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Interestingly enough, earlier this year the BC government exempted the greenhouse sector from the carbon tax.

The EC essentially suspended this measure "temporarily" due to Chibes pressures.

Joel - interesting.

Jacques Rene - The timeline for implementation for international flights keeps on getting put back, but according to the official EU web page linked above, "The legislation will continue to apply to all flights within and between the 30 European countries in the EU ETS [emissions trading scheme]."

Some questions:

1 - To solve this problem, does one need to start by identifying the optimal level of carbon emissions?
2 - How does this problem change when we factor into account the impact of land use on atmospheric carbon?
3 - Given that every conceiveable scenario will result in fewer total tomatoes produced, how will we be able to determine the proportion of carbon reductions attributable to production reallocation specifically, as opposed to the proportion resulting merely in fewer tomatoes' being produced?

Frances : yes. But the EC could have mandated the carbon taxes for the arriving and departing foreign planes in EU airspace, the way they (and Canada) require that ships comply with IMO regulations when coming into territoraila waters.
The Chinese used ex-topic pressure : we won't buy from Airbus, knowing that the US will not apply carbon control measures and would happily let Boeing have the business..

In answer to your questions.
1 - no, only whether the optimal level is higher or lower than the current level.
2 - As I said, "One solution is to tax imports: a tax on carbon equivalent to the carbon costs of their manufacture and transport. It's easy enough to say, but much harder to do." An appropriately designed tax on imports would have to take into account the such factors.
3 - why would we need to do this?

Re: my #3, because I assume it is interesting and shed lights on the economic problem? Sort of like wealth vs. substitution effects -- the "substitution effect" would be the shift from higher-CO2 processes to lower-CO2 processes, while the "wealth effect" would be the impact of simply having fewer tomatoes.

A 100% tax rate would result in zero CO2 emissions, but also zero tomatoes. Call this Scenario A. But a 0% tax/policy regime would result in (presumably?) higher-than-optimal CO2 emissions and (presumably) too few tomatoes to make up for the utility lost to air pollution. Call this Scenario B.

So... between those extremes there is likely some sort of equilibrium solution to the problem we're analyzing, and in order to design a perfect solution, we will need to know how much of any given reduction can be attributed to the policy specifically and how much is simply a loss of real output.

I assume this is not just a CO2 minimization problem, but also a tomato maximization problem, since they are duals of each other.

If we assume that costs of climate change are gargantuan, that carbon emissions are key to solve this problem then the whole climate change just boils down to this: how much more carbon based fuel will be burned before humanity develops sufficient clean energy source?

There are main components that can help us solve this issue:

1. Costs of producing/burning carbon based fuel. We already used most of easily accessible fuel resources and many of those that are left (like coal) also have other - local environmental impact. However I agree with main point Frances makes, thanks to Jevons paradox it does not matter how well one country does in their carbon conservation policies. The only impact this will have is that they will drive carbon-fuel prices down sufficiently so that somebody else will use what was so painfully saved.

2. Costs of producing alternative/clean energy resources. And this is where it starts to make sense. If carbon taxes can be used as a revenue to speed up research in this area we may be succesfull. Even local carbon taxes create market incentives for private companies to continually come up with new solutions. Even if they are not able to compete with the cheapest carbon fuels. No company has to spend incredibly large ammount of resources to bridge the whole dirty-clean energy at once, they can divide it in sustainable steps.

in either case, what percentage of tomato production & distribution costs are carbon-based energy? as a former grower, pretty small would be my guess...

and i dont think there's any easy comparison between greenhouse grown tomatoes, the business my brother in law was in, & those field grown, such as i grew...at least not one that you could judge the effectiveness of carbon taxes by..

Hopefully this data point ( http://www.cardinalgroup.ca/nua/ies/ies03.html, search for "Bruce Tropical Produce" in the page) would give you the Third Tomato Option -- locally grown hothouse tomatoes, in the winter, that do not use carbon-based fuels.

