Why we don’t have a carbon tax

From Brad Plumer at Vox:

“We have done extensive polling on a carbon tax,” Podesta apparently told Clinton adviser Jake Sullivan back in January 2015. “It all sucks.”

There is further detail at that link.  A quite remarkable David Roberts piece at Vox, worth reading in its entirety, lays out why much of “the left” opposes the carbon tax on the ballot in Washington state.  It is revenue-neutral, doesn’t produce enough social justice, and as I would say it doesn’t have the right mood affiliation, among other factors.  Economist Yoram Bauman plays a key role in the article, and here is a quotation from him:

I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party. Yes, there are challenges on the right — skepticism about climate science and about tax reform — but those are surmountable with time and effort. The same cannot be said of the challenges on the left: an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government, and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons in order to pursue that desire.

I’m not so sure about that portrayal of the Republicans, but still that is a perspective you don’t hear enough.  (Scott Sumner comments on the piece.)  You may recall my earlier post on Republicans and Democrats:

At some level the Republicans might know the Democrats have valid substantive points, but they sooner think “Let’s first put status relations in line, then our debates might get somewhere.  In the meantime, I’m not going to cotton well to a debate designed to lower the status of the really important groups and their values.”  And so the dialogue doesn’t get very far.

To return more directly to the title of this post, why don’t we have a carbon tax?  I would put it this way: for better or worse, the American people expect their government to solve this problem without raising the price of energy.  Funny that.


The path to climate change obviously goes through the Republican party.

Right now, the left believes that climate change is real and we should do something about it. The right believes it's not real. You can't have a legitimate discussion about "how should we solve this" when half the country takes the position of "actually, there's no problem to solve in the first place."

Climate change is false. They used to call it global warming, before that it was global cooling. The only time I feel an excess of hot air is whenever Obama makes a speech.

When the melting permafrost degasses enough methane to destroy world agriculture for a year or two, that will be the end of the Republican Party. They are slow and fat, they will be easy to catch, and will roast nicely.

"they will be easy to catch"

They have a lot of guns. So maybe not.

I have grudging respect for OJ's paleocon idiocy (which may be Colbert-style trolling). Most on the right no longer deny the planet is actually getting warmer, because that's beyond stupid. The debate is now about are humans causing it, how much will it warm, can anything be realistically done about it, and will it really be so bad for the planet to warm up some.

Bonus points for working Obama in there though, OJ.

The left say they believe in global warming but their revealed preferences show they do not. Every time Leonardo Di Caprio gets on his massive jet to fly around the world lecturing the rest of us on carbon he is showing he does not believe it. When Al Gore buys beach front property he is showing he does not believe it. When Hillary praises fracking to her friends on Wall street in her secret pay-to--play speeches she shows she does not believe it.

Still, if they left believed in Global Warming, they could do something about it even if the Republicans understand science better than the Left does. They could offer the Republicans something in exchange. A carbon tax for entitlement change? For, as pointed out below, an end to income tax? There is a wealth of things they *could* offer the other side. But they don't. Because they do not believe it is an urgent global crisis. And it is too convenient as a stick with which to beat the Republicans and so shore up their base.

Your complaints hint at a deep misunderstanding of the environmental movement. But please, tell us more.

That misunderstanding being?

I don't agree with SMMS's viewpoint, but did you read the Vox articles? The revenue-neutral carbon tax is a great policy, but the environmental movement won't get behind it. If you were at all suspicious that AGW was just a scam and they didn't really think it was true, this is excellent confirmation of that.

I think you missed the point of the article. It was about Washington State environmental groups not supporting the tax neutrality of the proposed Carbon Tax because Washington State needs to raise more revenue.

That does not mean the entire environmental movement.

"A carbon tax for entitlement change? For, as pointed out below, an end to income tax?"
A cousin of mine had to offer such a trade, his money for not having his head blown up. He accepted it, but he didn't like it.

Okay, but if you really believe everyone is going to die if you don't do it, surely they would be a little more eager to do it even if they have to sacrifice something else, which presumably will NOT result in billions of deaths?

"Okay, but if you really believe everyone is going to die if you don’t do it, surely they would be a little more eager to do it even if they have to sacrifice something else, which presumably will NOT result in billions of deaths?"
I think they wouldn't do it --- for reasons from ranging from "principles" (giving up the resources the current tax system earns and the fiscal "justice" ot promotes would be seem as colaborating with evil-- I doubt they would want to exchange, say, the Civil Acts legislation for a tax carbon if Republicans proposed that) to keeping the eye on the prize (soon or later, they may think, people will wake up and understand what is at stake and maybe, led by the sense of urgency, even accept more radical policies than a carbon tax -- time resisting a compromisse now is time well-spent) and human stubbornness (if they are right about Global Warming and the tax system, why should they have to compromise and give up the victories their predecessors had achieved, why should they pay for saving the world?-- which os the feeling I meant to convey when I mentioned my cousin and ramson).

Still, they often insist that by the time people realize what is going on and unite, it will be too late and we will be over the tipping point. Certainly if they really believed that, you would expect some different behavior

1) I doubt "everyone is going to die" one way or other. From the Black Plague to the Holocaust to the Great Leap Forward to The Day After to The Day After Tommorow, "everyone didn't die". It can be pretty bad anyway.
2) I agree they seem to lack the sense of urgency their preaching should demand (and the fact they are not running around in circles yelling even in face of environmental apocalypse is at the least a tour of force of stoicism).
3) Hoax or not, if I were them, I would accept the proposal. Taking into account the resistence to their favored measures, it is hard to see how they expect to profit much from the current course of action. As the time goes by, it will get harder to make people make saceifices for the cause (either the diasater will happen, and people will be concerned with saving themselves, or it will happen-- and the hoax will be obvious). This way, they can at least sell a big victory to their environmental base and play the responsible statesmen.
4) Yet, human nature matters. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_inequity_aversion I think they don't want to pay for the right of saving the world (being forced in such a situation probably makes than think of Republicans as kidnappers who are holding manking for a ramson). As they see it, they get a net loss (they get what they had before, a liveable Earth, and give up the "fairer" tax policies they favored so long) and Republicans get a net victory (they get what they had before, a liveable Earth-- not thanks to their good sense-- and a tax policy they find more congenial).

Good point, are catastrophic AGW Believers buying up land in Maine that will ocean front property if sea level rises 20 feet?

BTW I do believe in AGW but think it will come slowly and so such investments do not make sense. I think it is hard to say whether a warmer planet will net out as a negative of positive for humanity. Very hard to say.

pretty true

Seems like a really basic misunderstanding for someone posting on an econ blog

All of those people could absolutely believe in fossil fuel based global warming and still rationally choose to fly a jet. The benefit accrued from diminishing global warming by personally limiting carbon emission is diluted by 7 billion people not doing so - the same reason why stock options don't actually incentivize rational individuals to be extra hard workers. It's a tragedy of the commons.

It almost seems hypocritically from the right angle, but then, "the left" isn't expecting individuals to voluntarily save the earth. Only through collective policy do we have a chance (I'm pretty libertarian leaning, but environment is on the short-list of things the market can't solve, at least yet)

well, certainly the criticism of world leaders jetting around for climate conferences can be dismissed on these grounds pretty easily. Al Gore's huge energy-sucking beachfront estate may be closer to rank individual hypocrisy, but still, happy to concede that it's a drop in the bucket and therefore basically irrelevant.

but this particular story is about the environmental movement torpedoing an extremely sensible initiative that could serve as a template for similar policies around the country and around the world, and they are doing it simply because it provides insufficient opportunity for graft and progressivey "progress". THAT hypocrisy makes me, for one, pretty GD skeptical of their "collective policies".

Mommy, what's an externality?

"The left say they believe in global warming but their revealed preferences show they do not. "

If global warming were really an existential threat to human life or even human civilization Environmentalists would support a large scale build out of nuclear power. France managed to go to 80% nuclear power in 20 years. The US could do the same.

So, revealed preferences indicate that most Environmentalists view Global Warming as no greater a threat than living in the country of France today.

The left believes climate change is real, but not worth doing anything self-sacrificial to stop. The right probably believes it is real but must act as if it is not real.

Who says climate doesn't change? No one. You can't frame the question properly so why do you assume to have an answer.

The question is multi-fold: is climate changing outside the range of natural volatility, is it harmful, is it primarily caused by human CO2 and is the money we spend going to make a difference.

The answer to the first is definitely no. We are experiencing moderate warming and the models are wrong.

The answer to the second is wrong. Moderate warming is beneficial to life. For example, rising CO2 is the main cause for a 14% increase in vegetation in the last 30 years.
http://www.thegwpf.com/matt-ridley-global-warming-versus-global-greening/ And ice ages kill.

The answers to 2 and 3 are maybe and no.

Climate changes. Today's climate is a warm respite from 2 million years of ice ages. The issue is complex.

The answer is not "Republicans!!"

I was told to share this when people made the argument you're making:


Someone mislead you then. When you go to the bottom, current path is less severe than the optimal shown.

BTW, Medieval warming period was warmer than today - and was global, contrary to your cartoon.

The one-degree increase since the industrial revolution is in line with other data I have found.

I agree that the rest of the line looks suspiciously flat. But I don't see what it is hard to beleive that dumping lots of CO2 into their air for a nearly centuries is going to cause noticable warming.

That doesn't seem very alarming to me

Is this supposed to scare me into thinking raising taxes to give to corrupt politicians will save us?

I think the point is that when people say things like, "Climate changes. Today’s climate is a warm respite from 2 million years of ice ages. The issue is complex," it is important to point out that the current change in climate is both of a degree and speed different from past changes, at least as far as our best estimates can get.

What you do with that information is another question.

