Australian Carbon-Tax Cut Cripples Cap-And-Traders Across Planet

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Australia’s repeal of its carbon tax last week has gotten other countries thinking about ditching their own carbon dioxide emissions reduction schemes.

On the heels of the Aussie carbon tax defeat, South Korea’s finance minister, Choi Kyung-hwan, called his country’s planned cap-and-trade system “flawed in many ways,” and hinted that he would pressure the government to delay the plan until 2015.

Businesses say the cap-and-trade system could cost them up to $28.9 billion in three years unless the program is delayed until 2020.

Reuters reports that South Korea’s emissions trading program has already been delayed twice since 2013. The system would have capped emissions from 400 top emitters in the country, potentially making it the world’s second-largest cap-and-trade system.

But while some in the government remain optimistic about the system, Reuters notes that “some analysts have warned that the market’s emissions cap will be too low and have forecast that the South Korean carbon price could rocket towards $98, which is the penalty firms have to pay per tonne if they don’t meet their targets.”

Australia’s conservative government was finally able to pass legislation aimed at repealing the country’s two-year old carbon tax last week. It was hailed as a victory by carbon tax opponents, citing the huge cost it imposed on families and the economy.

U.S. politicians took notice of the repeal as well. Republican lawmakers said the Australian experience should serve as a warning to the Obama administration, which has recently introduce regulations aimed at lowering carbon dioxide emissions.

“It is painfully obvious what a disastrous effect carbon constraining policies can have, and our European allies are the prime example,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter in a statement. “Australia’s carbon tax was certain to provide all pain and no gain for their economy.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued regulations aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, which would accelerate the early shutdown of coal-fired power plants.

“As EPA and the Obama administration attempt to force a thinly-veiled carbon tax on the American people, they could really learn something here – that the increased unemployment and skyrocketing electricity prices don’t outweigh the insignificant reduction in carbon emissions,” Vitter warned.

Republicans and some Democrats have opposed the plan, saying it would raise electricity prices and cripple the coal industry. Environmentalists and the Obama administration have rejected such criticisms, arguing that future generations will be hurt if emissions aren’t cut.

But U.S. carbon-tax proponents say they are already learning from Australia’s carbon tax repeal. For them, it’s a lesson in how not to implement such a tax, as recent polling suggests that Americans’ support for taxing carbon is contingent on how the revenue is used.

“How you treat the revenue is really crucial, so that the tax is not a deadweight loss economically and politically,” Charles Komanoff, director of the Carbon Tax Center, told The Hill newspaper.

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to do it,” echoed Steve Balk, spokesman for the Citizens Climate Lobby. “If you get the policy right and you generate the political will at the grassroots level among constituents … it can happen.”

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