It's my understanding that field tomatoes and hot house tomatoes are not perfect substitutes in the eyes of consumers. There is generally a sizable price differential between the two goods, even though nutritionally, they are basically identical. Field tomatoes are generally cheaper, and are purchased in large quantities by industrial users, such as makers of tomato sauce. Consumers seem to be willing to pay a premium for hot house tomatoes for esthetic reasons:
1. Because they are grown under controlled environmental conditions, hot house tomatoes tend to have a more consistent red colour and shape; they also tend to have fewer blemishes.
2. Hot house tomatoes are often sold in bunches with the stem on, which gives the appearance of freshness.

Thanks to NAFTA, Canada, the US and Mexico have a fairly competitive and integrated market for hot house vegetables. In Canada, greenhouses can only operate for three quarters of the year, at most. It is generally too cold and/or sunless to profitably operate greenhouses in Canada in the winter. When its greenhouses are active, Canada actually exports a large portion of its hot house vegetable production to the US.

Mexico and the southern US have long growing seasons for field vegetables, and can operate greenhouses year-round. It's my understanding that Mexican produce production for hot house vegetables (particularly tomatoes and peppers) dips during the summer when Canadian greenhouse production peaks.

I'm sorry if the discussion above was off topic. The only thing I have to say about carbon taxes is that I think that, to make it work, the government could structure it like the GST/HST, with Canadian businesses self-assessing the tax based on how much carbon content they purchase / consume / import, offsetting with credits, and ultimately passing the tax on to the Canadian consumer. For Canadian exports, the carbon tax would be recoverable.

"It's easy enough to say, but much harder to do." Actually, it's called a tariff - and was done for some centuries without too many problems (yes, there was smuggling, but it was almost all marginal - and it's easier to control in the days of electronic recording than it ever was).

The EU's problems with aviation are political, not technical. Working out a tariff schedule based on rough energy input would be easy. Applying it with minimal evasion would be easy. Getting it through NAFTA etc would be hard.

Peter T: "Getting it through NAFTA etc would be hard."


Tomatoes (like any other plant) absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. And so your carbon friendly tax policy should induce growers to produce more tomatoes than what the market is demanding to the point where the amount of carbon dioxide pulled from the atmosphere by the excess plants exceeds the total amount of carbon dioxide released in transporting them or growing them in a green house.

I suspect that because the costs of maintaining a green house rise with the amount of tomatoes that are grown and transportation cost is limited to only the tomatoes that must be delivered for consumption, it would be more environmentally friendly for an exporter in a warm climate to produce more tomatoes than are to be sold to remove excess CO2 generated in transporting them.

Robillard - interesting comments, thank you.

The observation that there is a North America-wide integrated hothouse tomato market actually reinforces my points about the difficulty of implementing a carbon tax in a small open economy. If Canadian hothouse tomato producers have to pay carbon taxes, and US ones don't, then Canadian producers will have a lot of difficulty surviving. Which is, presumably, why BC has exempted its tomato producers from its carbon tax, as Joel W notes above.

You're absolutely right, too, about carbon taxes being passed onto consumers. Consumers might still end up being better off, or at least no worse off, if the increase in carbon taxes is offset by reductions in other taxes. But transition times are difficult.

Having grown tomatoes outdoors, let me say that tomato growth is strongly influenced by fluctuations in both moisture and temperature. It is much easier to control those conditions in a greenhouse. :)

The European emission rights ARE in fact a carbon Tax.
Large CO2 producers got initially some emission rights, but those are continuously reduced.

Therefore they have to reduce output or buy emission rights on the market

This inflicts additional costs on the final consumers, and many people here don’t understand, why we should spent a lot on reduction, when countries like the US and Canada put out twice as much CO2 per capita and do next to nothing since Kyoto 1991.

For that de facto Carbon Tax There have been tax cheating schemes (billions via VAT deduction regulations) and we pay some countries for planting trees, they would most likely have done anyways. In short, another way to milk the average Hans here in the name of the Global good : - )

I pay 40 US cents / kWh here, in contrast to typical 8 in the US.

And without more detailed and lengthy explanation, slapping the rights regime on air travel would be WTO conform, but I sympathize with the Chinese anger about infringing on their sovereignty.

Some more interesting detail on the wiki page Vapour Pressure Deficit!
That’s why I get my tomatoes in winter from freezing Holland and not from warmer Spain, or Greece.