"I was told to share this when people made the argument you’re making:


The problem with that cartoon is that it's way to honest. Between 16,000 BCE and 9,000 BCE humans lived on a world that warmed up by over 9 °F. The cartoon assumes that we might see 7°F warming over the next century.

Yes it's really fast, but that's really the worst case scenario and it unrealistic. Even then it seems unlikely to be catastrophic.

Let's just build a few thousand nuclear power plants and then we've got a few more centuries to worry about it.

It's also not internally consistent. 0 is labeled as the 1961-1990 average, but somehow the 1961-1990 portion of the line is all below 0.

"Moderate warming is beneficial to life."

Irrelevant. Whether warming is beneficial or harmful to life doesn't matter. What does matter is how global warming will affect us. Our infrastructure, where we live, where we plant our crops. If major population centers where tens of millions of people live end up being below sea level, vegetation increases won't really make up for it.

The revealed preferences of the left, as expressed in its actions as a political movement, clearly shows that they do not actually believe something needs to be done about it. Otherwise they'd be perfectly happy with a carbon tax structured as a general progressive reform of the tax code. That, after all, is not a compromise; it is using one stated preference of the left to fulfill another. Instead, the Washington State Democratic Party is officially and openly opposed to such as result.

The actual position of the left, as organized politically, is that lots and lots of government money should be funneled by politicians into the hands of favored constituents, like was done in California. Climate change is merely one excuse among many for such Tammany Hall-style graft and patronage.

And as long as the people who actually believe that climate change is real and needs to be addressed tolerate it being used as one excuse among many for corruption, you can be sure that they won't be able to convince anyone else that it's anything more than such an excuse.

The position taken by the leaders on the "left" that oppose the WA ballot initiative is consistent with actually wanting to do something about climate change, even if you think its a dumb position. They don't think the current initiative can pass, so why spend money and political capital pushing it when you can wait and try again next time with something that polls well.

It's a completely rational position. I think it's short-sighted and will ultimately prove self-destructive, but taking that position doesn't mean they don't actually want climate change. It's just a bad political strategy.

The position taken by the leaders on the “left” is to siphon money from the economy for their preferred use. Their only argument is how to siphon the most.

A revenue neutral carbon tax that replaced the personal income tax would be an easy sell to conservatives.

Who cares if climate change is actually a problem that needs to be solved? The above tax plan would solve more problems than it would create.

No matter how good "the plan"; giving more power to extremely corrupt red and blue politicians that have no problem hiring agent provocateurs to incite violence or funding terrorism via Saudi Arabia are going to give the public a shit sandwich.

Right now, the left believes that climate change is real and we should do something about it. The right believes it’s not real. You can’t have a legitimate discussion about “how should we solve this” when half the country takes the position of “actually, there’s no problem to solve in the first place.”

Sure you can because what you wants is a CO2 tax so you offer a trade for a tax that thay hate worse like a CO2 for the corporate tax of co2 for matching FICA.

Democrats and even bush type Republicans don't want to reduce FICA....remember when Reagan and Greenspan doubled FICA taxes and they are heralded as "saving" us?

They would reduce FICA if it meant diverting the carbon tax revenue into the SS trust fund.

They don't want SS and Medicare to run massive deficits, drowning the rest of the budget.

@HA2: right, it's an "only Nixon can go to China" situation.


Even in the absence of a belief in the Greenhoax Effect, there are good public policy considerations to develop alternative energy. Pollution is bad. Reliance on foreign sources is bad. Volatility is bad. Strip mining the earth is bad. Efficiency is good.

We should have gone and stayed nuclear decades ago. At the rate of growth in human energy use, nuclear is not merely the best option, it is the only feasible option. Fossil fuels are 2% energy, 98% waste. Nuclear is 99.99% energy, 0.01% waste.

I think Republicans could be convinced to, say, eliminate the income tax and replace the revenue with a carbon tax.

The left would never go for such a deal, because of mood affiliation, lack of social justice, etc.

Most Republicans are smart enough to know that global warming is just another Obama hoax. It disturbs me that you seem to be buying into their premise.

I'm not. But I could see them cutting a deal like carbon tax for income tax. Energy demand is fairly inelastic, that makes for a tax that generates a lot of revenue. And individuals would never pay it personally like they do income taxes, it would be more like a VAT in that producers pay it.

Frame it this way: Republicans are just getting rid of the IRS.

But you can see why this deal would have no appeal to The Left. "Republicans are cutting taxes on the rich (getting rid of the income tax) and making the little guy pay (the poor spend more of a % of their income on energy)".

Like the man said, Social Justice.

You can always shuffle a credit back to make it more progressive, that shouldn't be a huge sticking point.

I also don't like this idea though. I don't believe anyone making over $250,000 should pay taxes because their efforts in generating income are doing far more good to society than their tax-dollars would.

Well, Jim, your views are moronic, so we're just going to disregard them.

Jim is a troll. This should be obvious when it says "Republicans think global warming is an Obama hoax." Ignore it.

JAMRC is impersonating OJ now. It's sort of funny, but I wish the Commodore would return.

You mean a VAT that producers extract before the final sale? Individuals always pay the tax.

The Left see a carbon tax as they see all other taxes, just taking money. They wish to use the tax money for things unrelated to global warming. If the tax was tied to carbon contribution to global warming, then the incentives caused by tax to reduce carbon would naturally facilitate reducing the tax as carbon use declined. However, tying the tax to general revenue incentivizes a constantly increasing tax to keep revenues up as carbon use declines.

If there was real belief in global warming, then moving away from income to a consumption tax, not just a carbon tax, would be the way to go. Incentivizing economy and thrift in consumption is the wholesale way to reduce carbon.

Of course, climate models have a lot in common with economic models. Both make unsubstantiated assumptions, don't reflect real world observations, fail to take in account adaptations of humans and the flora/fauna and generally fall apart the further they project into the future.

>Individuals always pay the tax.

Technically, yes.

But there's this thing called "tax incidence". A tax on carbon is partially paid by the consumer in the form of higher prices for gasoline and partially paid by producers in the form of lower sales and reduced profit margins.

Most Republicans are smart enough to know that global warming is just another Obama hoax.

Yeah, Obama made it up when he was 10, back in the 70s.

His communist muslim handlers made it up for the sleeper Obama to later implement.

Hmm, communist Muslims? Meet liberation theologists!

As late as 1979, you could find academic papers in Science (one with Carl Sagan's name on it) about global cooling. BO was, of course 18 years old at the time. The 'global warming' craze among status signalers, the luddite lobbies, and academics sucking up grant money appeared quite abruptly around 1988 (though there was fragmentary popular discussion before that).

Few believe a carbon tax would not be in addition to other taxes rather than revenue-neutral, for the history of special-purpose taxes is that they are always "in addition," and, they seldom go away even if the purpose for the tax no longer exists.

Further, if a carbon tax were enacted there would inevitably be transfer payments to the poor poor, so they could afford to heat their homes and so municipalities could afford to fuel their diesel buses.

Finally, a "beggar-thyself-first" approach that damages the national economy while our world competitors choose not to do the same to theirs would also be a hard sell.

It's hard to say whether the Republican Party is still a Party that favors small government, but, to the extent that it is I'd expect it to oppose complex tax-heavy big-government programs such as this. Because, if a tax on carbon comes to pass, there will inevitably be innumerable carve-outs and political favors and all manner of complexity.

As the Podesta e-mails show, the Democrats are only interested in the climate in so far as it helps them seize and hold power. They are indifferent to the evidence:


Which is good actually as the evidence is nonsense. Still, it means we do not have a stupid tax because the voters aren't as stupid as our elites think. Or as our elites actually are.


Voters are indifferent, as polls show. This is driven by environmentalist groups in league with Dem leadership.

What're you talking about? The email referenced above is Podesta saying that Clinton shouldn't campaign on a carbon tax because polls show that voters don't support a carbon tax.

Emails from the chairman of a political campaign focus primarily on political considerations. What else do you expect? This is not surprising or evidence of dishonesty.

"the American people expect their government to solve this problem without raising the price of energy" - if this is true then maybe now would be a good time to introduce the carbon tax, energy prices having fallen quite considerably over the last couple of years. Perhaps it could be done as a sliding tax, if oil goes above a certain price then the tax is lowered. After-all the objectives is to make carbon more expensive so if oil were expensive due to supply demand, surely that is job done?. I would also sequester the revenues from the carbon tax in a popular program, say social security, and have independent accounting body run the program.

Probably the best thing that could be done practically on this would be to announce a program to phase out coal production and use in the US. If this were a 10 year program you can provide the necessary financial and other support to affected communities. And the US government could buy the shares of the affected companies right now for peanuts less than $5bn - http://ieefa.org/market-cap-u-s-coal-companies-continues-fall/ and just shut them down. Even if global warming is not caused by human activities, shutting down coal production and burning has all sorts of benefits to the local environment. And no-one can argue that the US doesn't have plenty of natural gas to provide replacement power. Natural gas plants are also great at providing back up to intermittent sources like wind and solar since they are low capex (so can have them on standby without too much cost) and quick to restart. With LNG now becoming widespread massive storage is possible for the grid, certainly better than any battery option now or anytime in the future. And the emissions from LNG are as clean as a fossil fuel can be.

Sensible comment. I'd take issue with the sliding scale though. To offset another stream of tax revenue, you'd need a steady stream of CO2 tax. It would also alter the market mechanism of prices.

Actually, in general pollution taxes make classic economic sense.

Pigouvian taxes. Yep!

I am all on board with carbon taxes, I do believe global warming is real (experiencing it in my lifetime, I realize that's chump change in earth time). I'm mostly affiliated with the Right, religious, freedom loving, small government etc. It's important to recognize the difference between the leadership and the base of the Right and Left. I trust most of the Left peasants do care about fixing carbon emissions in fact. I trust the Left leadership not at all (nor the Right leadership).

