Is the carbon tax idea dead?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit:

And one striking result from Tuesday’s election is that voters in Washington state, a Democratic stronghold, soundly rejected a proposed carbon tax by a margin of 56 to 44 percent. This raises the prospect that the carbon tax may be dead as a policy for the time being, including at the state level. As my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Liam Denning writes: “We can debate the magnitude of the vaunted blue wave, but there was definitely no green wave.”

Like many economists, I have long supported the idea of a carbon tax, and still do. Government has to tax something. So why not tax those activities which generate social costs, in this case through disruptive climate change? It is a very intuitive argument that has persuaded many economists on both sides of the political spectrum.

But a carbon tax is just not a popular idea with American voters, of either party. It is hard to argue that the Republican Party or the conservative movement has a stranglehold over the politics of Washington state.

Furthermore, this defeat isn’t just a one-off. 2009’s American Clean Energy and Security Act — a cap-and-trade bill in Congress similar to a carbon tax in its essentials though not all of its exact mechanisms — failed even when Democrats controlled Congress and the presidency. The momentum in Canada, typically considered more left-wing than the U.S., also is running against carbon taxes. In 2014, Australia voted to repeal its carbon-pricing law. Washington state itself rejected an earlier carbon-tax proposal, coupled with a cut in the state sales tax, in 2016.

The broader data are striking. According to a World Bank estimate, 23 countries have carbon taxes of some kind, while 176 have targets or support for renewable energy alternatives. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the carbon tax just isn’t a big political winner.

There is much more at the link.


No, it’s just sleeping.

As long as there are Marxist Socialist there will be the threat of more and larger taxes. This is about money and power for whoever is in charge or thinks they are in charge.


Create a boogyman - climate change - then claim to the saviour. It's a path to power. Fortunately, not everyone is so gullible. Of course, "experts" in the climate change industry insist the sky is falling, but when I look up it is still there.

Yes, the liberals time traveling to 1896 to create this boogyman was pure genius.

Everything you say or write is garbage, just like the Grauniad.

Yes, the Guardian writing today also changes the past in 1896. Genius.

The thing about having a mini ice age (surely you heard about it) is that when it ends it warms up. If it didn't warm up then it didn't end. The mini ice ended around 1850 and sure enough it warmed up. DUH!

Sorry, climate change is real and we have a common ancestor will all other primates. Get over it.

Yeah, taxes translate rapidly into paying workers.
Paying workers costs too much and kills profits.
Only high profits creates wealth.
Only wealth drives consumption, not wage income.
Only consumption drives GDP, not worker production.
The only path to high GDP growth is slashing jobs and weaves.
Only high profit GDP growth creates jobs.

The 13th amendment is job killing.

Free lunch economics 101.

Wow! That was a dumb and racist rant. Bet you can't top it.

I don't really get why - that makes no sense to me.

I guess it's because energy use is ubiquitous enough that everyone sees it as a tax on everything they do, maybe? Like both a gas tax and a food tax and an everything else tax?

Or is it because people, even Democrats, are just completely against any taxes?

I'm not sure, just throwing ideas out there, anyone got better ones?

Tyler does not mention that Washington voters rejected a revenue neutral carbon tax in 2016. The 2018 version was a tax increase, sent revenues to environmental programs, and had sops to labor unions and exporting industries, esp. aluminum.

Neither got the local green's excited. And, frankly, a solution like that would end the political careers of the leaders. How about, instead, a Carbon Emissions Commission that can set emissions goals per industry? And grant variances.

"And grant variances."

You mean loopholes.

Exactly. "My solution: more rent-seeking!"

Each Democrat only want to tax people who are richer than them. I democrat who make the enormous sum for $150,000 only wants to tax people make $200,000 or more.

Republicans on the other hand only want to tax those who make less them, or a per person tax. One of my GOP friends actually says that now and then that the only far thing is a per person tax.

Hahaha so politicians become masters at hiding taxes and showing benefits.
Like CAFE standards are not seen as a tax but cost 6x as much per unit of CO2 saved than a CO2 tax.

"Like CAFE standards are not seen as a tax but cost 6x as much per unit of CO2 saved than a CO2 tax."

You just hate the fact it's creating thousands of jobs in the US, Nevada and California in particular, instead of Asia, and the fastest growing automaker in the world.

Started by an illegal immigrant, like Melanie Trump.

This automaker is valued higher than Ford, Audi based on free lunch economic theory: price defines value, not production.

Note, this illegal started a rocket company in the US which only China can compete with in launch rate.

So much for Trump making America great.

We voted against it. Our reasoning was:

1. Exempted favored industries.
2. Someone will refine the oil, why not us? Those are good jobs.
3. Unelected board with reserved seats for special interests.
4. Hard-coded formula for spending the money.

Washington seems to attract many smart people.

The importance of #3 is "underated". Somehow, government agencies have been allowed to usurp the constitutional perogative of Congress to make laws and levy taxes. Apparently we were all sleeping.

Did you vote for the earlier revenue neutral initiative?

I waa not a resident then.

I did! I was very in favor of the revenue neutral proposal. I was quite angry when it did not pass, in large part because the various green organizations in the state talked it down as wrong on a variety of levels. The optics of environmental groups telling their members not to vote for a simple, solid pro environmental policy was shocking to me.

Then those same organizations rallied behind the most recent proposal, which seemed to be associated with greater opportunity for graft: More costly, less oversight (an unelected board filled with special interests), and big carve outs for big polluters.

Finally, in the end it makes little sense to pass, because Washington state passing a tax and nobody else doesn't do anything meaningful to reduce global warming. So why should I not continue to keep my money as I struggled to adapt my personal existence to climate change than have less money and still need to adapt?

Ill vote for a tax if the right proposal comes up... but it needs to be extremely simple and straight forward with no wiggle room for siphoning off money to special interested. If you tax carbon, the only thing you can spend it on is reducing carbon emissions. Not clean rivers, not the homeless, not offsetting the negative financial impacts on poor people from adding another tax. If global warming really is as urgent an issue as we believe it is, stop playing politics and focus.

The blatant money grab by liberal groups with an environmental bent made this tax pretty unpalatable. I voted for the revenue neutral one but not this one. The left wouldn't support a tax that didn't line their pockets and I pay enough taxes already even if I think climate change is a problem.

"Did you vote for the earlier revenue neutral initiative?"

An effective carbon tax generates zero tax revenue.

By 2050, a $1000 a ton carbon tax will generate zero revenue in California based on the rate of progress toward the elimination of fossil fuel burning mandates signed by Moonbeam Broown.

Note, this is rapidly growing companies in California that export to the rest of the US and the world.

The leading company started by an illegal immigrant.