Some more quantitative folks here believe the US, Canada, Russia don’t do anything, because your governments believe that warming is beneficial for your agriculture.
E.g. Samuel Fankhauser “Valuing Climate Change” 1995, discussing the appropriate level of a carbon tax, read in the right way, somewhere a Nordhaus paper.

If one would try such a quantitative discussion in Germany, the Green do-gooders would eat you alive.

genauer - in some ways the conversation reminds me of the discussions around disarmament towards the end of the cold war, when everyone agreed that disarmament was a good idea, but weren't so sure about unilateral disarmament.

The EU ETS does put a price on carbon, but the impacts of an ETS are different from those of a carbon tax in significant ways.


you make a good point. Would you mind to put your view of the differences between a plain tax and the present ETS here? Especially in terms of efficient allocation of saving measures, maybe something abstract as "justice", which industry woud be located where, ....

This could turn into a useful, real world, discussion of the Coase theorem : - )

genauer - biggest difference is that a tax, at least as far as I understand it, would put a price on infra-marginal carbon. E.g., if gas-fired power plant is taxed on its gas, it pays tax on *all* the gas it uses. Under the ETS, existing power plants are 'grandfathered', that is, given ETS to cover their existing emissions. They only have to pay for the cost of carbon *on the margin*, e.g., additional emissions, or (with shrinking permits), the last 5 or 10% of their emissions.

As for people hacking into the EU computers and issuing themselves millions (or was it billions) of Euros of permits, and the strange things that have been happening in Poland - nothing to say other than that it's been entertaining to watch!


taxing on the margin, like the ETS, has the advantage of steering future consumption /installations into the right direction, without putting european people and companies at an even larger disadvantage or destroying more efficient plants here.

And doing this since 20 years, without any similar steps by others, shows unfortunately,

unilateral steps, being a role model helps with countries like Russia, but don't help with hardened counterparts like Canada (
huge hydro potential, first to abandon the Kyoto Protocol http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2073520/Canada-abandons-Kyoto-Protocol-save-14bn-penalties-missing-greenhouse-gas-targets.html)

and the US (the richest)


Frank: While plants such as tomatoes absorb CO2, the CO2 is released when the plants are eaten or decompose. There is no permanent removal, so the net effect is zero. The CO2 emissions from tomato production are from burning fossil fuel in their production and transportation.

To put this discussion into perspective, it costs about $1/km to move a refrigerated 53 foot tractor trailer loaded with goods. Such a truck can carry about 40,000 lbs of goods. Mexico City is ~4000 km from Toronto, so the cost of transport works out to about $0.10/lb. Doubling the cost of fuel would perhaps add 5 cents/lb to the cost of tomatoes imported from Mexico. A substantial portion of the fossil fuels associated with selling tomatoes to consumers is the same--same stores, same trucks from the warehouse to the store, etc...


Andrew makes 2 important points:
a) put real cost numbers on the several items, and many ideological questions vanish
b) most of the transport costs are load/unload, packaging

for higher value goods from asia, the time delay, capital bound, potential mismatch with market demand are actually more important than fuel.

And now comes some interesting ecological twist: Water consumption !
In Canada and here we have plenty of it, clean, and at cheap prices.
Hot areas like Mexico or central Spain not necessarily

I got some number of 7 gal water / lb tomato.
1 cubic meter at 2 $ would be 0.08 $ / lb tomato

Andrew F: so much for locavores.

Interestingly enough, a study carried out by Tropicana of the carbon footprint of orange juice found that the most serious contribution of orange juice to global warming was through the nitrogen fertilizer, account for 35% of the greenhouse gas emissions see e.g. here

$2/cubic meter is a pretty expensive rate for water. Singapore desalinates sea water at ~$0.49/cubic meter, for instance.

Locavores are applying a very poor heuristic for assessing environmental impact of food choices. I saw an analysis once of butter in the UK. New Zealand butter had lower CO2 emissions after being imported than domestic suppliers.

Jeff Rubin has been arguing that rising energy prices will mean the end of globalized trade. When you start doing the sensitivity analysis of energy price changes (like we did here on tomatoes) on transportation cost and total cost of goods, you realize that he just doesn't get it. The huge benefits of trade mean Canada will always import clothes, computer parts, etc. They will always outweigh the costs of transportations, for any reasonable assumption of expected energy costs.

