How To Sell Carbon Taxes

In “Obama’s Economic Mirage”, Robert J Samuelson warns against the president’s social, health care and environmental agenda masquerading as economic policy that is likely to address the current economic problems.  He suggests that it is an illusive pretense that paying more for energy and health care will net more job creation. While arguing green energy policy is not necessarily good economic policy, he does however conclude that “I have long advocated a gasoline tax on national security grounds.”

This position comes to somewhat similar conclusions to the argument Thomas Friedman made in  “Show Us The Ball” in which he suggested that the administration should be pushing a straight forward carbon tax and have the chief spokesman for that policy not be someone from the environmental arena, but rather National Security Adviser General James Jones.

There is consensus in the environmental community the climate change induced by human energy use is an existential threat to humanity. And there is an argument from that quarter that scientific consensus on the issue is unquestionable. But there is inconvenient dissent from that opinion, like the Global Warming Petition Project, which claims it has the signatures of 31, 478 American scientists on a petition that states:

“We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

Personally, I have come to believe that human activity is likely having a significant impact on climate, though I question the hyperbolic rhetoric around the issue of climate change.

But I very strongly agree with Samuelson and Friedman that the far stronger argument for the need to significantly increase the price of petroleum is on the grounds of national security.

Taxing carbon on general environmental grounds, in order to slow the waste of dwindling petroleum reserves and mostly on national security grounds all make really good sense.

As a side benefit, carbon taxes also address climate change and by pricing the “economic externalities” of fossil fuels more appropriately in the marketplace, they balance and stabalize the playing field to enable cleaner renewable energy alternatives.

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Filed under Climate Policy, Economic Policy, Energy Policy

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