Who dreams of building dozens, if not hundreds of the biggest factories in the world.

And he's created more jobs in California and Nevada in his efforts to kill all refinery jobs than are employed in Washington refineries, in an industry that is in the growth phase while mining and refining is on the decline.

I also voted against the measure and I "believe" in climate change and think we need to do something.

The two main problems:

1) Not much evidence that a carbon tax works (see British Columbia and Norway). Limited data but still it's a bit like taxing a captive market.

2) No great ideas for spending the money in ways that will have an impact to reduce CO2. I don't mind the "unelected board" as much as the lack of concrete or good ideas that will actually help reduce CO2.

This might sound dangerously radical but how about agree to rebate CO2 taxes on a dollar for dollar basis against income taxes. If 150,000,000 pay income tax and the CO2 tax raises $1.5bn then each taxpayer gets a $10 tax credit. Income tax discourages work and I think working is in general a good thing. A CO2 tax would reduce CO2 emissions, something I think is in general a bad thing.

Maybe it would be a good thing to use the tax system to encourage more good stuff and discourage more bad stuff. We already do it with things like cigarette taxes.

We do love cheap energy. But at least California voted down an attempt to eliminate the gas tax. That would have been a sign that we were running far in the opposite direction of a carbon tax.

The CA gas tax creates a slush fund that Gov Brown and the Democrats use to award their political allies in the "sustainable energy" business. It reeks of rent seeking and is thoroughly corrupt.

CA drivers - I am one - are frustrated with hideous, time wasting traffic and crumbling roads. I believe many voted to save the tax hoping against hope the roads will be fixed. They won't.

They didn't vote to keep the tax to prevent climate change, though there are enough idiots here to do exactly that.

That has no connection to reality. But then reality isn't really your brand, is it Cyanoman?

Very telling that highway repair and public transit are lumped together as one item of 59% in the piechart in the Mercury article!

New Jersey's legislators just raised gas taxes substantially, mostly to fund a government that is has been running on empty for years. Will make no real fiscal difference.

Or carbon difference. People just keep buying whopping big SUVs.

By the way, speaking of cheap energy being "given to voters free of charge" (TC had a paragraph on that),

New wind and solar generation costs fall below existing coal plants

More garbage from you.

Solar should be compared to natural gas, which has replaced coal. How many coal plants are being built in the US? How many in the last twenty years? You might as well compare solar to wood.

Where I live it is hot and sunny all day 275+ days per year (86°F in the shade a couple days ago) and the are NO solar panels anywhere near my neighborhood. None. Nada. Zero. Zip. Eighty percent of my neighbors are Democrats and fancy themselves environmentalists. Why no panels. Because they are not stupid. Even with absurd and unfair tax incentives and rediculous high energy prices the solar panels are still a bad deal, though, true to Democrat proclivities, they all want SOMEONE ELSE to go solar. Otoh, they all burn wood in woodstoves for heat to duck those expensive heating bills, are willing to cut down native trees to do so, even though wood has 40 times the carbon content of natural gas, and despite the community having some of the worst air quality in the nation due to woodsmoke and air inversions.

It is amazing to see the difference between their stated and revealed preferences.

It's not about the cost of new coal plants:

"New estimates published on Thursday by Lazard, the investment bank, show that it can often be profitable for US generation companies to shut working coal plants and replace their output with wind and solar power."

Wood's contribution to the total CO2 in the atmosphere is pretty small. Not nil, but not too far off either. The issue is that to make a tree, you have to pull CO2 from the air and put it into the biosphere. This is a pretty quick process, all told; I calculated the numbers a few times, and while I forget them offhand I remember they were on the years-to-decades scale.

The problem with fossil fuels is that the remove carbon from the LITHOSPHERE and put it into the atmosphere. It takes a lot longer to put carbon into the lithosphere than it does to put carbon into the biosphere; on human timescales, it basically doesn't happen. So we're emptying a major carbon reservoir into two others (the atmosphere and biosphere), which much of course come to a new equilibrium to balance this change.

Think of carbon as water in three huge lakes, one labeled "Air", one "Biology", and one "Rocks". The river between Air and Biology is pretty big; carbon moves between them really easily. The river between Biology and Rocks is much, much smaller, and the river between Air and Rocks is less a river than someone scratching the dirt with his foot.

(Yes, I know that's a vast over-simplification, but given the medium it's the best I can do...)

Conservatives love fossil fuel burning because it burns capital.

The faster capital is burned, destroyed, the greater demand for ever scarcer capital for burning, the higher the price for the scarcer capital.

Now conservatives know that government control lots of capital that can be burned by paying fewer workers, so conservatives seek to control government so they can give away the public capital to their backers who will burn capital to kill jobs.

After all, if burning fossil fuel capital was labor increasing, not labor saving, conservatives would never support it.

Conservatives go out of their way to gain control of and destroy other people's property. Whether the property is owned by individuals, groups of individuals, or We the People.

And paying workers is the absolute last thing conservatives are willing to do because paying workers costs too much, and high costs kill jobs. Free lunch economics 101.

Only by "labor saving" can jobs be created. Like in coal after Reagan, twice the production with half the jobs. Reagan was a huge coal jobs creator by slashing coal labor costs!

That had absolutely nothing to do with anything I was talking about. The fact that it doesn't even rise to the level of speculation, and is barely coherent, only makes it worse.

The link is missing

Carlos taxes are unpopular because they feel like they are a tax "on everything" and also because they are discussed public in the sense that other taxes are not: nobody has to pass sales taxes through Congress as they are already there for a very long time

People from cold climates are expected to benefit from at least mild levels of global warming while people from warm climates and low lying coastal areas may be harmed. CO2 also has contributed to vegetation growth, so-called global greening. With a mixture of social costs and benefits, the values of which depend on distributed information about preferences, how do we determine whether we need carbon taxes or subsidies? What's more, how do we determine the preferences of people in the future, several decades from now?

We don't. As a citizen of Russia, I can tell you, most people in my social circles (might not be representative) believe in global warming (and it's severity), but also believe that it will be greatly beneficial to us both in short term (we don't need to spend money on complex filtering systems) and long term (large swaths of land become more hospitable or suitable for agrarian cultures). Also, most Russia is not coastal, has little problems with cyclones and has problems with fires anyways. Basically, we see only profit in global warming and no extra problems for us (additional profit is that others lose more, so we get competitive edge).

Yet I don't see this point of view in the MSM. It seems dishonest to talk endlessly about how some little island in the pacific is going to go under water, and not recognise that for much of the world it is a good thing to get warmer. Weather in UK is milder than it was 20 years ago, that's a good thing.

I seem to recall stories about a lot of frozen anthrax thawing in Siberia, so I wouldn't be so quick to claim victory

You do know there is vaccine for that? It's not usually used, but if problem arises, the answer is already out there.