The original point is still valid of course. The places where this phenomenon will be most apparent is in very carbon intensive industrial processes such as cement production, steel making, fertilizer production. These will all tend to shift to jurisdictions without carbon pricing (or regulations). These would be the main sources of leakage.

The 2$ / cubic meter drinking water are for the (small) end consumer here. How much is this in Canada?

Given the extreme geography of Canada, I am actually surprised, that your Trade / GDP is only around 25%. (Germany 36 %)

Well, as long as the US blocks, our carbon tax will not go very far. My impression is, that cement, steel etc production going to countries like China, India is more driven by demand, labor costs, environmental hassling here around. But tell me contrasting information. And ..., those folks also have to earn a living somehow, to buy our stuff.

The industrial water rate is $1.75/cubic meter in Toronto, but it is wasteful to use municipally treated water for agriculture.

Perhaps one way to create fairness in industries like cement, steel and fertilizer is to give producers carbon tax rebates, but base the rebate on the average carbon produced per unit of output internationally. This preserves the incentive for these industries to reduce their emissions domestically while reducing the impact to their competitiveness. I'm not sure whether this would pass the WTO sniff test, though.

You are completely right , that drinking quality is overkill for agro. But we do it actually here, because the installations are there, freshly built in oversize, after reunification. So, if you have any idea for some business needing lots of water, but is not too dirty, lets hear : - ) I am pretty sure that the agros get some substantial discount.

The WTO conform way is the emission rights as we do it here in Europe, just taxing on the margin. Pretty similar are the direct base payments for agriculture, which can be fine tuned to some controlled reduction and some actually profitable large rye & wheat producers in eastern Germany. We are even a net exporter, strange thing.

With a slowly decaying population, our construction sector has shrunk a lot, and with it the demand for cement and steel, so we just slowly run down the old factories.
It is mostly refreshing old buildings, tearing down and rebuild can be a nightmare with green neighbors : -)

One more thing, I became aware, agro is turning more and more into bio-factory.
You run a small power plant, use the heat for the greenhouse (subsidy), maybe even have some CO2 enhancement in it (not yet subsidy : - ), feed the remaining bio material to some animals, turn the remains into bio gas (subsidy). Have photovoltaics installed on the roof (subsidy). And to add a little to the sunshine becomes a small factor : - )

genauer: simple question of geography and boundaries: QC sending maple sirup and lumber to AB in exchange for natural gas is not international trade even though the products travel from Lisbon to Moscow...

"huge hydro potential"

Not really anymore. Ontario hasn't built new large-scale hydro since the 1960's, our hydro sites are all tapped out. Northern transmission lines (long, long lines) bring their own problems, and Quebec doesn't have much more capacity either way. Newfoundland has Lower Churchill Falls but that's stuck in politics.

Wheeling power from Newfoundland to New York is costly in both energy and in the control equipment required, it isn't easy to maintain voltage control over very long distances.

Canada (specifically British Columbia) refuses to dam the Fraser River because that would devastate the salmon fishery. The Columbia River was damned for large-scale hydro and that devastated the salmon fishery there, which still hasn't recovered.

The Saint John River in New Brunswick was dammed for hydro and that did no good for the Atlantic Salmon fishery. Atlantic Salmon is amongst the most prized and costliest of fish, those damns would never be approved today.

Jacques, you are right
18% of your GDP as trade with the US is large enough.
Maple Syrup, does somebody remember the Movie "Canadian Bacon"?

long time no see !
I am certainly not proposing to kill your fishing industry. The Egypt Assuan dam is the typical example here for shortsighted one-dimensional engineering.

For the long distance electrical power transmission, I got enlightened, while disputing german Sahara solar electricity projects, that there is now High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Technology, which can do 5000 km transport with < 10 % loss and, obviously, no frequency control problems.

Newfoundland is proposing to build an underwater HVDC line across the Cabot Strait to Nova Scotia to export power without crossing Quebec. Newfoundland and Quebec have been having arguing about power lines for decades.

Large projects of this sort also attract First Nations Land Claims issues. The issue is not at all clear cut on anything, and Newfoundland never signed any First Nations treaties, nor does the Indian Act apply there, since it came into Confederation so late.

