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Counting on Failure, Energy Chairman Floats Carbon Tax

NY Times – July 6, 2007

This may just be a time when both sides are correct!

Yes – much of the US (and the world for that matter) is deluding themselves into what it will take to make enough of a change in energy use to make any difference in carbon dioxide production.

Yes – a carbon tax would be disastrous, politically, to any politician that tried to push that kind of a tax without clear evidence of it’s dire need.

Yes – a carbon tax would radically change the way everyone uses energy.

Yes – a carbon tax would dramatically hurt the poor.

This site is dedicated to trying to understand all sides of a very complicated issue, it appears that we may have hit on the very things that need attention:

  1. How big of an impact does global warming have on the inhabitants of this planet?
  2. Is that global warming significantly caused by humans?
  3. If it is caused by humans, what dramatic steps do we need to take?
  4. How much do those dramatic steps cost?

Once we know how much those dramatic steps cost then: Is it worth it? Or do we take an “offsets” approach and instead invest in saving a similar number of lives by solving AIDS, malaria, cancer, hunger, or a myriad of other problems that are already killing millions?  I have discussed carbon offsets before (here and here) but if the approach is valid in that instance why not in the saving other lives?

The only way to make this a convincing argument is to truly understand what is going on in our environment. In my opinion, the best way to do that is to spend some big money (millions NOT billions) on better climate modeling tools that can more definitively answer the questions:

  • Is it getting warmer? (the name of this site)   AND
  • What is causing the change in temperature?

A powerful House Democrat said on Friday that he planned to propose a steep new ?carbon tax? that would raise the cost of burning oil, gas and coal, in a move that could shake up the political debate on global warming.


…it runs directly counter to the view of most Democrats that any tax on energy would be a politically disastrous approach to slowing global warming.


…his goal was to show that Americans are not willing to face the real cost of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. His message appeared to be that Democratic leaders were setting unrealistic legislative goals.


The idea behind a carbon tax is to provide an incentive to reduce the use of fossil fuels like oil and coal, which are loaded with carbon, and increase the use of cleaner, renewable fuels like solar power, wind and fuels made from plants and plant waste.

Many economists like the idea of a carbon tax, saying that it would be simple to administer and could profoundly affect energy choices.


But most Democrats are staunchly opposed, saying that a tax would raise the costs of travel, commuting and heating and cooling homes, and that it would be wildly unpopular at a time when voters are already angry about high energy costs. Republicans, they said, would seize on any such proposal as proof that Democrats were bent on raising taxes and increasing the size of government.

You can read the entire article here.

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One Response to “Counting on Failure, Energy Chairman Floats Carbon Tax”

  1. The Carbon Tax Center, http://www.carbontax.org, is proposing a revenue-neutral carbon tax. The carbon tax revenues will be used to reduce the payroll tax (or other regressive taxes) or to provide equal rebates to all Americans. A carbon tax shift will provide tremendous environmental, national security and economic benefits. Properly characterized as a tax shift, rather than a tax increase, carbon tax advocacy will not lead to political disaster.

    A carbon tax shift will not have the negative impacts on the poor that you predict in your note. The poor use less energy and will benefit from the tax shift. To the extent the tax shift is not sufficient, a small portion of the tax revenues could be used to mitigate any possible harm. See our issue paper on the subject at .