@BC - true. A study I once saw said that of all the places in the world, the USA has the most to benefit from Global Warming, with the exception of coastal areas, all of south Louisiana, and all of Florida. So most people in the USA, not only don't believe in GW, they stand to benefit. That said, if there's any truth to Siberia harboring lots of sequestered CO2 in the permafrost, that, if released, will warm the earth to nearly intolerable levels, then we're dead. We or our children will find out, the hard way, via a (un)"natural experiment". Sad!

Bonus trivia: Florida wetlands are about as flat as a billiard table (I think the maximum elevation is only 3 feet or so) and the preservation pioneer was Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who they named a school after that was shot up by a madman. Her seminal book, The Everglades: River of Grass, was published in 1947, the same year the Everglades became a national park. Seminoles! Florida panther! Disneyworld! All will be underwater in 100 years.

Of course the earth has already warmed by the same amount since the 1880’s as it is projected to warm by in the future. But the consequences of that warming appear to be entirely benign. Wouldn’t those parts of Siberia for instance that were frozen in 1880 and are now defrosted be out gassing now? The reality is that Global Warming just isn’t an existential threat. Now AI is of course.

DisneyWorld is well inland. Take a look at any hurricane evacuation map of the state. Those are the areas that need to worry.

the USA has the most to benefit from Global Warming, with the exception of coastal areas, all of south Louisiana, and all of Florida.

You mean, except where lots and lots of people live, maybe the majority, depending on your definition of "coastal areas."

We Washingtonians also have the benefit of direct observation. We go to the beach and to the mountains. We are told the beaches will flood. They haven't. We are told that there will be no more snow in the mountains. Yet the ski areas continue to expand. I have a season ski pass. There are fires, yes, but there have always been fires, and it's pretty clear that much of the fire damage is caused by forest mismanagement, because forests are growing like mad and can't be cleared because of the poor spotted owl, which itself is being killed by bard owls, so that the state is now killing bard owls to protect the spotted owls to keep the forests from being logged. Absurdities upon absurdities. But the left says, don't believe your lying eyes, believe our computer models and hand over your money! One factor in the defeated proposition was that the tribes were going to get major windfalls of cash along with exemption from the taxes. Even today I can drive onto nearby tribal lands and buy gas exempt from state taxes. I don't generally. But the distribution plan in the proposition was laughable, and wouldn't have had any effect whatsoever on climate change.

We do have the benefits of observation: shrinking glaciers.

Here is the missing link:

"The reality is that carbon taxes would simply be accelerating the natural course of technological progress — electric cars in five years rather than 15."

There is no way a decision to use or not use carbon taxes will accelerate or delay electric cars by anywhere near this much.

High enough carbon taxes might push things along faster, but yeah, it's hard to imagine anyone setting them high enough to make that big a difference.

I would think that interest in electric cars would follow carbon taxes if they were substantial. For example, if one would push gasoline prices from $3 to $6, I bet a lot of people would want hybrid (tuned for mileage, not performance like many today) and fully electric cars. But bottlenecks on battery production and electrical generation would be the binding constraint for some time.

To a first approximation, US electricity production is 63% fossil fuels, 20% nuclear, 7+% hydro, and the remaining <10% various other renewables. Unless you're foreseeing construction of new nuclear (haha!) and hydro (where?) capacity, an increased demand for electricity by more electric cars on the roads, will have to be picked up by renewables (which are less than 10% even after massive gov't subsidies), or good old-fashioned fossil fuels. Source:

And voila, electricity prices will rise, undoing the savings from increased gasoline prices. Unless utilities are exempted, which will prove that the tax has nothing to do with carbon or climate change. It is a money-and-power grab/

Oh, come on Todd! Didn't you know that the laws of physics are controlled by Federal tax policy, which are set by economists?

Voters may be very skeptical that carbon taxes will be *permanently* offset by reductions in other taxes. Even if a carbon tax is paired with a sales tax cut, the sales tax could be increased in the future. Because government spending leads to future tax hikes, to levy carbon taxes in a revenue neutral fashion requires pairing the tax with an iron-clad cap on government spending.

But, like Tyler says, you have to tax something. The 2016 version of the Washington State carbon tax was remarkably sophisticated in linking to other tax rates. Moreover, in Washington state, any tax increase gets referred to the voters with a revenue estimate for an "advisory vote. No, it doesn't stop the taxes; but it does keep the legislature from playing the sort of shell game you describe.

Is "you have to tax something" synonymous with "you have to tax everything"?

California voters just voted 55% in favor of keeping a recent gas tax increase. Maybe the carbon tax is presented in a non-obvious manner and the voters of Washington were skeptical.

Ideas never die, they just fade away.

A carbon tax doesn't generate delicious rent-seeking opportunities and subsidy boondoggles. Amazingly, it is less popular with lobbyists and politicians. Solynedra *cough*

Isn't this a case where Tyler should put his public choice hat on and recognise the problem is not the public, but the politic?

You sound sarcastic but that's exactly it. If you create a rent-seeking air commodity, the air will be cleaned with vigor! Enter: airshares. Commodifying the air into regional airshare markets will create a system of good incentives. These good incentives come from the government that issues annual carbon credits to airshareholders (the gov wants the most taxes), and the airshareholders themselves. These capitalists will happily sue polluters who don't have enough carbon credits to do so.

More in depth post here:

I suspect much of the objection isn't to carbon taxes per se but carbon taxes for me and none for thee. That's the biggest problem for addressing climate change: lack of international cooperation/coordination.


… and a lack of trust in the entity that gets the money to use it 'properly', with intense argumentation over the definition of 'proper' depending on what your politics, interest group, address, and life looks like. The idea that a tax will equip some new body of people with a huge amount of money and power is scary, if you don't trust that system and body to wield that power well.

I've done the math for Spain and our effective carbon tax is already something like $55 per ton. That of course hides lots of variation: home and power-plant fuels are taxed very little, while transportation fuels are taxed steeply - sometimes equivalent to more than $200 per ton of CO2.
(For those who don't have time to read the article, no, the taxes I discuss cannot be considerted a tax on air pollutants like nitrous oxides; therefore they're effectively a tax on CO2 even if you don't call them that. Also, subtracting subsidies for roads makes the effective carbon tax only $5-10 lower)

Economists like the idea of a carbon tax because it's more efficient than regulations, markets for CO2 permits, mandates and so on.

Everybody else hates the idea:
-Voters and politicians who lack economic understanding think it's better to simply decree stuff: just cut emissions! As soon as possible!