Somehow there seems to be always some complication outside a clean, straight democratic decision process. Your first nations claims, our environmental activists. Whatever it is, building a bridge, a better street, you never have a simple plan, cost-benefit-analysis, majority vote sequence.

Going land-based through Quebec province seems from here to be a much longer distance, and I don’t see any consumers on that Route. Port Cartier, that reminds me of Simone de Beauvoir “All men are mortal”. Fosca, an Italian medieval ruler, after becoming immortal, is always trying to built, then help to build a good society, and somehow always something is in the way. Then he is accompanying Cartier in the search for the North-West passage.

Newfoundland means "Newfoundland & Labrador", Labrador is that part of the province which is on the mainland, surrounded by Quebec. Until recently long-distance underwater transmission was impractical due to impedance issues with AC lines, DC lines weren't technologically mature. Churchill Falls is in Labrador so the obvious transmission corridor is through Quebec.

ok, labrador, churchill falls, I even have a dam on my map : - )
I should have read more carefully. For european eyes the climate maps look like: is there life outside of some NORAD stations ?

For the HVDC stuff, the electrical guy I tortured over that, was pretty confident on long term reliability, and coughed up approximately the right information, and I believe I know a few things about long term reliability physics in adjacent fields.

The limiting factor, why we get this HVDC only now, was not the lines, but the brutal high power semiconductor devices at the end of them, and they could be replaced, without too much trouble, if they blow up.

genauer: as inhabiting the neighboring region ( the Québec North Shore), I can attest that outside some small Innu camps plus a few mines and the Goose Bay CFB (RCAF now I presume), the place is as empty as it looks. Went a couple of times up north, once to Schefferville and twice to Wabush-Lab City-Fermont. Schefferville looks like it has lost a war, WAB-LAB like they're trying to rebuild after one. Fermont has a more modern look but experience has shown that living inside the Windscreen is psychologically impossible. Based on that, there won't be long range exploration of the galaxies...
Going back to the pretense of the thread: building power lines in these conditions is awesome. No roads, no flat terrain to build airports, deep valleys surrounded by steep mountains every km, temperatures going to -60C plus wind chill, engines being run 24/24 to avoid them freezing. As Joel Gareau wrote in "The nine nations of North America", "What kind of fundamental craziness makes people build that?". The sadness is in seeing all those effort being squandered as the stuff is then sold cheaply to make aluminium.

Schefferville is on my map commented with "aufgegeben" = abandoned. Thats a first, never seen this so far.

The advantages with electrical power transmission are: no moving parts, nothing can freeze and change aggregate status, height differences are not associated with mechanical work. That makes it a lot easier than channels, pipelines ....
You can also tunnel mountains, built a few affordable bridges for some 1 square meter cable.

5000 kilometers from North Africa through the Mediterranean, over the Pyreneas, Loire, Alps are not that easy either, but doable. The real problems are political.

And aluminum reduces energy consumptiom for transport, can be recycled, environment friendly, ....
When you think about society in 100 years, with probably a lot more complete recycling loops.

Schefferville is a shadow of itself when it was served by 2-5 daily jets. Two new iron mines are being developped, one by Tata Steel. However , the iron ore situation is changing fast, and to the south in Fermont, Cliffs Resources stopped the development of the new Lac Bloom mine last Monday, sending home 400 workers.

We have come some way from the starting topic tomatoes.

am I supposed to shed some tears for the miners? Mining is a tough business, and I don’t think they built a Kindergarden in Schefferville. I assume they have some laws in Canada, regarding severance packages?

Iron ore, with something like 50% sucked up by effectively one customer, China, only 3 major suppliers, a market index (MBIO62) only existing for a few years, kind of interesting to watch. They threw the guy who organized the flexible rates into jail for espionage. Vale trying to built some supercarriers to get a piece of the action in transporting their stuff, and the Chinese port operators are in cahouts with the other skippers.

When the index dropped below 120 , it was the first time in my life, to see people using supply and demand curves to actually analyze real time markets.

What happens to people in Canada, who for whatever reason do not find work for a very long time? Is there some kind of social minimum payment, like the German Hartz IV? Something clearly described on a wiki page, something nobody can fall below, ever? My understanding was that this is the case in all western countries, just not the US, and as I learned recently, Greece.