I would like carbon taxes, BUT ONLY IF they are revenue neutral. As so many others are saying, show me you actually mean it. The revenue can be raised later by asking to increase taxes later, if we really need the money so badly, but right now the focus should be on reducing carbon use. Which, by the way, if you want to change behavior expect it to hurt. If you add too many vouchers for poor people unable to afford to drive to work suddenly, well, you make no net change in behavior.

It really boggles my mind that a carbon-for-payroll tax exchange can't gain bipartisan support. It seems like such an obvious win-win to me.... You trade one regressive tax for another, increase demand for labor (which we want) and decrease demand for carbon (which we either want or are indifferent to depending on how much we believe climate scientist).

We already have enormous taxes on gasoline. How much additional Pigouvian tax is necessary?

Only if an impartial oracle determines the price.

Greenhouse-gas taxes sufficiently large to meet emissions targets + rebate all revenue as universal, flat dividend to all citizens + a winning PR strategy = climate action ... could come from either party.

Dems try to hard to make a solution that leaves no one behind (e.g. earmarking some money for retraining coal miners or whatever). It's a way easier sell to just say that, on average, everyone will get back what they pay in tax and that, if you're more energy efficient than average, you can profit.

I would vote for you for president if you could get into the debates. Too bad we wont see that happening because massive corruption.

if you read the Vox piece, this www.eenews.net/stories/1060044310 and this http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/06/upshot/the-key-role-of-conservatives-in-taxing-carbon.html it is cleat that the left did not support the proposal because a revenue-neutral plan would not be able to reward the members of the left coalition (labor, communities of color, climate-oriented and -friendly businesses). Speaking as a Democrat and an environmentalist, that is unfortunate but can easily be explained by public choice .

This seems to me like the left-wing equivalent of Republicans adding "defund planned parenthood!" to various completely unrelated initiatives. Demanding social/climate/whatever "justice" and handouts for "affected groups" rather than accepting more centrist measures that may actually work is just as obstructionist as anything the right does.

Well, it's also evidence that the underlying policy of fighting global climate change is not very high priority for many people, and, as Tyler says, people expect it to be done for free (or even saving everyone money.) The Left may even be correct that assembling a viable coalition for climate change requires logrolling and goodies for people who don't, in the end, really care, but yes, it is possible that it repels as many votes as it gains. Sometimes that's politics. (Just as, say, Trump's method of going after low-income whites does indeed seem to be quite successful, but has resulted in a swing of equal or greater size against him from higher income and educated whites.)

people expect it to be done for free (or even saving everyone money.)

For what it's worth, I've heard people seriously argue that green technology will make us rich (instead of just slowing down the rate at which we get poorer, which is my view). Often with links to Thomas Friedman articles about how China is building computers while the US is still building typewriters.

Part of it is definitely that everything has been oversold. But the left and environmental groups should own and fix this problem.

Global warming is inherently hard to handle politically, because the costs of addressing it land today (where the voters will immediately notice them), but the benefits of addressing it land far in the future, where voters won't see it, and can only hear experts claiming that they've done some good things for the next couple generations.

This seems to me like the left-wing equivalent of Republicans adding “defund planned parenthood!” to various completely unrelated initiatives. Demanding social/climate/whatever “justice” and handouts for “affected groups” rather than accepting more centrist measures that may actually work is just as obstructionist as anything the right does.

Those things aren't just equivalents, they're exactly the same thing at the same time, two sides of the same coin, modulo only status quo bias. After all, when the Republicans pass bills without Planned Parenthood funding, and the Democrats demand handouts and so forth and without them will oppose otherwise centrist measures, that's the same thing. Similarly, the only difference between Democrats fighting for extra new handouts and fighting to save existing handouts is the status quo, and the only difference between Republicans fighting to cut current handouts and fighting against new handouts is the status quo.

There's a fair amount of anchoring at the status quo that makes many people view preserving it as more "centrist" or less intransigent than wanting to change it (which is why occasionally Republicans muse about "zero based budgeting" and other pipe dreams), but surely it's hard to fault too much the people on either the Left or Right who see the status quo as unjust wanting to change it.

Simple metric for determining if one should fault a side : does their position increase or decrease liberty? Increasing liberty, just. A politician who does this is decreasing his class' future power, this sounds like altruism. Decreasing liberty, evil. They are simply rapeciously grabbing at power.

That would work if liberty were the only value we cared about. That may be true at the margins in current conditions, but probably isn't true always and everywhere. For example, if we were about to be embroiled in a war of survival with 1920-level technology, we'd need to impose a draft and build up a big army with high war taxes. Both of those things decrease liberty, but might still be much better than losing a war and being turned into an exploited conquered territory.

Agreed. As a Washington state voter, my main takeaway from the Vox piece is that it's a great summary of why progressives have such a hard time scoring political victories despite regularly winning elections. Every single progressive voter demands a cut, so either sure bets fail or they win but cost ten times as much as they should. Often the workaround is to enact a Seattle-specific law a year later, though that's probably not going to work in this case.

A good cautionary tale is liquor deregulation. We had two competing initiatives on the same ballot to allow private liquor sales. Both failed, so some of the same people came back with a new initiative a year later that supposedly fixed all the problems with the first two initiatives (it was revenue-neutral and it thought of the children). When that one passed, everyone who voted for it was shocked to find that it led to higher prices and inferior store selections due to all of the compromises made by its backers.

I can think of a much more prominent example of liberal policy goals hobbled by the need to keep the tent big from, O, say, 2010.

Let's say that Republicans take the bait, and in return for a carbon tax they want to get rid of the corporate income tax, the death tax, the capital gains tax, and the income tax. How high would the carbon tax have to be? Would it be so high as to end American civilization as we know it? (i.e. make automobile transportation and central heating untenable?)

On the order of $50/ton... $0.50/gallon of gas, for example. Enough to cause real changes in consumption and production but not enough to fundamentally change American civilization... this is what you need to stabilize CO2, by the way; a few hundred billion in annual revenue. On the order of 10% of federal revenue (5% of all-government revenue)... roughly the same as federal corporate income tax revenue.

So to get rid of all of those taxes you'd need a very high carbon tax rate. Couple bucks a gallon?

Most European countries have gas taxes well above $2/gallon. UK is around $3/gallon. Unfortunately this has not led to a reduction of other taxes which I think is the real reason the Reps would not support it. Basically the more sources of tax revenue a state gets the more it will spend. It's sort of like building a new road to relive congestion, sure momentarily it does, but very quickly new demands grow and you are back to where you started.

Sorry I gave you the benefit of the doubt that you were asking a good question (how big does the tax need to be to achieve its goal) rather than a weird one (how big does the tax need to be to raise a big majority of federal revenue)...

Both seem like reasonable questions.

If we are really talking about replacing the income tax with a carbon tax, that was actually a good question.

He asked how big of a carbon tax would be needed to replace nearly all federal revenue... it's not even really an easy question to answer because of how huge a shift it would be in the american economy. It's answerable ignoring that (several hundred dollars per ton aka a few bucks a gallon of gas), but how is it relevant to anything other than idle curiosity? No one's proposing doing that.

Is someone in the room with you forcing you to respond to questions you don't want to answer? If the answer is "yes", just type gibberish. We'll call the cops to save you.

"If the answer is “yes”, just type gibberish. "

Darn, I never thought about that. Can someone call the cops to save mulp?

US consumes about 140 billion gallons, so $2.42 to offset the $340 billion in Corp taxes

Transportation is less than half of emissions. You're forgetting about home heating, electricity, etc.

Wow. Big increases in gasoline costs to eliminate an even minor tax like the corporate income tax. I guess it's untenable.

What makes you think the Republicans would welcome ending corporate tax, the death tax, the capital gains tax and income tax? The base might love it, but what makes you think the people running the Republican party would?

The bottom line is that as long as the tax system is complex, these rather mediocre people are wined and dined by all sorts of people. They get big "donations" from wealthy people. When they step down they can expect lucrative second careers as lobbyists. If they simplified the tax system, if they got rid of the special exemptions, they would simply be ignored as everyone went about their legal business.

No, they need to tax everything and then grant their friends exemptions. Nothing else will keep the gravy train flowing. Republicans in Congress may make noises about abolishing taxes, but they will never do it. Any more than Hillary will. They would have to earn a living if they did. As can be seen by the fact that no amount of Republican control of both Houses has reduced taxes at all apart from a few token gestures to fool the rubes.

"No, they need to tax everything and then grant their friends exemptions. Nothing else will keep the gravy train flowing. Republicans in Congress may make noises about abolishing taxes, but they will never do it."
What's the difference between Democrats and Repunlicansagain?

Getting rid of corporate income taxes? never ever happen ....what would the big 4 accounting firms do? and all the lawyers that work with them and the finance departments and accoutnants of every S&P500 company?....nope...these people support mainstream Republicans and Democrats.

Get rid of Payroll taxes? never ever happen...who wants a upwardly mobile lower class capable of educating themselves and providing constant innovation, constant small biz growth and constantly forcing big companies to react to new competitors? not the big donors to the corrupt commission for presidential debates. payroll taxes have been the biggest growing sources of revenue for Feds the last 40 years....they will not harm that golden goose!

Income taxes? uh special exemptions credits, annual fiddlying diddling and more paperwork...that is the plan there....

climate change taxes? if the elite can't get them then the elite will get frustrated and go back to the tried and true method of higher taxes....start some more big ass wars and blow people the fuck up. False flags are useful for that...and so are agent provocateurs and any number of other standard operating procedures.

We don't necessarily need to get rid of the corporate income tax.