-Those who understand economics may nevertheless favor actions other than a tax because a tax is so boring. Essentially, a carbon tax modifies the economy so as to make everything a little bit more CO2-efficient. Whether that will entail smaller cars, denser cities, etc. is unknown - the very nature of a tax means you don't dictate the outcome. Politicians, celebrities and enviros prefer to talk about tangible, 'sexy' (for them) stuff: pipeline protests, high-speed trains, solar panels, and so on.

-Again, even if politicians understand that a tax is cheaper than a regulation, they prefer a regulation because its cost cannot be easily quantified. A tax offers a nice big target for opponents - a mandate on how many grams of CO2 per km cars must emit by 2025 does not.

-Even people who support a tax in theory pull their support when it becomes clear that the passage of the will *not* result in the end of the other anti-carbon regulations and mandates. As mentioned, in Europe automotive fuels pay upwards of $200 per ton of CO2, far more than economics believes should be paid - yet the EU still has regulations on how much CO2 the average car should emit! Oh, and you pay a reduced tax when you purchase an electric vehicle (or no tax at all).

-Ultimately, nobody cares. An empirical study in Germany found the median person was willing to pay €0 to prevent the release of one ton of CO2, and the mean was €12.

Your last point is on target.

This article reports that people are willing to pay about $5 a month to "stop climate change".

This research estimates the mean "willingness to pay" to "reduce climate change" in the US to be $177 per year, or $15 per month.

Given that the average cable TV bill is about $100 per month ... well, you can assess the relative priorities.

Agree that a carbon tax is a nonstarter. The question is...why? Many countries have VATs. The carbon tax is a variation on that theme. Somehow it pushes people’s buttons. Washington defeated an earlier revenue neutral carbon tax, too this one wasn’t.) Even weirder.

Carbon taxes offer diffuse benefits. Taxes that offer direct benefits- FICA taxes for Social Security, gasoline taxes for the roads- are easier to sell.

Ideally, carbon taxes would be limited to the carbon in each human body. The biggest, fattest humans would pay a tax based on their body/mass index on a given day each year, maybe the last Saturday in November. Since the object would be, as it is now, to lower one's taxes, many people would lose weight and obesity-related health problems would decrease. This would result in fewer positions in the health industry but jobless doctors and nurses could be re-educated as personal trainers.

A 200 pound person contains 37 pounds of carbon, more than the total weight of most cats and almost twice as much as a normal beagle. When that person crosses the divide between now and eternity and is subjected to cremation that carbon goes somewhere or other, maybe up in the clouds where it can be a key to the development of a tornado that destroys an elementary school in rural Oklahoma. Think of the children.

Further: human cremation occurs at temperatures of 870 to 980 degrees C. (1600 to 1800 degrees F.), temperatures that must be sustained for an hour per 50 kg/100 lbs. of body weight--most human cremations therefore take about two hours, and depending on the fuel (oil, natural gas, propane, coal gas [at least until recently, at least in some parts of the world, notably China]), up to 110 liters (28 US gallons) of fuel will be consumed releasing up to another 240 kg (540 lbs.) of carbon, according to editors of the Wikipedia entry for "cremation".

Cremation oddly has begun growing popular just as we learn of the advent of Technogenic Climate Change, and the practice seems sure to contribute to atmospheric pollution much further than it could be said to mitigate TCC.

Abolish cremation in the US and begin installing a series of conventional trebuchets or catapults along US coastlines for hurling dead bodies (unembalmed, wrapped in biodegradable cloth or paper) into the sea without combustion or chemical contamination of soil.

I would like to see the following ballot initiative.

Yes: Results in a carbon tax.
No: Initiates the final trebuchet solution, to mitigate carbon polution by cremation!

In place of cremation, there's the Saudi solution.

These important facts are also routinely ignored.

The answer seems easy enough to see: The public has not been persuaded that global warming is actually a serious problem. Look at the surveys where they ask people what they think are the most important issues of the day -- climate change consistently polls at infinitesimal numbers. Carbon taxation according gets categorized as "why should we bother?"

The 2016 Carbon Tax didn't pass because it didn't get support from the left because the left wants more taxes and therefore rejected the revenue neutral part. The 2018 Carbon Tax got rejected because it was a tax increase and people don't like paying more taxes.

Maybe the Carbon Tax is uniquely unpopular in regards to climate legislation, but I fail to see which substantial policies HAVE been popular in regards to climate legislation. Subsidies are peanuts and don't count.

As a local voter this was the crux of the issue. The carbon taxes were rejected because of disagreement over the desired total level of taxation, not because carbon would be taxed.

>Is the carbon tax idea dead?

You'd hope so, just from a "restoring faith in humanity" standpoint.... but universities are where bad ideas go to achieve immortality. Also DC.

To say nothing of DC universities.

Carbon tax is actually gaining popularity in Canada. The revenue from the tax will be rebated to the citizens in non climate change plan conforming provnces. Similar to the Alaska oil cheques. Send revenue from the resource to the people. People know they will come out ahead and net pocket extra cash. Everybody likes cash.

Voters always reject policies that impose immediate costs on them for some purported long-term benefit: "What, I have to pay more now so that extreme weather events are slightly less extreme 20 or 30 years from now. Screw that." As long as we think this way, carbon taxes and other green policies are doomed to fail. Only when Florida sinks into the ocean, or when California has turned into a smoldering desert, and there are millions of displaced people demanding government help to relocate, only then will voters entertain policies that are designed to alleviate the negative effects of climate change. But by that point, it will be largely too late. There's very little reason to be hopefully in this policy area.

The key point here is "purported" benefit.

Voters in my county just passed a billion dollar school bond issue. I voted for it. Taxes go into effect in January, initial benefits are years away, and the mean benefit probably 6-10 years away. But every day I drive by a school now under construction that was funded with a 2013 bond issue. I have good reason to believe the claimed cause and effect between bond issue and new schools.

Given that the 2014 US CO2 emissions were only about 15% of global emissions and falling (vs. 30% for China), and that the Paris agreement allowed China to grow emissions until 2030, US actions are increasingly less relevant to global outcomes. A carbon tax, or the more extreme measures for the US routinely advocated by the climate lobby, just aren't going to make much difference.

It is because it was introduced as an immediate cost, which is the exact opposite of the original purpose of carbon tax.
With carbon tax, we don't want more revenue, we want the same revenue, but differentiate it based on carbon emission.

So the right way is to have LESS TAX for the good businesses, and more tax only for the bad businesses (in terms of environmental effect). The consumers and the economy wouldn't feel a bit, as the average costs and taxes would not change.

Progressive voters seem to love taxation, but it's usually the economic-justice kind that they prefer.

In the same way that conservatives think that Trump's tariffs are paid for by the Chinese, many progressives think that taxes on corporations and rich people don't affect them.

