes from cars, trucks and planes; erupting volcanoes; methane leaking from defrosting tundra and many more – and with the pollution being produced worldwide and blown around the globe by weather systems, it's impossible to hold any single company or individual accountable for a certain percentage of the total pollution in the atmosphere.

Secondly, even if financial penalties are placed upon manufacturers in the West that do pollute the atmosphere, similar penalties are not imposed upon factories in emerging economies such as China and India, thus leaving the Western firms at a competitive disadvantage – and thereby reducing the amount of cash the company has available to pay dividends and duly reward their executives with munificent bonuses.

That said, pollution does need to be tackled and there is a cost associated with that, and the fairest way to distribute that cost is evenly with all citizens paying exactly the same amount via my proposed air consumption charge.

Thank you.
Blob

Con

Pro did not raise any objections to any of my rebuttals, and thus it can be assume that he accepts all of them.


However, Pro did raise a couple of objections to my alternative proposal (Polluter Pays).


Firstly, because there are many diverse causes of pollution - sources include farm animals emitting methane from their digestive systems; factories pumping out harmful gasses; exhaust fumes from cars, trucks and planes; erupting volcanoes; methane leaking from defrosting tundra and many more...

The Cost associated with controlling “the pollution that is said to cause global warming” results only from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s). That is, we do not spend any money to control the GGE’s of non-anthropogenic sources. Therefore, volcanoes and other non-anthropogenic sources of GGE’s are completely irrelevant in the context of this debate. In order to implement a Polluter Pays system, we only need to calculate GGE’s from the various anthropogenic sources. This is not difficult to do, and indeed we have already done it. Greenhouse gas emissions inventories have for years been kept by all the big emitters, including (but not limited to) the US [1], UK [2], China [3] and India [4].



...and with the pollution being produced worldwide and blown around the globe by weather systems...

Obviously, this has absolutely no effect whatsoever on our ability to calculate GGE’s from anthropogenic sources.



...it's impossible to hold any single company or individual accountable for a certain percentage of the total pollution in the atmosphere.

It is simply not true that it is impossible to have a system where the Polluter Pays. It is a simple task to conduct an independent GGE’s audit for an individual company; individual companies do this all the time in order to comply with Government regulations. There are a number of ways to do it, including the use of Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems [5], and the application of Emissions Factors that reflect the carbon content of different fuels [6]. Individuals do not need to be audited, as they will pay for their pollution when they purchase goods and services at the adjusted price that reflects the cost of GGE’s.



Secondly, even if financial penalties are placed upon manufacturers in the West that do pollute the atmosphere, similar penalties are not imposed upon factories in emerging economies such as China and India, thus leaving the Western firms at a competitive disadvantage...

I do not dispute that some firms in the West may be at a competitive disadvantage if they have to pay for their emissions whilst their competitors in emerging economies do not. This would not occur if wealthy and emerging economies could agree on a carbon price. Such an agreement has not yet been reached, and probably will not be reached in the immediate future. However, it is at least a possibility, whereas citizens agreeing to pay companies to breathe, is not.




Conclusion


Paying to breathe is an absurd idea that:

  1. Demands payments for something that does not cost anything.
  2. It completely unfair.
  3. Does not provide any incentive to reduce GGE’s.
  4. Will never gain acceptance anyway.




Polluter Pays is the fairest and most sensible way to go. It is not time to privatise the provision of clean air.


Thank you to Brian for this debate. I quite enjoyed it.



[1] http://www.epa.gov...

[2] http://www.decc.gov.uk...

[3] http://www.fas.org...

[4] http://cs-test.ias.ac.in...

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org...

[6] http://www.decc.gov.uk...

Debate Round No. 2
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
Thanks, Blob. In my opinion, the best debates are the most controversial ones and I don't find left-wing policies controversial.

However, by exaggerating right-wing policies slightly, my debates, I hope, can become both stimulating and amusing.
Posted by Blob 5 years ago
Blob
Thanks Brian. I had by far the easier side to argue for though.

Given your first comment below, and your profile details, I was fairly sure you were playing devil's advocate. From what I can gather, you seem to do this more often than most other debaters here. Do you find it to be a better way to develop your debating skills, or is it just for fun, or?
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
Yes, well-argued Blob.

Just to be clear, by the way, I was playing the devil's advocate in this debate: my green credentials and sense of social justice remain intact...
Posted by Blob 5 years ago
Blob
While I am here, I just want to say that GGE's are not even directly related to air quality, to the extent that they do not make air any less breathable. This occurred to me upon reading the very first paragraph of this debate, but I did not want to argue the point in this instance.
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
BTW, age restriction 18+ on this one.
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
For the duration of this debate I will swap my usual "Workers of the World Unite" badge for one which reads "Tax is Theft".
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by 1dustpelt 5 years ago
1dustpelt
brian_egglestonBlobTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Counter vbs. I know this is supposed to be a joke debate but you need better RFD's than that.
Vote Placed by Greyparrot 5 years ago
Greyparrot
brian_egglestonBlobTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Very interesting point about air being too diverse to place on selected individuals.
Vote Placed by Rockylightning 5 years ago
Rockylightning
brian_egglestonBlobTied
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Reasons for voting decision: har