We could just cut the top rate to 22% so we can be competitive with Denmark.

Problem is, that'd be SUPER regressive. The lower three quartiles of the income distribution would face massively higher prices and get very little extra income while the top set of earner would do exceedingly well. It's the same issue with replacing the income tax (not to mention the others you mention, which hit higher earners even more than the income tax) with a consumption tax. It's much more reasonable to replace payroll taxes (which hit poor people much harder than the other ones) with a carbon tax.

It has always seemed deeply illogical to me that many Republicans are persistent climate change denialists. Acting against global warming fits Republican values, like ensuring energy security and conserving the landscape.

It doesn't make much sense in light of GOP history to try to make it harder to vote, either, but it makes a lot of short-term political sense.

I think this article provides an explanation -- the other side very much wants to use climate change as a means to do all the things they've always wanted to do anyway (e.g. a larger government imposing more control over the economy with more redistribution and funneling of government monies toward favored groups). Hence we see the unacceptability of a plain, revenue-neutral carbon tax to those on the left (since it would reduce carbon emissions without doing any of these other things).

Republicans further see that scientists are, by and large, members of the opposition coalition who are dependent on state funding and are perceived as often not playing it straight (e.g. 'climategate' emails, melting Himalayan glaciers, unfounded claims of links between global warming and hurricanes, etc, etc)

"the other side very much wants to use climate change as a means to do all the things they’ve always wanted to do anyway "

Yes, climate change alarmists are watermelons who use environmental scare mongering to advance semi-socialist economic goals.

How the hell is a carbon tax semi-socialist? This is approximately as informative as labeling everyone who opposes BLM a racist.

But the proposals are never as simple as a carbon tax, as the article goes into at length. They're always more regulation, more laws, more oversight, more government, more money going to liberal voting blocks, and since they are ignoring such a basic tool it's hardly surprising that their opponents are suspicious of their motives.

But apparently it's logical to believe climate doesn't change naturally - and radically.

The widespread ignorance on this issue is unbelievable.

If one does not believe that climate change is a problem, it is hardly logical to spend money on mitigation.

Scott Sumner makes the argument that if a carbon tax can be used to replace other more distortionary taxes, this would be an improvement even if global warming turns out not to be a significant problem. And, of course, such a tax would block the use of climate change as a means of furthering the progressive agenda. Which is why (as in Washington state) Democrats would probably reject it.

It also means Republicans should seriously seize on it. I think Sumner is right, but the Republicans are leaving a bunch of money on the table for no good reason if he's right.

Something that would partially offset the burden of a carbon tax would be to end unnecessary fossil fuel subsidies, which are paid for by taxpayers. Unfortunately, many politicians have vested interests in the oil business, so I don't think this is likely to happen.

I think that you will find these subsidies are a myth. Usually people are describing as subsidies such things as tax relief on investment capital and similar, which is reducing tax paid, not providing a price subsidy. Overall, wells to wheel, or wells to lightbulb you will find that each BTU of fossil fuel pays substantial positive tax. Usually this is not true for renewables, the net tax per BTU is often negative and provided by price subsidies or by guarantees on minimum pricing.

It is instructive to look at countries that depend for a large part of their GDP on energy exports, like Norway, Saudi Arabia or Russia. Do you really think that the rest of their economies are able to pay large amounts of taxes to subsidize their exports?

Subsidies and tax relief are two sides of the same coin. I have yet to hear a good reason why even small subsidies for fossil fuels are needed.

Well not to get into semantics, usually a subsidy is when you pay something to someone, so it does seem quantitatively different to me to a relief, which is when you get less than you originally expected in taxes but you still get some taxes. This matters as usually people point out this relief as somehow equivalent to the subsidies that the renewables get. From the point of view of the tax payer, they are not equivalent.

In terms of whether eliminating these tax reliefs will provide additional revenue, most likely it will not, both for the reasons described by John Thacker (operations overseas that involve royalities will simply move to be domiciled in another country, which moves the remaining tax revenue after relief to another country) and any domestic oil operations that are reliant on subsidies to remain economic (typically high cost operations like high water cut) will shutdown.

The "subsidy" is that the government allows the oil companies to deduct exploration and drilling as an "expense". In other words they can do exploration for new oil with pre-tax dollars instead of post tax dollars.
It's sort of semantic to call this a subsidy as typically for most industries anything that the business spends in operating costs is considered an expense and hence is deducted from income and not taxed. The government plays games all the times with what is deductible and not deductible. What the left would like to see is that any new oil and gas drilling is considered not part of the businesses operating expenses.

Really this is a semantic game. The left would like to disincentivize exploration and new drilling so they want to make it not count as an operating expense. But as always they play word games, because they are sneaky disingenuous assholes by nature.

the biggest line items counted as "oil industry subsidies" are: 1) the strategic petroleum reserve, 2) the tax exemption for farm fuel, and 3) the low income home energy assistance program. so 1 is a strategic, national defense thing. 2 is a fairly logical carve-out based on the idea that gas taxes are used to pay for roads, and farm vehicles don't use the roads so they arguably shouldn't be taxed to pay for them. 3 is a subsidy to low income families that subsidizes the oil industry indirectly.

that's why politicians like to talk about "oil subsidies" as if they are some horrible dumb thing we can do away with, but then they never actually do anything about them. it's because when you look into the details they aren't necessarily so dumb and horrible.

The largest single item described as a specific fossil fuel subsidy has to do with allowing deductions for royalties paid to foreign governments (and government-run or granted monopolies) as if they were foreign taxes, which in most senses they are. Some countries prefer to have monopoly companies or government agencies charge foreign oil and resource extraction companies royalties, whereas other countries have private land and then tax the extraction companies directly. Both are more or less taxes, and there's a very strong case for treating them exactly as other foreign taxes. If you excuse those sorts of things, there's very little "fossil fuel subsidies" as such. Unfortunately, people strongly wish to believe in a free lunch.

The belief in cutting fossil fuel subsidies is the same thing as the belief in cutting foreign aid as the way to balance the budget.

However, I will grant that you might be able to package a carbon tax as eliminating fossil fuel subsidies (though you would have to be careful to exclude other resource extraction companies with foreign operations if that is your wish) so it might make political sense. Do note that it would be mostly likely to simply cause more of the non-US resource extraction to be done by non-US companies (and perhaps cause US-based oil majors to relocate their corporate headquarters.) It also would likely result in the sort of higher prices that people think it can be accomplished without.

Like Fr0d0 I don't think it makes sense to put tax breaks on a pedestal and claim they're not subsidies. Every basic economic textbook will note the accounting identity that makes unequal tax treatment equivalent to a direct cash payment with equal tax treatment. Getting hung up on whether there is an actual transfer of cash is a common rhetorical strategy but a poor argument.

You are, however, correct that oil and gas is not nearly as subsidized as most people in the US seem to believe it is. The most recent accountings of "subsidies" to the oil and gas industry are dominated by such things as the LIHEAP program (subsidized heating oil prices for the poor), exemptions on the road revenue tax for agricultural fuel (which makes sense both in terms of economics and procedural fairness) and strategic petroleum reserve purchases. Safe to say that liberals don't want these programs to go. One activity that is undoubtedly subsidized, however, is driving. We regularly have to put in around $70 bn a year to the National Highway Trust Fund from the general revenue pool because the gas tax hasn't risen in decades, and that's just on the Federal level. That doesn't even account for the cost of building regulations that privilege free or low-cost parking and certain road sizes.

One thing to note regarding your statement on the Saudis and on Russia is that price subsidies for domestic consumption in those countries are both common and persistent. The Saudis are up front about it, while the Russians have a punitive tax formula that is designed to capture almost all of the gains from increased oil prices on exports, while preventing the export of refined fuel so it can be sold at or below cost of production to domestic consumers. Of course, the latter also results in fuel shortages which can be conveniently blamed on foreign interlopers.

Don't big time Republicans and Democrats justify massive military spending as being necessary to provide safe transport of Oil to the US and the world? if so that is a trillion dollar annual subsidy you are ignoring.

Assignment of defense spending is arbitrary, but it's nowhere close to a trillion dollar annual subsidy. At most it's half that. I don't think there's any doubt that the US's presence in the Persian Gulf is in large part due to the concerns we have over oil security, but trying to disentangle that from terrorism, whatever the reason we invaded Iraq was, nuclear disarmament, and Israel is an exercise in what my history teacher used to call Systematic Wild-Ass Guessing.

Much as in any other type of politicized subject, a lot of people like to cite the upper bound paper in support of this thesis. This is specifically Stern (Princeton, 2010) which gives $500 billion by applying all of the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan. There are two other methodologies that are common that give radically different numbers. The regular costs of US involvement in the Persian Gulf have repeatedly been estimated in the neighborhood of $0.5 bn per year on a strict accounting basis, and studies which assume that the US will fight a major war in the Middle East every 50 years over oil give figures of about $50-$100 bn/yr. I think the US has other interests in the Middle East besides oil, so I usually arbitrarily (of course) put this at the low end of the estimates.

Either way it ain't a trillion.

Fund balance[edit]
Account balance for fiscal year 2016 (October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016).[7]
Opening Balance $12 B
Highway Outlays $39 B
Mass Transit Outlays $8 B
Receipts from Dedicated Fund $35 B
Receipts from General Fund $70 B
Closing Balance $70 B

It doesn't look like 70 Bil/year. Shortfall here is $4 B. Far less than the $8 B diverted from gas taxes to mass transit.

Just another accounting scam from DC.

The NHTSA in 2007 estimated about 51% of total highway maintenance outlays was from user fees, and the total outlays were $193 bn.