Perhaps a carbon tax felt a little to personal to some Democrat voters? Having some skin in the game might be a great way to temper ideology.

I oppose carbon taxes for the same reason I oppose most taxes. They are opaque, rent-seeking, and will be effortlessly passed on to consumers as just another cost of the activities in question. We could probably hit the targets we want just by banning SUVs.

Now this is just stupid m8

Think about if we had passed a "lead tax" or "asbestos tax."

Then why are voters willing to shovel money into other government endeavors that fail?

I'll answer your question literally, not the way you meant it.

Because humans do not believe things from rational analysis. We just think we do. A few people, some of time, put the world in front of them under a rational or scientific analysis and draw conclusions that way, but those are rare and isolated instances. Our beliefs come from our attitudes. Our attitudes in turn are synthesized from a mixture of our peers, our feelings and narratives.

My hypothesis is based on poorly constructed inductive reasoning based on my understanding of how cognitive behavioral therapy is used to change behaviors and beliefs. The core principal is to treat mal-adaptive thoughts, feelings and beliefs with doses of rational thinking. It's hard work though, as the cerebrum was not evolved override the limbic system easily. Unfortunately, the cerebrum works great when we are relaxed and not distracted, which is not often. (Perhaps that is one reason meditation is so beneficial.)

But it's also worth considering that what you consider a failure may be tainted by your own irrational conclusions and biases.

This is not a question of voter appetites. Voters don't understand the benefits and costs of doing or not doing x. This is a question of leadership.

Leadership? Every failed effort was pushed by somebody who thought that they were a capable leader. Chances are that a number of other people enthusiastically followed that mistaken leader and plunged over the cliff. The leader, however, watched from a distance and survived. That's what leadership really is; implementing bad decisions and letting others suffer the consequences.

Yes, governments have to tax something. Yes, if all you care about is reducing carbon emissions with the borders of the US, a carbon tax might work. It would also drive beneficial economic activity out of the US much as punitive corporate taxation rates did earlier Any carbon emission reductions would be offset in part by movement of economic activity out of the US to lower carbon taxed jurisdictions. Moreover a carbon tax is regressive. Regressive taxes are generally considered bad except apparently when they are not. Better revenue enhancing alternatives with fewer distortionary consequences would be to expand the tax base by eliminating tax-exemptions for non-profits across the board, and replacing tariffs with a Singapore-style goods and services tax currently set to increase to 9%. Note that Singapore taxes all imports at this rate but does not tax exports. Finally, excise taxes should be enacted to address the social cost of online activities. We are informed by the NYT and elsewhere that online activities reduce healthy physical activity and increase the rate of mental illness. In addition many of the tech hegemons evade taxation via barter by providing free services in return for personal information. A $25 annual excise tax on each social media account and email address would certainly qualify as pigouvian.

Voters do not believe promises that any new tax will be "revenue neutral." At best, it might be for a year or two before government that, really, it needs more money and just can't afford this "revenue neutral" stuff.

Therefore carbon taxes get rejected because voters perceive them as leading inexorably to a new tax on top of all existing taxes, and absolutely deprecate all promises that additional taxes will ever be "revenue neutral."

It is hard to address a problem before harm is obvious, especially by raising taxes.
AGW doesn't scare me because the solutions seem adequate to the problem and when the harms get obvious it will be addressed and I would bet that solution will not be too costly.

In solar, wind, batteries and nuclear the basic research is mostly done, we need businesses to reduce costs incrementally.
I think nuclear,along with solar might be a very good way to reduce emissions in the developed countries and India & china? But I think removal from the air might turn out to be less costly than abatement. (Enhanced weathering, deep ocean iron fertilization and biochar might have potential.)

"I think nuclear, along with solar might be a very good way to reduce emissions in the developed countries and India & china?"

The problem with solar is that industrial-scale production requires a tremendous amount of land. The Ivanpah solar farm in Nevada is something like 5 square miles of land.

The issue here is the tradeoff between lowering carbon dioxide output and maintaining habitat for endangered organisms. To make a viable solar farm you need to have a large, flat area where there's nothing but solar panels. This means you have to flatten any territory that's not flat, and get rid of anything that's not a solar panel. Not good if you have a critically endangered plant or relatively immobile animal in the area.

Home-based solar is an okay option, but not cost effective (economies of scale may help) and not viable in many locations. If you have a lot of trees on your property, for example, you can easily run out of sufficient sunlight to power your home.

The other options you present have similar problems. Carbon dioxide is viewed as the Big Bad right now, but the reality is that there's a lot of stress on the biosphere right now--and focusing on CO2 to the exclusion of the organisms is going to have huge negative consequences.

Tyler said, "Government has to tax something."

I'm not convinced of the truth of that statement--rather of the implied assumption that the government has to "tax more things" or "continue to tax things". I would rather see a scaling back of government spending and unnecessary services in lieu of increased taxes.

Specifically, in regard to carbon and environmental taxing and regulation, adding an incentive and write-off system that encourages more sustainable and environmentally friendly actions would be more effective that punitive taxation.

The proper use of the tax code is to offer financial encouragement for doing the things that the govt wants done. "Loops holes" get a bad rap, but I think they're great and they offer much better results in terms of shaping the behavior of people and companies.

Also, I say that as resident of WA who voted down the carbon tax and works in an industry directly related to advocating for environmentally friendly and sustainable construction and development.

Re: "adding an incentive and write-off system that encourages more sustainable and environmentally friendly actions"

I'd like to see this with neighborhood garbage collection. Why can't I just throw shit into the street if I feel like it? Sounds like government overreach. And don't get me started on recycling. I think plastic in my seafood is a benefit. Give me an incentive to act properly and I'd consider proper waste disposal on my own.

Global warming obviously has a strong anthropogenic component.

The whole sad story, of which the carbon tax is a small part, is about the human inability to deal. That is, to deal with fairly obvious causes (first discovered in 1896) and effects (now recorded monthly).

So we'll get .. something.

Here's hoping that if we aren't smart we are at least lucky.

Human economic activity in the industrial age generates CO2, including all that globalized multi-modal transport.

You can have globalism, or you can reduce CO2 emissions.

Developed nations have been good (not great) at reducing their energy intensity(*). All I really ever asked for were more aggressive improvements, and with a focus on happiness with fewer externalities.

* -

As an aside, by cousin's house just burned down in Paradise. Probably related.

It's related to the fact that California has substantial brush and wilderness areas that are kept off limits to development in order to maintain barriers to neighborhood entry.

Northern California is literally a park. It is extremely desirable real estate that could be much more heavily developed.

It's November. November used to not be "fire season."

Man you are a gullible sucker!

California has had 200 year mega droughts in the distant past.

