Monday, April 28, 2008

Carbon Tax

A very informative article on the response to global warming by Republican politicians, with a wind up case for a carbon tax strategy rather than cap and trade, good stuff.

Republicans Go Green?
The party follows Arnold's lead.
by Michael Goldfarb
05/05/2008, Volume 013, Issue 32
New Haven

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, once the proud owner of a fleet of gas-guzzling Humvees, got religion on global warming pretty quickly after taking office. And in one of the great political reversals of the decade, he has emerged as a major figure in the environmental movement.

Last week Yale University hosted the signing by Schwarzenegger and a handful of other governors of a "Declaration on Climate Change" (no substance, just lofty principles). He delivered the keynote address to a large crowd of overachieving tree-huggers. If it had been a different audience, you might say he threw them some red meat. But given the venue, let's just say Schwarzenegger was dishing prime tofu.

But he also railed against the "enviro-wimps" who prevent him from taking tougher action on climate change. Environmentalists want renewable energy, he said, "but they don't want you to put it anywhere. .  .  . It's not just businesses that slows things down, it's not just Republicans that have slowed things down, it's also Democrats and sometimes those environmental activists that slow things down."

Schwarzenegger also blamed Washington, and while he was careful not to name names, everybody understood that the man really slowing things down keeps office hours in an oval room.

Yet just two days before, President Bush had made an Arnold-like U-turn of his own, delivering a major speech on global warming in which he set a target date for capping greenhouse emissions (delightfully distant 2025), and spoke of "working toward a climate agreement that includes the meaningful participation of every major economy." Right on cue, conservatives began to worry that "the last line of defense has been breached" in the battle to prevent costly, and perhaps unnecessary, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

In truth, the defense had long ago been breached. Blowing off the threat from global warming, or more specifically the political support for addressing that threat, is no longer a serious option for this administration or its successor. All three remaining presidential candidates have offered concrete proposals for reining in greenhouse gas emissions, Congress is agitating for federal legislation, and the states, led by California, are getting antsy to act on their own. Put simply, the days of resolute federal inaction will soon be over regardless of what Bush does or doesn't say….

Unlike with cap-and-trade, a carbon tax would allow Americans to see the increased cost of energy every time they filled up at the pump, paid the electric bill, or bought a plane ticket. They would see it right there on the receipt, and they would be able to hold their representatives accountable for the rate. The simple truth--as conservatives especially have been known to point out--is that you get less of something if you tax it. This is why serious environmentalists would be on board: Cap-and-trade, as its name implies, merely caps emissions. A carbon tax, by some estimates, would prompt an 11 percent drop in total emissions within a year of being enacted. The political trick would be to sweeten the blow with countervailing cuts in income and payroll taxes.