Environmentalists have been trying for a quarter of a century to enact a tax on carbon emissions without coming anywhere close to success. At first blush it seems absurd to believe they might achieve it under a president who denies the very existence of anthropogenic global warming and can’t seem to pass even bills he likes. In the face of this discouraging reality, some Democrats think they have a chance to pass a carbon tax in this congressional term. And the crazy thing is, it’s possible they’re right.
Tax reform may be the last big initiative we will see out of Washington this year. Republican leaders have laid out an ambitious mission to make taxes “simpler, fairer, and lower” for American families, while also lowering tax burdens on small businesses and corporations so they can be more competitive. On the latter front, as the chief negotiators recently outlined in a joint statement, “The goal is a plan that reduces tax rates as much as possible, allows unprecedented capital expensing, places a priority on permanence, and creates a system that encourages American companies to bring back jobs and profits trapped overseas.”
The No. 1 reason that a carbon fee (or tax) has political potential is that it offers Congress flexibility. Lawmakers could opt for the Shultz and Summers’s proposal and treat all their constituents to a quarterly dividend. Or they could use the sizable revenue such a fee would generate to reduce the high corporate tax rate or some other tax. Yet another option is to plow that money into infrastructure, aid for coal-dependent communities, clean energy and other priorities.
Like Congress, the business community can also see value in such a fee, as illustrated by the support of General Motors, ExxonMobil, Procter & Gamble and other major corporations. Its simplicity, efficiency and reliance on the free market make a carbon fee superior to other climate-change solutions, and business executives are not in denial about the changing climate. Let’s hope that the business community will use its influence to convince Congress that pricing carbon is not only good for Americans’ health but is also smart economics and smart politics.
William C. Eacho, Washington
The writer is co-founder of the Partnership for Responsible Growth.
Where can revenue scorers get the $1 trillion over 10 years the border tax was supposed to raise? Well, ahem, a carbon tax is also a consumption tax. To make it acceptable to free marketers, it would have to come with a full stop to all climate-related mandates and subsidies including fuel-mileage rules. It would also have to be clear that all carbon-tax proceeds are being used to cut payroll or income taxes.
A GROUP of prominent Republicans brought a refreshing message to Washington on Wednesday: Climate change is a threat that deserves serious attention, and the GOP should embrace smart ways of dealing with it. What sorts of ways? The group — which calls itself the Climate Leadership Council and includes two former secretaries of state, James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz; two former chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers, Martin S. Feldstein and N. Gregory Mankiw; and former treasury secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. — has a carbon emissions-reduction plan ready to go. And it is excellent.
If letter-writer Blane Morse wants to give nuclear power a boost, he should be singing the praises of a carbon tax instead of criticizing it [“Nuclear power, not a carbon tax, can stop global warming,” letters, Nov. 1]. Today, nuclear power is not cost-competitive in part because we subsidize fossil fuels, which do not cover their external costs. Impose a carbon fee at a significant level ($30 or more) to remove that subsidy, and nuclear would become competitive again.