Also, evidence of Santa Ana winds, usually in the Autumn, and November is in the Autumn, has been found at sites dating back 5000 years.

From the article:

The Santa Ana winds and the accompanying raging wildfires have been a part of the ecosystem of the Los Angeles Basin for over 5,000 years, dating back to the earliest habitation of the region by the Tongva and Tataviam peoples.[15]

So no, global warming is not required for hot winds and fires in CA in November.

Nice link. From it: "The Santa Ana winds sweep down from the deserts and across coastal Southern California,"

Paradise is not in Southern California.

Hot offshore (east to west) winds, including Santa Ana winds, hit Central California also.

I am truly sorry about your cousin losing a home in the fire. That is a terrible loss.

Thank you. I actually have two cousins in the area, the other house is tbd.

A see that they are called "Diablo winds" when they are that far north. And yes, a climate connection there too.

I used to subscribe to Scientific American up until they called Judith Curry a 'climate heretic'. SA became an activist publication soft on science.

Uncertainty in climate measurements and models is underated.

The global warming meme has been intertwined with politics and money and the accompanied rent seeking. It is tainted. The proclamations and projections are tainted. All the beneficiaries are dug in and defending their revenue streams.

It:s going to be a tough sell, a fight to the death, but not death by warming.

And yes, I understand all about 1896. I'm a STEM guy.

Let's step back and look at the game. In 1896 a mechanism was proposed, but risk was purely theoretical. Much later Maua Loa co2 charts and temperature trends started looking interesting.

Since then it's been a two step:

"Global temperatures" ... "doesn't count"

"Ocean temperatures" ... "doesn't count"

"Heat waves" .. "doesn't count"

"Ocean rise" ... "doesn't count"

"Melting glaciers" ... "doesn't count"

"Arctic ice" ... "doesn't count"

"Hurricane intensity" ... "doesn't count"

And yet we are asked to believe that it's all imagined, that the "doesn't count" brigade are the smart ones.

Nope, they are the dumb ones, limiting the rational response.

Regardless of your opinions of their conclusions, the use of religious rhetoric to denounce and demonize folks studying these issues is worrying. Religions do not operate the way science is supposed to--science is supposed to have heresy built into it as a feature, while religion treats it as a major defect, to give one example.

The problem is, if we demonize people for coming to the "wrong" conclusion, by definition we must have someone choosing what the RIGHT conclusion is. "But these are scientists studying the data!" you say. Okay--let's say that's true. Let's also assume that these scientists are perfect in their actions. Eventually, they will retire, die, or otherwise lose influence. What then? Politics abhors a vacuum (and when we discuss taxes we're discussing politics, not science), and politics is full of politicians, who have made it their job to fill such vacuums. So it's pretty obvious that the folks in charge once the current scientific saints aren't anymore will be power-seekers, not truth-seekers.

If we use the rhetoric of religion, we run the very real risk of allowing these power-seekers to enshrine themselves as saints and seekers of pure knowledge, when in fact they're manipulative weasels. And if we determine who's a scientific saint by who gets the "right" answer, and we determine what the "right" answer is by what the scientific saints say, we have no mechanism by which we can evaluate that claim.

(No, I'm not going to discuss climate change with you--not unless you can demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of paleoclimatology. I'm a professional paleontologist, and I'm sick of "discussing" this issue with people who merely want to preach at me, and who have no more understanding of the issues involved than the average octopus does.)

Hmmm ... interesting. I would love to hear what you have to say about paleoclimatology and paleontology. That would be something new here.

I thought this was interesting, though mostly over my head:

Doug Erwin on contingency, chance, and determinism in deep history:

What James said.

Yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

Yes, global average (?) temps have risen 1.5 °C +- (some uncertainty value) in the last 150 years since the end of the LIA.

Yes, temps have risen 0.5 °C in the last 50 years.

But, how much of that rise is due to human activity and how much is due to natural variation. That is not known with certainty.

Melting glaciers - yes, they are melting just as they have in the past with not many humans around.

Arctic sea ice melting - yes, and do we know Arctic sea ice extent of say, 2000 years ago? No.

Heat waves - there is no sure way to connect any heat waves to human activities. That's right out the IPCC report.

Sea level rise: according to the IPCC estimate is ~ 3mm/year. So one foot after 100 years. Big deal.

Hurricane intensity - no change over the last 50 years. This has been debunked.

So, the issue of how much how soon and how much is due to human activity is not really known and all estimates are estimates with associated uncertainties.

You can make any claim you want about climate - I don't care. When you start imposing policies that will put severe stress on poor people then I get interested. The proposed solutions always inflict pain on the poor and cynically transfer wealth to the wealthy - like Berkshire Hathaway investing in wind turbines.

Furthermore we seem to have settled on certain solutions that have powerful constituencies - like the big green lobby and the solar and wind turbine industries.

"I prefer questions that can't be answered to answers that can't be questioned." - Richard Feynman

"I used to subscribe to Scientific American up until they called Judith Curry a 'climate heretic'. SA became an activist publication soft on science."

You are a little late. There was a mass unsubscribing in 2002 after the Bjorn Lomborg anti-science fiasco. Scientific American stopped being a serious magazine in the 1990s, which is unfortunate since highly respected for decades.

Diablo winds in Central CA have been called Santa Ana winds in the past.

There have been big fires in CA in November.

Washington native here. Some perspective:

The recent initiative was the single worst initiative I have ever seen. Raise billions of dollars and assign the spending of said dollars (with no outline WHATEVER about how those dollars were to be spent) to a board of 15 people, only one of which was an elected official.

In short, the money was just begging to be misused/abused/corrupted.

As for the one two years prior, virtually every progressive booster agency in the area ACTIVELY OPPOSED that measure as not being progressive enough.

Get a reasonably written initiative on the ballot that progressives actually back, and likely the Soviet of Seattle would pass it.

I don't know the details of the proposal in Washington state. But is it possible that it was introduced as a new tax? And it is well known, that people hate new taxes more than they hate pollution, so no wonder if it failed.
Was it coupled with equal amount of tax reduction to even it out? Without that, this idea was born dead.

What we need as a minimum, which should appeal even for conservatives, is to reduce corporate taxes with the very same amount they get from carbon tax. With that, the economy as a whole wouldn't pay anything and keep thriving, and the average business would have zero additional tax and expense.
The environmental friendly businesses would benefit, while the polluting businesses would have an incentive to invest in more environmental friendly technologies. Or we as a consumers would switch to more environmental friendly products, because they become cheaper, while others becoming more expensive.

It is a win-win, if proposed in the right way. It is a failure if it is proposed as just a new tax.

What about the Baker Shultz plan? A gradually increasing carbon tax with taxpayers getting a check every year -- all proceeds of the tax go back to taxpayers.

