NY Times: Americans Should Pay A Carbon Tax

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The New York Times editorial board is arguing the government needs to tax Americans’ carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

The Times argues a tax on carbon dioxide would allow the federal government to cut income and business taxes along with handing out payments to poor people who will be hurt by higher energy prices. The Times even said carbon tax revenue could be used to fund green energy or public transit.

“A carbon tax would raise the price of fossil fuels, with more taxes collected on fuels that generate more emissions, like coal,” wrote The Times editorial board. “This tax would reduce demand for high­-carbon emission fuels and increase demand for lower-emission fuels like natural gas.”

Democrats have been pushing for a carbon tax since the failure of a major cap-and-trade bill during Obama’s first term in office. Since then, Democrats and environmentalists have been trying to build support on the right for a “revenue-neutral” carbon tax that could be implemented in lieu of some income and corporate taxes.

Some on the right have embraced this argument, saying a carbon tax would be much preferable to labyrinthine federal global warming regulations coming down the pipe.

“A carbon tax would also be much easier to administer than some of the other climate change policies that many leaders, including President Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown of California, have backed,” the editorial board wrote.

Most conservatives, however, have rejected the idea of taxing carbon dioxide, saying it would in effect be a tax on all goods. Critics also argue carbon tax would simply shift the burden of taxation, not lower the overall tax burden on the economy.

“It’s not just energy prices that would skyrocket from a carbon tax, the cost of nearly everything built in America would go up,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. “Let’s not lose sight of how big of a dud cap and trade was in 2009, or as it came to be known, cap and tax. This is really no different.”

The NY Times doesn’t seem to think Republicans are right, and argue that places like British Columbia have taxed carbon dioxide and seen their economy grow. The Times also says that big oil companies have said they would support a carbon tax if other taxes were lowered in return.

“Even energy companies like Exxon Mobil that did not sign the letter have previously said they can support a carbon tax if lawmakers cut other taxes by an equal amount,” The Times editorial board wrote. “Exxon Mobil and other large energy companies potentially stand to benefit from a carbon tax, because a tax on emissions would force many electric utilities to use more natural gas, which those businesses produce.”

But the editorial board leaves out an inconvenient fact about carbon taxes, like the one British Columbia has imposed. It may be the case that emissions have gone down while the economy continues to grow, but that doesn’t take into account the tax’s actual impact on global warming.

Assuming the climate is as sensitive to carbon dioxide as the United Nations estimates, a carbon tax in the U.S. would do little or nothing to stem global warming. Especially since countries like China and India are set to dwarf U.S. in terms of CO2 emissions in the coming years.

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