Thursday, December 20, 2012
Why should conservatives support a carbon tax? Current conservative orthodoxy is that no tax is a good tax. But some are taxes less bad than others. If a carbon tax can be used to reduce other taxes, or if a carbon tax is a new source of revenues for deficit reduction instead of raising other taxes, the net economic benefits of such a swap are likely to be positive even if one believes there are no environmental benefits. Second, the alternative to a carbon tax is less efficient: federal command-and-control regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court has held that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, and this requirement will not be legislatively repealed unless it is replaced by something comprehensive, like a carbon tax. In short, a carbon tax is the simplest, cheapest, and least intrusive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and if substituted for other taxes, can provide economic benefits to boot. A carbon tax would not only be consistent with conservative, small-government principles, but can help advance them.