Who’s the constituency for that? No one.

Policy gets put into effect when it has concentrated benefits and dispersed costs.

Liberals don’t actually care about global warming. It’s the equivalent of the debt scaremongering on the right.

No carbon tax is sufficiently progressive to win meaningful left-wing support.

What I find interesting is that a 56% majority is considered "soundly" defeating anything. In a binary election system like ours (the idea either passes or fails, majority wins) this is a loss, but it hardly signals a marked rejection of the idea. If we assume that a community that's neutral toward a proposal would vote 50/50 for/against, the results shown are 12% more than pure neutral. That hardly seems like a significant percentage.

I have never understood how people can both back carbon taxation as the solution to climate change and that prohibition cannot help fight drug abuse.

Suppose we have a strong enough carbon tax that people actually would change behavior - say like cigarette taxes. Why would we not expect there to be bootlegging? After all gasoline taxes are already high enough that the mob used to make millions by selling gas without paying the current taxes. The majority of cigarettes in NYC are currently bootlegged.

On the flip side, suppose that somehow we got carbon taxation to work. We somehow manage to introduce a legal regime that doesn't lead to rampant bootlegging of liquid fuels and we manage to capture the carbon cost of imports. Okay, how can we manage this for say steel products but not drugs? Steel, after all, looks identical if the arc smelter is running off coal or natural gas. Drugs at least have reasonably unique chemical formulas that we can detect with things like drug sniffing dogs.

Somehow I am supposed to believe that we can cost effectively tax carbon sources but not intercept drugs.

Frankly I suspect that carbon taxes will be little more than electricity taxes in practice and become basically protectionist rackets in the long term. I just don't see how we can force all potential actors, which includes hostile governments, from free riding and evading the tax.

There is a big difference between banning something, and taxing something. Prohibition failed because it banned something, instead of discouraging it. With tax, you are still free to do it, but you will maybe won't, because not doing it is cheaper.
First of all, carbon is not addictive. If the carbon-free version of something (e.g. electricity) becomes cheaper, I have no reason not to buy that one.
Second, if I really want, I can still buy the thing with heavy pollution, it will just more expensive. Maybe I don't even want that much. So only those people will keep buying them, who really benefit from them, and not everyone else. It is the same for prohibition, but these people who really want it will have to break law, and become criminals.

Historically, high tobacco and alcohol taxes are way more effective than prohibition.

And third, you can't create CO2 illegally. Big companies have much harder times get away with a cheat than unknown drug dealers.
Also they don't care as much, they can just build it into their price, or switch to better technologies, which can be planned for. Companies like all costs which are predictable.

Oh please. Bootleggers were buying for 50 cents and selling for $6. That is a 1200% percent gross. Take something like coal. Coal currently goes for around $12/ton on Nymex. The cheapest carbon tax I've seen proposed is something like $25/ton of CO2. A ton of coal produces about 2.5 tons of CO2 on combustion. So with the lowest proposal (whose Republican sponsor lost re-election) we are looking at 500% gross already just from basic tax fraud.

More likely, any tax which actually has serious impacts on carbon dioxide production will be north of $50 and some studies suggest north of $100. If that is correct then we are looking at carbon fraud being more lucrative than bootlegging.

After all this exact scam of selling fuel and pocketing the tax was already done by the mob with gasoline taxes. Expecting them not to do it again is quite silly unless you believe the government is good at preventing crime qua crime.

Addicting has nothing to do with it. Contraband in exotic pets, for instance is a nice global racket. Arms trade is another very common illicit trade. Criminals have no issue making markets for non-addicting goods. So let's strike your first objection.

Secondly, yes the British tried this with tea. It did not go over so well the colonies were full of rank and blatant smuggling of goods that could literally be purchased for a slight price increase by paying the tax. Historically taxes on things like furs, tea, sugar, and lead (i.e. an historical building material) lead directly to massive, widely accepted crime.

Also, on what are you basing your "effective" criteria? Prohibition reduced actual ethanol consumption. Legalization and taxation increased it and increased rates of problem drinking (which is still increasing today). Prohibition also lead to lifelong decreases in drinking rates (e.g. those who came of age during Prohibition drank less than their parents or children). Prohibition lead to massive decreases in cirrhosis and increases in life expectancy. The murder rate rose under prohibition, and continued to rise after its repeal (and then tanked massively with WWII).

And as far as big companies cannot cheat. Are you kidding me? Volkswagon, for instance, decided that it would be fun to blow past NOx levels by 20 fold with deceit software. In France over a billion dollars of VAT on CO2 permits was stolen from the government last decade.

I mean seriously, Phillip Morris and company spent millions committing fraud so they could sell a product that killed people. Of course some corporations will opt to break the law.

Worse, under a tax regime it is vastly harder to police. With prohibition, anyone caught with contraband can be summarily charged. With high taxation, the prosecutors must first demonstrate that the contraband did not pay the required taxes. This is exactly why the mob moved into gasoline tax fraud. You can set up a company, the authorities cannot tell for certain that it is committing fraud, and when the tax money goes missing nobody knew anything was illegal and half of them are telling the truth.

Further on your third point, you can very easily create CO2 illegally. After all CO2 taxation includes not just CO2 but all CO2 equivalents. All it takes to increase your greenhouse gas production is turning off expensive scrubbers. Further, how exactly do you want to police significant energy expenditures (like say Si etching) once they move overseas? Are you going to have global reach for your audits to ensure that every microchip was actually powered by renewable electricity or will it be easy to fake some data and say that the coal plant in Tajikistan only supplies 10% of your power instead of 90%?

The truth is CO2 will be easier to scam than prohibition. Either the government is strong enough to make illicit supply unprofitable and induce behavior change or it is not. Drugs are not magically easier than CO2.

Two problems I suspect are in play:

Prisoner's Dilemma - If a small community does a carbon tax and the rest of the world doesn't, they just shoot themselves in the foot economically AND the world gets as much global warming as it would have anyway.

Confusion over whether the tax is really revenue neutral or if it isn't the same issues any tax increases have. Also I think there's reason to be suspect of the revenue neutral aspect. If you lower the top marginal tax rates voters might reasonably suspect that this is just a consumption tax on regular people that will get passed back as a tax cut for the rich.

A solution? Why not combine carbon tax with a Universal Basic Income? Simply take what was raised last year, divide by the population and issue checks back. If you have adopt a lower carbon lifestyle you'll make out great but if you don't you'll probably be pretty close to breaking even.

Not true. That small community will have an advantage in all sectors and industries which has low carbon emissions, because of the lower taxes they have to pay, compared to other countries, where these are taxed just as much as high-pollution companies.