More recent figures:

"In January: The Highway Account received a transfer of $51.9 billion from the General Fund pursuant to section 31201 of P.L. 114-94 and a transfer of $100 million from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund pursuant to section 31203 of the same law. The Mass Transit Account received a transfer of $18.1 billion from the General Fund pursuant to section 31201 as well."

P.L. 114-94 was passed in 2015. So at least $51.9 bn in 2015.

From your link Outlays were 44 B.

This compromise space is under explored. Balancing the carbon tax through payroll tax relief rather than income tax relief would partially compensate its regressive nature.

Now THAT will never happen. It's a myth, but people really feel that their payroll taxes are more like a pension payment rather than a tax. No one has had the cahonnes to really break that connection (at some level the more you pay in payroll taxes the higher your Socialist Insecurity benefit).

To his credit, Senator McConnell has acknowledged that the payroll tax is just a tax, although the acknowledgment was unintentional. As everyone knows, social security reform adopted during the Reagan administration greatly increased the payroll tax (even as the administration reduced income taxes), generating an enormous surplus (almost $3 trillion). Where is the surplus? It was spent, on farm subsidies, wars, you name it. It's reflected as an IOU to social security, but that's bunk. On numerous occasions, McConnell has said that if it were up to him, the government would not repay the IOU. In doing so, he has acknowledged that payroll taxes are just taxes. He is also being a realist. After all, how will the government repay a $3 trillion debt to social security? By raising income taxes? That's a joke. No, by raising payroll taxes. That's the solution of Simpson-Bowles. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Re: On numerous occasions, McConnell has said that if it were up to him, the government would not repay the IOU.

So Sen McConnell is advocating that the US default on a portion of its national debt. Nice to know.

"So Sen McConnell is advocating that the US default on a portion of its national debt. Nice to know."

Senator McConnell is familiar with US Law.

"In 1960, the United States Supreme Court in the Flemming decision said Social Security is not guaranteed,"


Your response is a non sequitur. Social security may not be legally guaranteed to any given individual, but the bonds it holds were issued under the full faith and credit of the United States. Defaulting on them is no different from defaulting on any other US debt instrument. And may well be unconstitutional if you refer to the common interpretation of the 14th amendment stipulation that the federal debt may not be "questioned".

"people really feel that their payroll taxes are more like a pension payment rather than a tax"

Amazingly, this belief is even more common outside of the United States. Here in Japan, foreign workers are furious when they're not refunded 100% of their pension "investments" when they emigrate.

hmmm this is a weird belief you have.

Payroll taxes doubled in the 1980's right before I started working, but real value of SS benefits don't seem to have doubled.

How much has life expectancy at age 67 increased since 1980? That's how much more SS is worth to you.

I'd check your math on that. SS Cost of living adjustments are almost always higher than inflation. In the 35 years since then, if the COA on SS was on average 2% higher than inflation, the real value of SS benefits will have doubled!

Increasing the gas tax right now makes a ton of sense and that's a nonstarter what makes you think a carbon tax is anything but?

Is there still Republican support for tax reform around a national sales tax? Because one could frame a carbon tax in that way.

One cannot deeply reduce carbon emissions without increasing the price of energy. The technoeconomics just don't work, unless solar electricity falls to one or two cents per kWH. Fossil energy is just so cheap.

Both Cruz and Paul had tax plans that were VAT-like (with some modifications that approached, but did not meet, the X tax), and for that matter Gary Johnson is pro a sales tax. OTOH, I suspect that the power of inertia means that such plans, while they have a constituency with certain Republicans to be sure, also would have a lot of opponents among Republicans who would favor the status quo. Bipartisanship is necessary, but has been certainly lacking in this area of tax policy (even with compromise plans whether from Dave Camp or from Simpson-Bowles.)

There's not one thing wrong with aiming at lowering what consumers pay for power. Power as an input should be as low as possible in any economy. Furthermore, to get people to shift from carbon electrons to clean electrons it will be necessary to make sure that price is a reason, not an obstacle. This is not complicated. Don't let economists confuse you.

Not a Republican, but I'm a CAGW soft skeptic. Perhaps agnostic would be the better term. And I definitely oppose the raft of "solutions" so far put out. When someone's solution to a problem is the same thing they think will solve poverty, militarism, inequality and unhappy children, I am definitely skeptical about it.

But, here are the two crucial points, I am capable of being convinced on the science, and even if I were not, I could be convinced to support an alternative power scheme to lower carbon emissions for totally orthogonal reasons, like reducing the influence of some of the more backward oil producers. Unfortunately, the left is married to forms of alternate energy that are incapable of meeting this need. Any argument for a response to CAGW that does not conclude "so we must build massive nuclear power" is simply dishonest. We have no other alternative; wind, solar and biofuels do not produce enough energy per acre to power a modern society.

Also, the thing that makes me most skeptical about the science in the first place is the actions of its proponents. If Republicans were the racist earth-hating ogres of the left's imagination, and CAGW was as real as they claim, why would they not be offering amazing compromises? Re-criminalize homosexuality! Eliminate the income tax! Lock military funding in for a century! Surely, if climate change is as bad as they claim to believe, all that would be worth it and more. What has been offered? So far, they have offered to jail people who don't agree with them. Doesn't inspire confidence in their own beliefs about the subject.

"CAGW" -- An acronym that appears in the scientific literature only in obscure publications by a few self-proclaimed climate skeptics... not one often used by agnostics.

There are many thorough studies that look into the practicalities of stabilizing/reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases. In summary: it comes at some cost today, it may or may not be a net economic benefit in the medium/long-term, and it in no way precludes powering a modern society.

There are no competent studies that look at the practicalities of stabilizing Greenhouse gases. At least none that say we can do so and continue to have a modern society.

Basically if we want to emit like Haitians, we will live like Haitians.

"There are no competent studies that look at the practicalities of stabilizing Greenhouse gases." Just a bunch of incompetent ones, then - http://science.sciencemag.org/content/305/5686/968.full?ijkey=Y58LIjdWjMPsw&keytype=ref&siteid=sci

You are totally ignoring the important points he makes

The two points:

1. Nuclear is essential and the left forbids it -- I agree the left is totally wrong on this, but nuclear is not essential, and nuclear power is a medium/long-term solution to what's already an immediate problem because of the time it takes to come online.

2. The left doesn't act like global warming is a life or death issue -- from an American perspective, this is because even though GHG reduction is broadly popular it's a loser in states needed to build the Senate majority/supermajority needed for significant GHG reduction... and it's a third rail issue for anyone wanting to win a GOP primary so horse trading's not really an option.

The Left (and by that I mean the Jill Stein/Bernie Sanders crowd, not necessarily the position of the mainstream Democratic Party), also hates GMOs. If we want to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, it might require some genetically modified algae or planting GMO crops which need fewer chemical fertilitzers.

GMOs also improve yields. That means fewer forests must be cut down to feed the world. Deforestation accounts for about 15% of global CO2 emissions. Cars and trucks account for about 15%.

Opposing GMOs makes about as much sense from a climate standpoint as subsidizing the production of SUVs.

When someone’s solution to a problem is the same thing they think will solve poverty, militarism, inequality and unhappy children, I am definitely skeptical about it.

But capitalism is the source of all problems. War, poverty, climate change, and unhappy children included.

I have not read or heard a single legit reason it has been bipartisian policy to weaponize and give military training support to the House of Saud for the last few decades. The topic is completely taboo and left out of any debates.

Until I hear this issue resolved and the lies that I have heard spouted to support the House of Saud. I will not believe anything of the motives I hear political elites claim to have for any of their energy related policies.

it isn't difficult to understand. Gulf Oil was critical to winning WWII. It was similarly considered a strategic asset during the Cold War.
From 1991 to the present why it continued is a more legitimate question. We know why it started.
Why it still continues now that we're almost oil-independent is an even bigger question.

So you don't know why we fund terrorism now ...but you just assume the bullshit reasoning makes sense for the past?

The cold war was not won because we had more oil....it was "won" because centralized planning fucks up an economy real fucking bad and makes it impossible to deliver blue jeans to everyone or stock a fucking grocery store to a reasonable level.

That is true, but we didn't know that in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The USSR at it's peak was really a terrifying threat. They stole the nuclear bomb from us (via the Rosenbergs), and then were, for 20-30 years, threatening us with nuclear annihilation. Today, you have the luxury of looking back and dismissing them as a paper tiger. You don't know what's a paper tiger and what isn't until after it's destroyed. Maybe you don't remember annual May Day parades featuring nuclear weapons past Red Square, for the benefit of Soviet leaders in military uniform. I do.

The cold war was not won because we had more oil

Would be a salient observation had Hazel Meade said otherwise; instead, she stated only that it was considered a strategic asset, i.e., something good to have available in case the Cold War got hot.

Weaponizing and protecting the BIGGEST purveyor of the most radical form of islamic doctrine is what has been done and what Dems and Repubs continue to do.

You say it has been done to secure oil for the cold war. The truth is the oil that was in Saudi Arabia would have been there whoever we put in power. The justification makes no sense and it doesn't matter how big the misslies in the parade in moscow were.

Whoever had been in control of Saudi Arabia would have been anxious to get revenue from the oil....it did not need to be some barbaric cult in charge. The political leadership in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and many other middle east countries were western educated rational people. There was no additional oil security safety margin given to the US by empowering the crazed backwards women haters that the US has chosen to empower.....unless you want to go into divide and conquer ideas....then ok lets talk....if you are jsut mindlessly repeating some childhood psychological trauma inflicted on you b7y watching scary parades on TV then you'd be better off talking to a therapist.

>You say it has been done to secure oil for the cold war. The truth is the oil that was in Saudi Arabia would have been there whoever we put in power. The justification makes no sense and it doesn’t matter how big the misslies in the parade in moscow were.