Another advantage of hydro-electric is, it is mature and renewable. With iron ore you can always wonder whether you get a better price 20 or 50 years down the road. With photovoltaics, you know, that the cells become cheaper. Hydro will look the same and have the same efficiency 50 years later.

Don’t you have some biologists, who can teach the salmon to jump some fish ladders at the side of the dam?

interesting twist, a greenhouse, where you have to do some cooling:


It's possible to use desalination of sea water to cool a greenhouse. It involves running sea water down a membrane, drawing in hot outside air, vaporizing some of the water as the air flows into a greenhouse. The air is cooled by the phase change and the dry air becomes more humid which reduces the water used by plants for transpiration. Then as the humid air leaves the greenhouse on the opposite side, it is run through a heat exchanger that warms incoming sea water (for the membrane wall on the intake) and condenses fresh water. The air leaving the greenhouse is still more humid than the surrounding desert air, so orchards or heat loving crops can be grown downwind, taking advantage of the higher relative humidity.

Very interesting technology.

Your articles are very well written and unique.

Andrew F,

"While plants such as tomatoes absorb CO2, the CO2 is released when the plants are eaten or decompose. There is no permanent removal, so the net effect is zero. The CO2 emissions from tomato production are from burning fossil fuel in their production and transportation."

Incorrect. See photosynthesis - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis#Carbon_concentrating_mechanisms

6CO2 + 6H2O -> C6H12O6 (Sugar) + 6O2

Then see Humus - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humus
And Humic Acids - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humic_acids

How exactly do you think fossil fuels like coal and oil are formed?


Andrew is right. As long as you dont invent some tricks to make your humus growing, the round trip Carbon balance of anything you grow is ZERO. Like growing stuff locally, process the manure in any way you like, and put it back on the field. In the moment we believe that the humus underneath the arctic, boreal forests is growing (very) slowly, like 0.01 mm per year or so. But the humus underneath the tropical rain forests is some pretty thin 0.5 - 1 meter. Which means, that the net carbon effect must be ZERO. Simple mass conservation law.

The problem there is, that there is not enough of metals around, typically provided by volcanoes, or from prior oceanic floods. Nature needs only tiny amounts of them, but still some.


But back to the original question:

"Here is a test for any proposed carbon tax: does it create an incentive for people to make environmentally responsible tomato purchases? In winter, a Canadian faces two basic tomato options: hothouse tomatoes grown close(ish) to home, and field tomatoes imported from warmer climes, generally Mexico. Keeping a greenhouse at tomato growing temperature in the northern winter is energy intensive, but so is trucking tomatoes thousands of miles. A well-designed carbon tax should create an incentive for people to make a the best choice, be it greenhouse tomatoes, imported field tomatoes, or no tomatoes at all."

Presumably environmentally responsible carbon is that carbon that is trapped in the soil as opposed to part of greenhouse gases. It would be more environmentally friendly for the Canadian government to incentivize the over production of tomatoes in warmer clients like Mexico to the point where the amount of carbon returned to the soil by photosynthesis and dead unsold tomatoes exceeds that given off through the burning of fossil fuels.


we have this carbon tax here in europe, actually in both cases transport and heating, it is not so much the carbon tax, but the much higher general taxes steering things (40 vs 8 cents per kWh, 8.4$ / gallon gasoline) And , in agreement with calculations like the ones from Andrew, it does not matter.

Wasting effort on growing food not eaten is the worst thing I can imagine. First order the rotting tomatoe releases all the prior CO2 intake.

"Wasting effort on growing food not eaten is the worst thing I can imagine."

I thought the point of the matter was to reduce atmospheric CO2 content, so how is that a waste of effort?

"First order the rotting tomatoe releases all the prior CO2 intake."

Huh? Look at the chemical structure of cellulose (C6H10O5). Where do you think those carbon atoms came from?

and what happens with that cellulose in the rotting tomatoe? it turns into the humus again, it came from

just to drive this point home a little bit more, because this is so typical:

the countries, who would suffer the least or even benefit from global warming,
northern and central europe, do and try the most to reduce it:


For people like me that illustrates increasingly a kind of triple -A Character picture, and I am working hard to keep discipline, and not using invectives.

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