Even more, US could be a world leader of clean technologies, which is a huge advantage in the future, when other countries also start to switch to these technologies.

I'm not clear why the small community would have an advantage. Map it out. Pre-carbon tax the small community has the same advantage in both carbon heavy and carbon light ventures. Post tax the community has given up an advantage.

Look if a community passes a tax on work done by people's left hands, That doesn't create an advantage for right handed businesses,

Because if the carbon-heavy companies pay more taxes than today, then carbon-light companies pay less taxes than today.
All taxes are redistributed, so indirectly it is true for sure. But ideally it should become as an explicit tax decrease, so the advantage is very direct and immediate.

So with an example: The average company pays 100M in taxes. We decrease corporate tax with 50%, so an average company pays 50M in taxes. And coupled with it, we introduce the carbon tax, which is also 50M in average. A carbon free company will see their taxes going down from 100M to 50M, while a company with heavy pollution will pay more, 150M instead of 100. The average is still 100, so the economy as a whole loses nothing. It is just that different companies will win than today, but someone will win for sure.

You're assuming the carbon tax's revenue is redirected to a tax cut that is well designed to benefit carbon light companies as opposed to just giving the money back to carbon heavy companies.

Let's go back to left handed versus right handed people. If we imposed a tax on stuff made by left hands, we are harming output from left handed people. Even if the revenue was given back by extra tax cuts to right handed people, such a silly policy would cost the economy since the right handed people cannot simply do all the work the left handed people had previously done on top of what they already do. Clearly unless you had some reason why left handed stuff was harmful, it would not be a good idea to have such a tax.

A carbon tax therefore still imposes a cost on the economy. If you prove that global warming isn't a problem after all then we shouldn't do a carbon tax. Simple as that. We should do a carbon tax because:

1. it can be adjusted. If it seems like the odds are greater that global warming will be bad, the tax can be adjusted up. Down for the opposite case. A heavy handed policy like banning gas burning cars cannot be so easily adjusted in the fact of nuanced refinement of the science.

2. It does incentive innovation in carbon light areas. The tax on left handed people would likewise promote innovations for right handers. Nonetheless if carbon isn't a problem, there's others areas where we could use innovation more.

Carbon tax is economically sensible but not costless.

It is very easy to redirect, a generic tax cut will do the trick.
The whole point of the idea is to harm the output of left handed people, and encourage them to become right handed people. Yes it has cost, but its only cost is the development cost of environmental friendly technologies, which we cannot avoid. Also it creates new jobs, if that’s what you care about.

The biggest advantage of the idea is to let the market find out, which area offers the most benefits in terms of carbon reduction, for the smallest costs. Because right now the regulators try to pinpoint certain areas, which are overpunished, while other areas, with great potential to reduce carbon emission with low costs, are left untouched. We are ALREADY paying this price. Carbon tax would make it way more efficient, and offers much more carbon reduction, for the same price we are already paying.

1. Creating jobs is not of economic value. If you passed the left handed law, you would 'create jobs' because left handed people would hire right handed people to either teach them how to do stuff right or let them do it. The economy is fully employed now, it would be fully employed then. The difference is that we'd be less productive after such a law because we'd miss out on the stuff left handed people can do more efficiently. With a carbon tax, we'd nonetheless lose some productivity.

2. Unlike the right-left law, the argument about the carbon tax is we are ALREADY incurring a cost for carbon that we can't see because it isn't capture in GDP. Assuming this is correct, the carbon tax would improve productivity if it brings the cost of carbon into the market system. If the tax is set too high, though, then it would be like the left-handed tax, imposing a cost on the market system rather than letting the market system handle costs. What is too high? Well this is knowledge we don't have. I think the arguments by global warming skeptics are almost certainly wrong since for them to be right global warming cannot have a cost.

Put a big carbon tax but share out all its revenues among all citizens instead of having these fall into the hands of redistribution profiteers and you will see real acceptance

"Carbon" tax? WTF is a gas tax? Of course Washington voted it down, it's already got the third-highest state gas tax at nearly 50 cents a gallon. Pennsylvania is highest at 58.7 cents per gallon, followed by California with 55.

Gas tax is on gas only. Carbon tax is on everything which produces carbon, like cow fart.
For example we don’t have to think about the possibility that the production of electric car batteries cost more in terms of carbon, than what it saves during its lifetime, it will be part of the final pricetag automatically.

There is hope for the people with TDS.

People would generally prefer to live in a warmer climate. Net internal migration in the US is towards warmer southern states.

In a just world -- the kind that people who claim to "lean libertarian" would enjoy, but alas we have none of those hosting MR -- the Feds would be obligated to label all of their tax proposals as 1 of 2 things.

They could propose a tax and label it BLATANT RENT SEEKING. Things like the income tax or the corporate profits tax would get this label.

They could also propose a tax and label it TO STOP YOU FROM DESTROYING HUMANKIND. But to do this, they would have to convince the Supreme Court that the activity being taxed is in fact destroying humankind. And then every five years they would have to re-prove that their tax is having the desired, tangible effect of saving humankind.

I bet a Federal tax on cigarettes could easily clear this hurdles.

A Federal tax on carbon? No freaking way on God's Earth. So go diddle yourselves, proponents.

A shift to a revenue-neutral carbon tax with the reductions creating an economic stimulus can result in a net economic stimulus effect. The fossil fuel industry is highly capital intensive and highly automated resulting in very small decreases in employment with huge price swings.

Making tax shifts that result in a net stimulus seems like a "no-brainer" type policy. However, when we look at the organizational player's behavior on the two Washington ballot propositions, we find the green activist (Sierra Club, etc.) and much of the political class opposed to the first initiative and not the second. The first was a tax shift benefiting the citizens and creating a net economic stimulus, without giving the greens or political class control over the cash flow of the tax shift. This made opposition to the proposed shift it in the narrow self-interest of the greens and political class increasing their power and budgets. The second attempt at a carbon tax excluded special interests from the tax and all of the government organizations with all the money going into subsidies for green projects with the ENGO's helping decide how the money is spent. Now the political class and the environmental activist got control of the money and supported the proposition and the citizens who paid the bill with no benefits objected.

The bottom line from these observations is that the green activist institutions and political class institutions have a primary objective of growth and survival that ranks much higher than actually solving the CO2 emission problem. Independent of the rhetoric by organizations like Sierra Club, their actions demonstrate that they really want to use the CO2 issue for fundraising and don't really want the issue to go away.

Note: a carbon tax in the $50 to $100/ton (of CO2) range would make it economical to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and put it deep underground which could elevate the land area preventing flooding from sea level rise. Many of these areas with high-value developed land (gulf coast for example) could be elevated 30 cm or so protecting against a 100-year sea level rise.

Comments for this post are closed