And what if those Soviet Parades were in the streets of Baghdad, Tehran, Cairo and Rihyad?

The USSR conquered a large chunk of central Asia and were making allies throughout the Middle East. Nasser got the star of the Hero of the Soviet Union with the Order of Lenin to Nasser during Nikita Khrushchev's visit to the African country in 1964.

Try to re-run the Cold War with a Soviet-dominated Middle East.

You say it has been done to secure oil for the cold war. The truth is the oil that was in Saudi Arabia would have been there whoever we put in power.

As if we could just install liberal democrats at a whim.

Seems to me we tried that in Iraq just now and it didn't work out too well. And may I also point out that the presence of our troops in Saudi Arabia was a major instigator of Osama Bin Laden. Many Saudis think the House of Saud is too liberal. We're not all powerful and we don't get to just decide who runs Saudi Arabia, and we don't have the luxury of picking and choosing who we support when a strategic asset is at stake.

" the American people expect their government to solve this problem"

What problem? It's an imaginary problem. Climate change will occur regardless of the activities of man. Only ten thousand years ago ice a mile thick covered much of what's now the northern US. Even if a carbon tax, or any other pseudo-remedy, were implemented, no one would ever be able to measure its effectiveness.

In the 1980s, before the Montreal Protocol that phased out refrigerants R-12 and R-502, there were daily news stories of children in Chile being unable to attend school because of ultra-violet light penetrating the ozone hole caused by CFCs in the upper atmosphere. Sheep in Patagonia were supposedly staggering about blinded by the ultra-violet rays. The day after the treaty was signed we never heard another word about South American vision impairment, although nothing had, in fact, been done to remove the molecules from the environment. This continues to this day as more refrigerants are being banned for their purported menace. However, the Montreal Protocol was the foundation for the strategy of using computer modelling to effect greater government control. It was also a financial bonanza for the chemical companies that have developed more expensive, less effective substitutes protected by patents. Chlorinated flourocarbons, R-12 and R-502, have done as much to raise the standard of living of individual humans because of their use in food preservation as any other substance known to man.

The climate change fiction uses the same technique. Ridiculous stories about drowning polar bear cubs and disappearing Pacific atolls are broadcast because Americans see no real evidence of a climate change "crisis" in their daily lives. That is because there is no actual AGW.

CFCs were replaced by HCFCs. Which were in patent and hence expensive. Except they are now coming out of patent.

So now there is a push to ban them because they are, what else?, Greenhouse gases.

The shamelessness of this all is remarkable.

CFCs getting eliminated changed every asthma inhaler in the country. No longer did they have good push, getting way down into your lungs, but the non-CFC ones often failed to deliver the drug well. They would also run out before the actual doses of medicine ran out, usually well before. Every time someone tells me about climate change, I think of asthma attacks I've had.

Now the new climate change agreement bans something that allows people in 120 degree heat in India to afford air conditioners. And low and behold some lobbyist owns the patent for the more expensive air conditioners.

Conclusion: Leftists are pure evil, should be gas chambered.

I love when you're reading someone who's making some reasonable point, and then he finishes with a de facto "PS: I'm a nutcase or a troll or both" ending.

Dupont made mint on that whole deal.

5 seconds on google shows there's still tons of medical studies being done and news articles being written about the health consequences of the ozone hole... for cataracts in south america and elsewhere. No one's running around using them for political propaganda anymore because the propaganda already did it's job and the ozone hole stopped expanding and is now (slowly/probably) shrinking.

Every molecule of CFC that's ever been manufactured, and is continuing to be manufactured, will eventually find its way to the atmosphere. All the the chlorine atoms that have gobbled up the ozone molecules are still wandering around above the flight paths of Air Force One, continuing to gobble up ozone. By the theory that justifies the Montreal Protocol, the ozone hole can't be shrinking.

The Ozone layer naturally repairs itself over time.

CFCs stop that healing process.

Most of those statements are obvious lies, anyone with enough knowledge to originate them is deliberately lying to you. A little thought and minimal research, such as looking at Wikipedia, would have exposed this.

The level of CFCs in the atmosphere has dropped since they don't last forever, the rate of emission has fallen to near zero and they decompose so naturally the level present in the stratosphere has fallen.

CFCs used in refrigerators or in unused fire extinguishers can be destroyed at the end of the device's lifespan.

LOL no - http://cdiac.ornl.gov/oceans/CFC_ATM_Hist2015.html

One way to read the comments above is that we should hate Democrats because, while they are good, they aren't good enough to save us from ourselves.

And of course we won't help, we are Republicans, it's all on them to do everything good.

>I would put it this way...

It's always good to hear from someone very, very deep inside their own bubble, with virtually no idea what the American people at large are thinking. Please go on.

>the American people expect their government to solve this problem...

Wrong already. A very large chunk of the American people understand that there is no problem.

Nice try though!

A "large chunk" is a sneaky claim, because while it may be correct it is not on the right side of the trend or the majority.


"No or little worry" has *never* had the majority. It is a spoiler's position.

There is also this:http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/01/poll-91-of-americans-arent-worried-about-global-warming/

The last IPCC report quietly lowered its estimate of temperature sensitivity to CO2 from a range of 1.5-4.5 degrees to 1.25-3.0 degrees. (I say quietly because this significant announcement was not included in the summary report for policy makers).

Has anyone proposed lowering a proposed carbon tax in light if this adjustment. Why not? It's almost as if the politics are completely unmoored from the science.

Are you sure about that?

The fifth IPCC report Summary for Policymakers (2013) contains this sentence: "Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence)".

link: http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf

"The last IPCC report quietly lowered its estimate of temperature sensitivity to CO2 from a range of 1.5-4.5 degrees to 1.25-3.0 degrees."

It's not the Range that changed, it's the Best Estimate that changed (or was removed).

In IPCC 4 the range was 2.0-4.5 and the Best Estimate in IPCC 4 was a 3.0 change.

In IPCC 5 the range was 1.5-4.5 with no Best Estimate given. There's some indication that the Best Estimate should be around 2.0.

It's speculated that stating the new Best Estimate would have political repercussions, so it was dropped from the report.

"It’s speculated that stating the new Best Estimate would have political repercussions, so it was dropped from the report."

It's speculated? Look, it's speculated that lizard people run the United States government. If you think that the above is what happened, say so. If you don't know, but somebody credible thinks so, attribute it to them.

Or you could read the IPCC report, where they basically say, look, we have two ways of getting at a Best Estimate, and one is near the higher end of the range, and one is at the lower end of the range, and so we're not going to provide a Best Estimate, just the range.

This carbon tax stuff won't really solve the CAGW (if the CAGW problem exists). Significantly more revenues need to be targeted to develop really new practical carbon free technologies, and those technologies actually have to emerge. The incremental cost of carbon due to the tax won't encourage large scale transition to existing carbon free technologies because existing technologies are not massiviely scalable, nor do they appear likely to be. A Pigovian carbon tax is weak beer served in the faculty lounge. Focus on high-risk, high-return innovation. Renewable energy storage is one place to start. Next-generation nuclear is another.

Carbon taxes are a reasonable way to encourage people to try to decrease their CO2 emissions, particularly in places where it's possible to do so at reasonable cost. It may also encourage new low-CO2 energy sources (for example, making nuclear plants more economical to build), though that depends on a lot of other details.

"doesn’t produce enough social justice, and as I would say it doesn’t have the right mood affiliation"

Over at Instapundit, they say "not enough opportunity for graft" Seems right.

It is revenue-neutral, doesn’t produce enough social justice, and as I would say it doesn’t have the right mood affiliation

Exactly. The left opposes any solutions, like nuclear power, that don't involve a radical restructuring of the economy along socialist lines. This shows they actually don't care about climate change as much as they claim to. They only want to use it as a lever to force the kind of economic policies they want down everyone else's throats.

It is a lazy and false argument to say "if you don't love nuclear you don't believe in global warming." A reasonable person can see both as concurrent risks.

Of course "bundling" is a easy get out of jail for the stupid or politically motivated.

What a horrible response. If you think global warming is going to kill billions of people, you should definitely, 100% support nuclear energy. Obviously any risk of nuclear energy is not even remotely close to billions of people dying.

Huh? Now you are "bundling" this "kill billions of people"?

Is that something you think reasonable people believe?

Stop being stupid or politically motivated.

It's a reasonable response.
Supposedly, climate change is going to destroy the planet, or cause the cataclysmic end of civilization. Or something like that.
By contrast nuclear threatens to, what? Everyone once in a while marginally raise the incidence of certain kinds of cancer within a limited geographical area.

There's no contest. If it's a matter of saving the world, it's worth risking an marginal increase in the cancer rate.

Or do you believe the nonsense about how a nuclear meltdown is going to destroy the world too? We had three simultaneous reactor meltdowns at Fukushima, and nobody died. Nothing happened. Life went on. Japan got a new nature preserve.

I asked you about what reasonable people believe and you pile on "supposedly" crap.


Can't blame them for using headlines seen in the media can we?





I asked you about what reasonable people believe and you pile on “supposedly” crap.

So, absolutely no effort to dispute the fact that nuclear energy is a pitifully small risk compared to climate change?

I have not really been exposed to that kind of scaremongering.

If it is out there I would not consider it mainstream, rational, or a consensus view in any way. Yes, species loss can be seen now, but I don't believe deaths of billions is on the mainstream radar. It is more about economic loss and dislocation of millions, isn't it?


Leaving aside the death of billions bs, how much do you really believe in Global Warming, Hazel?

Do you do anything other than complain about nuclear power?

I have used the calculators in the old days, and reduced my footprint to half what it was 20 years ago (when I drove a Camaro).

