Monday, March 09, 2009

House Bill For a Carbon Tax To Cut Emissions Faces A Steep Climb

From The New York Times:

Representative John B. Larson embarked again this week on his lonely quest to enact a national tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

His idea is to set a modest price on a ton of emissions, gradually increasing it each year until the desired reduction in heat-trapping-gas pollution is achieved. Under the bill he introduced this week, virtually all the revenues from the tax would be returned to the public in lower payroll taxes.

“The American people want us to level with them,” Mr. Larson, a moderate Democrat from Connecticut and a member of the House leadership, said in an interview. “We create price certainty without any new bureaucracies or complicated auction schemes.”

Many economists and academics, as well as a handful of Mr. Larson’s colleagues on both sides of the aisle and perhaps a few White House officials, if secretly, agree that a carbon tax is a simpler and more effective means of tackling global warming than the complex cap-and-trade scheme embraced by the Obama administration and most Democratic leaders in Congress.

The supporters of a carbon tax have watched as the new European cap-and-trade system has failed to achieve its emissions goals while prices for carbon permits have gyrated. They see taxing as a more effective means of cutting emissions than cap-and-trade or other hybrid plans now under consideration.

But for a variety of political, environmental and economic reasons, a national carbon tax is probably going nowhere.

Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders argue that cap-and-trade, in which polluters must either reduce emissions on their own or buy credits from more efficient companies, is a better system for assuring reductions, letting the market set the right to pollute.

But the main reason most in Washington recoil against a carbon tax is political: few are willing to openly advocate billions of dollars in new taxes at a time of economic distress, even though a cap-and-trade program also means higher energy prices.

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