An absurdly simple argument for the carbon tax

Temperatures have steadily risen over the past 130 since we first began to keep accurate records. Nine of the hottest ten years globally have been in the 21st century.  The debate over why this is happening is over. By burning carbon (specifically the fossil fuels – coal, natural gas, gasoline, and oil), humans are literally burning our planet up.

The solution has to be to reduce consumption. One proposal – cap and trade – is unwieldy and expensive to administer and prone to corruption. Accordingly, I favor a very steep carbon tax on every gallon of gas purchased, every ton of coal burned, every cubic foot of natural gas distributed, and every tank of heating oil/propane delivered. Such a tax would immediately disincentivize the purchase of fossil fuels.

A carbon tax would make alternatives like solar and wind much more profitable and therefore attractive to investors and the government wouldn’t need to guarantee loans. One obvious problem, the tax would be regressive since poor people spend a higher percentage of their incomes on fossil fuels than rich ones. Without amelioration, the tax would render many poor, working, and middle-income Americans destitute and disrupt seriously the economy on a macro level.

All collected monies except the less than 1% in estimated administrative costs should therefore be rebated directly and in equal shares to all Americans. The regressive tax would automatically become progressive since rich people spend more in an absolute sense on fossil fuels than poor ones (think Al Gore) so they’ll be paying in more than they get back while poor people will get more back than they pay in.


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5 Responses to An absurdly simple argument for the carbon tax

  1. Shade says:

    There he goes again. We Liberals have difficulty in getting the public to vote in their best interest just to ensure living-wage paychecks and a first-world social safety net of healthcare, disability, & retirement benefits. Why is it then that you seem to think that by adding more toes to step on, namely entrenched oil and coal interests, that we can successfully both minimize the use of their products AND redistribute their corporate income & wealth in a socially responsible way (the part we have already failed to do). You can’t expect to successfully take on something twice as complicated and difficult to accomplish as what we have already failed to do and make this new harder task immediately work without some serious glitches & hardships.

    I’m with you man re your ultimate goals. However, even though we are admittedly well behind the environmental curve, we have no choice but to approach our migration to alternate energy sources slowly (with constant monitoring to ensure that we are accomplishing our goals & not instead just creating other problems that are worse than what we have today). One way we could do this would be to phase in a reasonable $1/gallon gasoline tax now, while the price gasoline at relatively-low historic levels. It will take time to develop & build out alternate energy options (or even just to conserve) on the massive scale needed to maintain the average American’s current standard of living. It is self-defeating if we try to go too fast and send shocks to the system that could take down the economy of both the nation & the world. In addition, if you create hardship for the average American, you will certainly forevermore kill all voter environmentally-oriented good will.

  2. halginsberg says:

    Shade – is the problem that you think this is too hard to explain or that you reject my claim that with the rebate poor and working Americans will come out ahead?

  3. jeff linder says:

    Wobbling on Climate Change?

    Here is my favorite part:

    “This whole system of observation, theory and prediction is tested daily in forecast models and almost continuously in climate models. So, if you have no faith in the predictive capability of climate models, you should also discard your faith in weather forecasts and any other predictions based on Newtonian mechanics.”

    We can’t predict weather that well and the climate models can’t predict climate change that well either yet this guy wants us to accept one when we can’t trust the other. Go figure.

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