Even then, the risk posed by nuclear is orders of magnitude smaller.
People have this really exaggerated fear of anything related to radiation. There's never been any proof that low levels of radiation even cause cancer. It's like organic food and pesticides. Mostly fear-mongering, part aesthetics, and part misdirection by people who are morally opposed to anything "unnatural".

If it is about economic loss then the argument is which is bigger: the economic loss of preventing climate change or climate change itself. Even asking this question can get you called a denier in some circles.

The IPCC estimates that 2C change in temperature will have a 2% affect on GDP.

"The new report will apparently tell us that the global GDP costs of an expected global average temperature increase of 2.5 degrees Celsius over the 21st century will be between 0.2 and 2 per cent. "


I suspect that arguing for overhauling the economy based on predictions of such a minor change isn't nearly as effective as scaremongering catastrophe.

Hazel, my customer experience:


HL, is 2 degrees C a rate or an endpoint?

I believe the endpoint.

Global economic impacts from climate change are difficult to estimate.

Economic impact estimates completed over the past 20 years vary in their coverage of subsets of economic sectors and depend on a large number of assumptions, many of which are disputable, and many estimates do not account for catastrophic changes, tipping points, and many other factors. With these recognized limitations, the incomplete estimates of global annual economic losses for additional temperature increases of ~2°C are between 0.2 and 2.0% of income (emphasis added) (±1 standard deviation around the mean)(medium evidence, medium agreement). Losses are more likely than not to be greater, rather than smaller, than this range (limited evidence, high agreement). Additionally, there are large differences between and within countries. Losses accelerate with greater warming (limited evidence, high agreement), but few quantitative estimates have been completed for additional warming around 3°C or above. Estimates of the incremental economic impact of emitting carbon dioxide lie between a few dollars and several hundreds of dollars per tonne of carbon (robust evidence, medium agreement). Estimates vary strongly with the assumed damage function and discount rate.

Why are scare tactics used? Like with most other things: Because they work!

Analogs to anti-smoking campaigns could be made and they have found that the most fear based and graphic advertisements are the most effective.

"Studies show that emotionally evocative media campaigns featuring graphic images of smoking-related diseases are effective in motivating smokers to quit.[11],[12],[13],[14]

According to a study published in June 2010, ads that utilize a why-to-quit strategy with graphic images of the physical consequences of smoking and ads that use testimonials of personal loss from smoking were perceived as more effective among smokers than other ad categories.[15]

Campaigns that show the serious health consequences linked to smoking to motivate adults to quit have also been associated with prevention of smoking uptake among youth.[16]

Studies indicate that sad or frightening ads that are highly emotional and feature the serious health consequences of tobacco use score significantly higher among adults on perceived effectiveness compared to ads that are funny or neutral.[17]

In one study, smokers who reported being exposed to more highly emotional and personal testimonial ads were more likely to quit smoking at follow-up.[18]

Meta-analyses on the use of fear appeals in health campaigns conclude that fear appeals are most effective when accompanied by equally strong efficacy messages, such as information to call a quitline for help and support to quit.[19]

In New York, researchers found that graphic television ads were strongly associated with higher call volume to a quitline from 2001 to 2009.[20] Two of those ads, Reverse the Damage – Heart Attack and Reverse the Damage – Lung Cancer were chosen by FDOH and BTFF to run in Florida.

The Australia National Tobacco Campaign, which featured graphic hard-hitting ads depicting the negative health consequences of smoking, found that the campaign achieved high rates of recall and recognition, was appraised favorably by smokers, contributed to new learning about smoking and health, and increased agreement with campaign-related attitudes.[21],[22] Furthermore, even though the campaign was not targeted at teenagers, the vast majority of adolescents were aware of the campaign and thought it was relevant to them.[23] These ads, Artery and Sponge were chosen by FDOH and BTFF to run in Florida."


I imagine that environmental ads in a similar vein have also been effective at nudging people to recycle more, to litter less, to drive a more efficient vehicle or to adopt energy saving activities and products at home. They probably haven't been effective at changing the big stuff because those are controlled by firmer interests who aren't concerned with superficial/status behaviors, rather their bottom line. Arguments like "to save 2% a hundred years from now you have to make even greater sacrifices in the short term" aren't very convincing.

If not billions, certainly hundreds of millions. Usually the reference is to Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. Are you saying nuclear power risks killing hundreds of millions but not billions or is this a pointless exercise?

I believe millions will be relocated, but death toll, to the degree it can be ascribed, will be thousands (hundreds of over decades) in storms and heat waves.

It is hard to believe in endpoints without serious mitigation, which has not even begun.

@anon, and the cost of shutting down the plant has nothing to do with the absurd regulatory requirements, which are caused by the absurd levels of paranoia exhibited by anti-nuke activists?

Also $1,600 spread over several years is STILL miniscule compared to the costs which either climate change or preventing climate change is supposed to be likely to cause. You're worried about the risk of paying an extra $10 a month on your utility bill, rather than millions of people being relocated?

The scenarios for global warming estimation are worth reading.


They're a bit utopian and sci-fi ish.

The World Health Organization predicts 250,000 deaths annually from global warming by 2030 and $2-4 billion per year in direct damages.


Though, I strongly suspect, that this estimate will be pushed back the closer we actually get to 2030.

This Citizen Cabinet survey recently found majority support for a carbon tax, and two thirds support if it included an offsetting tax credit for people with low to middle incomes: http://vop.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/EE_Report.pdf

I support the carbon tax but oppose it when it includes vouchers. Bring on the pain. If people don't feel it, their behavior won't change. The vouchers undermine the entire point.

With vouchers, it will still affect behavior.

If you get $N a month from the government but gas is $10 a gallon, you alter your patterns a lot to figure out what gas usage is really worth it.

Ehhh... I suppose. It's still enabling status quo when change is required. I don't like it, but I'll give it to you. :p Hitting em by the wallet will definitely get their attention.

I assume the point of the voucher idea is to be able to buy off the industries/companies that would otherwise be most effective at opposing the carbon tax?

We managed to lower lead exposure without a lead tax. Just ban SUVS. Cap air travel and container ship crossings. Only so much coal burned per year. If matters are this dire these steps are easily justified.

Also, everybody realizes we can have globalism, or we can reduce carbon emissions, right?

No argument in general, but aren't container shops the most efficient movers of goods on the planet? You would keep them, and trains, as the last best things.

I've seen several articles recently about how the biggest container ships out pollute all of the cars on the planet. They are relatively fuel efficient but they apparently are not necessarily "pollution" efficient.

This is a good summary. http://www.sparrowmarine.com/is-it-true-that-the-15-biggest-ships-in-the-world-produce-more-pollution-than-all-the-cars/

It seems like there could be better methods of powering these ships that would reduce their pollution significantly. I wonder if the cost would make outsourcing significantly less viable.

Ah, cheap fuel and sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide. Yes. They would need to use a higher grade.

Yes - all these large ships could be powered by clean burning LNG quite easily.

So when voters were told some lies about the carbon tax they opposed it.

And that's the fault of those who favor it.

Is that right?

If we traded a revenue neutral carbon tax for all other taxes in order to reduce carbon usage and it works, wouldn't the revenue from the revenue from the carbon tax plummet, requiring yet again another source of taxes?

Hence the steadily increasing tax level. Obviously some assumptions of elasticity or lack thereof are baked into the model.

Yep! Taxing something will reduce that thing, part of the carbon tax point. Also, It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing. Add 5¢ tax per metric pound of carbon, and reduce income taxes by 0.2% (or whatever the math says revenue neutral is). It's a start at phasing out carbon. Heck, depending on where we are on the laffer curve, that may increase revenue.

I love how most regular MR commenters suddenly become climate experts, but also climate experts who are well outside the mainstream of actual climate experts, anytime climate change is mentioned here.

It is why they are here. They can handshake on opinions outside the mainstream and walk away satisfied.

I imagine that their other stops on the internet provide similar silos of sympathetic feedback.


Oh, anon. This is like rain on your wedding day, like a free ride when you've already paid. Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

I think I know what you are reaching for, but if on this page I am with both the American majority and at the same time the scientific consensus, are you really connecting?

While I'm on board with carbon taxes, and not disputing global warming (notw wholly sold, either, but the various what-ifs support some action)...

... It's simply hilarious to hear you accuse others of being post factual. Even when you happen to be right, your lack of self awareness is delicious.

Got a link on that? I think I generally do to support any of my positions. People then say "only liberals believe fact check" or "nothing the NY Times says is ever true."

I guess if you were going for irony you found it.

A link to what? Perhaps to the Sekrit Russian Hax thread where you relentlessly asserted the ruskies did it, this is meddling beyond the pale, all without proof?

I'm trying to say that you are not above any of the mistakes you accuse others of. Yeah, we're all subject to confirmation bias and tribalism and false equivalence and virtue signalling and whatever other buzzword of the week you've learned. This includes you. While you're not necessarily as dogmatic as, say, Deco or Mulp, they generally don't lecture others about how bad that mote in their eye is.

Every now and then, consider how these principles and buzzwords apply to you, not just your foes. And of course, the NY Times is beyond reproach, as is Fox News :)

Marco Rubio is a better man than you.


And again, irony. "Sekrit Russian Has."

"Marco Rubio is a better man than you."

Politics ain't beanbag. Note the recordings of Dem operatives about hiring the homeless to provoke violence at Trump rallies.

What is Rubio afraid will come out about him?

I am not sure how that is connected, but if you are asking my opinion, I think violent protest is both wrong and counter-productive.

Non-violent protest is both more ethical and more productive.

In 2013, a group of actual climate experts nearly died when their vessel got trapped in sea ice that their climate models told them wasn't there.

Most rubes, planning a trip to Antarctica, would probably have looked at some satellite photographs beforehand.

Thank you for demonstrating precisely what I was talking about. An anecdote here, a small source of uncertainty there... these things do not even begin to counteract the weight of the evidence.

What are you even talking about? A few people here and there say they don't believe in climate change but mostly everyone here does and says so, and certainly in all the significant conversations

The polling on climate change is pretty stable with around 55% saying it is caused by humans and 40% saying it is natural with the rest unsure.

As for the severity, 40% say exaggerated, 20% say correctly reported, 35% underestimated with the rest unsure.

Presumably virtually all of the people who say it's entirely natural also believe that the media reporting on the issue is exaggerated.

However, when you ask people to name the top three issues facing America, essentially nobody says "climate change".

This blog seems to indicate around 80%+ believe it's manmade and the debate is mostly around the severity.

Just as an aside, polling is a useful way to find out what people think (or will say to pollsters), but a poor way to find anything out about reality. If you poll Americans about a lot of factual questions, you'll get some very oddball answers.

One other point though it may turn out to be much cheaper to romove co2 from the air than to abate in which case it would be best to pay out the proceeds to a co2 tax to those who remove co2 from the air. (Enhanced weathering, Biochar and deep ocean Iron fertilization are 3 possible methods of removing co2 from the air)

I've spent my entire career in renewable energy, so I've spent some time thinking about this. There are two other main reasons why carbon taxes aren't common:

1) Hidden subsidies are much more politically palatable than explicit taxes. Something as simple as writing the rules so that subsidies for green energy show up as part of the utility bill rather than the tax bill makes a difference. See California's repeatedly expanded Renewable Portfolio Standard as an example of a popular, successful policy following this model.

2) In practice, mandates often do a better job of reducing emissions than carbon taxes. Do you know how much it costs to turn on a lightbulb in your house? I certainly don't, and I'm a big environmentalist. Lights are so far down the list of expenses that it just doesn't make sense for one household to think about. Any time the efficiencies in question are small relative to household income, you'll get much higher adoption rates of efficient technology by imposing mandates than by raising energy prices. To put it differently, the standard carbon tax story that economists like to tell falls down because it ignores transaction costs (in this case, the time value of rigorously comparing technologies).

In practice, mandates often do a better job of reducing emissions than carbon taxes.

That is an empirical question and as far as CAFE standards go we know the answer, they cost 6 X as much per co2 saved.

I and other scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimate that the new standards will cost the economy on the whole — for the same reduction in gas use — at least six times more than a federal gas tax of roughly 45 cents per dollar of gasoline. That is because a gas tax provides immediate, direct incentives for drivers to reduce gasoline use, while the efficiency standards must squeeze the reduction out of new vehicles only. The new standards also encourage more driving, not less.

You're spent your entire career in renewable energy and your solutions amount to:

1. Lie to people and/or trick or fool them so they don't know what you're actually doing.
2. Ignore the empirical economics on something and go with policy based on your personal anecdote instead.

Surely that should revise some people's priors on the quality of analysis and recommendations coming from career renewable energy people...

I can't agree with the description of I-732 as "revenue neutral". $300M of the $2.2B under discussion would come in the form of an income-based refundable tax credit. I'd classify such a tax expenditure as social spending rather than as tax reduction.

The point of the refundable tax credit is that it refunds a portion of the increased tax paid on energy. How is that "social spending"?

The credit is income-based; if it follows the pattern of the federal EITC, which it's described as augmenting, it also gives preferential treatment to low-income people with dependent children. The net effect is to transfer wealth from higher- to lower-income people, especially to those who've produced lower-income children. The fact that the transfer takes the form of a refundable tax credit rather than a welfare check is immaterial.

I don't see your point at all since, once again, the point is reimburse people for an increase in a tax they have paid. To be sure, we aren't doing that on an individual basis with receipts required (that would be a logistical nightmare for everyone) but it is still being done to offset a tax, not provide a "free" benefit.

As much as the qualitative commentary is interesting, it still appears that Democrats as a whole are significantly more supportive of revenue-neutral carbon taxes (here)

When did the left stop viewing federal taxation primarily as a revenue-generating mechanism and begin viewing it primarily as a social engineering mechanism? (This is a serious question by the way. Yes I'm painting with a broad brush. Yes there are exceptions.).

We've been using the federal tax code as a social engineering mechanism for about a century.

The first wave of credits and exemptions arose during WW2. We introduced withholding during WW2 which created all kinds of new complexities.

The second big wave started in the 1970s when the economy sputtered and politicians began adding all kinds of new deductions and credits to try to restart growth. http://taxfoundation.org/blog/how-many-words-are-tax-code

Not just the Left but also the Right, which loves tax credits and deductions too. Both can shovel cash to favored constituencies in an rather clandestine under-the-table fashion.

Global Warming has been a topic of discussion for many years and yet not all people believe its a real thing. In order for anything significant to be done to help fix this problem there will need to be a mutual understanding of what is actually happening and then, and only then, can proper measures be taken. As for reasons carbon taxes aren't more common I quote Soho in a comment above the reasons why carbon taxes aren't common is because hidden subsidies are more politically palatable than taxes, and that mandates work better than carbon taxes on reducing emissions.

I do not claim to know a lot about this subject and I personally am not a believer in global warming. Being objective though I agree with the quote from Economist Yoram Bauman about the best bet being with the Republican Party. I know of the skepticism with climate science and tax reforms on this side but it would be in our best interest to go with the side that can take action.

You really don't believe global temperatures are rising? Forget why or how quickly, you are 'not a believer in global warming' at all?

Australia had a carbon tax for a year or two, but the experience was that it's very easy for parties of the political right to portray those of the left as being in favour of ever-higher taxes, ever-higher spending etc. The carbon tax was for the most part offset but cuts to other taxes or increases in transfer payments - very few people or companies were much worse off due to the tax (it was intended to change behaviour, not raise revenue). In any case the right/conservative party here ran a very strong and ultimately successful campaign around this 'Big New Tax on Everything' introduced by the centre-left party.

So coalition building is what Washington environmentalists set out to do. They reached out to the three other constituencies they felt would be key: communities of color, labor unions, and climate-friendly businesses.

An odd coalition. Communities of color have some power, but have little organic connection to the issue and have much higher priorities. Labor unions have some power, little organic connection to the issue, and stand to be hurt as much as helped by any restrictions on large scale manufacturing. Climate friendly businesses have a large organic connection to the issue but have limited power, since they're dependent on government subsidies. So two groups provide influence with little tangible return, while one group gets the tangible return but has little influence.

Rather than attempting to please every left constituency, Bauman believes, climate policy should sidestep perennial battles over, say, the size of government. It should surgically target climate change and attempt nothing else. That way, everyone who cares about climate change, including many conservatives, can get behind the same policy, without getting caught up in partisan gridlock.

The way to do that, Bauman concluded, is with a revenue-neutral tax swap. It cuts carbon without growing the size of government, so there’s no way for conservatives to cast it as tax-and-spend liberalism.

...and the second oddity of the coalition. If the political goal is to let conservatives cross the aisle, why is the coalition made up of the least conservative members of the liberal coalition?

It is no surprise, then, that the alliance’s core objection to I-732 is that it is revenue-neutral — it surrenders all that precious revenue, which is so hard to come by in Washington. That, more than anything else, explains why alliance groups are not supporting it.

Aha! The common cause that the three groups have isn't climate at all, it's money! That explains why all three groups are interested, but it makes everything a much heavier lift and reduces the chances for a bipartisan coalition.

Policy aside, I don't think this is a great political coalition. The actual common interest the various members have is tangential to the issue being debated. No core interests are at stake, and money is fungible, so any other policy that raises funds will be nearly as attractive. Even if they get the money, the members of the coalition will be more opponents than allies, since they don't want it spent in the same places or for the same purposes.

A carbon tax won't "fix" anything. It's purpose is to give politicians more money and power. They already have too much. Instead everyone should have to answer the simple question: "Do you believe in AGW?" If the answer is yes it should be so noted on their ID and drivers license and they should not be allowed to fly or drive a car. Those who answer "no" can continue living a normal life. THAT will reduce carbon emmissions.

Reducing CO2 emissions is guaranteed to be somewhat painful--we're burning coal to generate electricity and burning gasoline to run cars because those are the cheapest and best options we have. Switching to lower-CO2 options will mean higher costs, one way or another.

Imagine two possible worlds:

In world #1, addressing AGW reduces everyone's standard of living by 1%.

In world #2, it reduces everyone's standard of living by 10%.

My guess is that in world #1, addressing AGW is possible, though probably difficult--carbon tax, cap-and-trade, explicit mandates--any of those could in principle work, at greater or lesser costs. But in world #2, I suspect addressing AGW is politically impossible. The costs happen up front, the benefits are decades in the future, and the benefits only happen if most of the carbon-producing countries manage to stick to the program. Lowering the standard of living by 10% in democratic countries is pretty-much guaranteed to lead to your party losing the next election; lowering the standard of living by 10% in non-democratic countries is liable to convince the public that it's time for a change at the top.

I'm in favor of a carbon tax--it will encourage people to move to lower-CO2-emitting technologies when it's cheap enough to do so. But it's the technology and costs that will determine how well it works. There's a lot of investment in clean energy in the private sector these days, driven partly by subsidies and partly by interest among scientists and businessmen, so I'm not sure if there's a great need for government grants or whatever to drive more innovation there. But to a first approximation, innovation is the only thing that matters in determining how we come out w.r.t. AGW.

I have long thought that the way to do it is with a revenue-neutral carbon tax which is revenue neutral by means of a flat refund sent to every US household.

The beauty in this approach (for environmentalists) is that you can never take it away. Most people will receive more than they pay (by virtue of inequality), and additionally a significant fraction of those who pay more than they receive will support it anyway because they support environmentalism.

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