Welcome to the Carbon Tax Ticker

The calendar turning to 2020 means our quadrennial rite is upon us.

Enjoy February’s 29th day and enjoy this month’s dip into the shifting currents of carbon tax public opinion.

From the heart of the GOP’s youth wing?


IER’s Take
Yesterday’s agenda at CPAC, the American Conservative Union’s annual conference, included an event sponsored by Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends (YCCD), an outfit that can effectively be described as the youth wing of the Climate Leadership Council (CLC). CLC is, of course, the propagator of the most prominent carbon tax proposal on the center right.

YCCD’s webpage boasts of “a new free-market climate advocacy campaign from the heart of the GOP’s youth wing.” While I would dispute that their plan is a “free-market” campaign, the more interesting claim they make is that they represent the core of young GOP voters. While their advocacy for a carbon tax is clearly at odds with the GOP as a whole, there are some indications that those on the political right under the age of 40 have a larger appetite for government intervention on global warming than those who are older.

Numbers from a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October may help us judge the veracity of YCCD’s claim to represent the youth of the political right. All of the numbers that follow refer to respondents who are of the Millennial generation or younger and are Republican or Republican-leaning. 52 percent say government is doing too little to reduce effects of climate change. 91 percent favor expanding use of solar panels. 81 percent favor expanding use of wind turbines. Only 46 percent favor expanding use of hydraulic fracturing.

But, as an article out yesterday in E&E News summarizes, the polling numbers above do not portend a carbon tax. The much discussed political realignment of the Trump era seems to be pushing a carbon tax further from realization than ever. YCCD’s blind spot is that while there may be budding support among young conservatives for government action, that doesn’t necessarily mean support for a carbon tax. And, critically, support for a carbon tax has all but vanished among Democrats.


“Utter failure”
E&E News, 27 February 2020:

It failed in 2010. Supporters abandoned it in 2016. And now it’s being passed over for shiny newcomers endorsed by celebrity lawmakers. That’s the state of carbon pricing.

The political landscape around climate policy is being shaken by aggressive activism, a record number of coal plant closures and a retreat from what’s seen by many as the retro carbon plans of the last decade…Look no further than Congress. Republicans, increasingly worried about voter concern over warming, have proposed tax credits and aggressive arborism…Top Democrats who once backed cap and trade are now reaching for fixes that use regulations and financial incentives.

IER’s Take
I’m not sure Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends recognizes it yet (I’m only now coming to grips with it myself), but the carbon tax window seems to have closed. This article in E&E yesterday from Jean Chemnick chronicles its downfall.

Chemnick relays accounts from numerous parties within the wide environmental movement and presents a picture in which environmentalists and Democrats have either lost trust in the effectiveness of a carbon tax or lost hope for its political viability.

“Politicians love to pass out benefits,” Robert Stavins, director of Harvard’s environmental economics program told Chemnick. “They hate passing out costs. So if you talk about innovation and you talk about clean energy standards and you talk about CAFE standards, even if they impose costs, which they do, that’s a lot safer than talking about a carbon-pricing scheme that is so explicitly involving a cost.”

Lest anyone think my interpretation of public opinion is optimistic spin by a carbon tax opponent, take a look at the 2019 report by Data for Progress, which concluded: “We find that voters are more likely to support climate intervention when it is presented as government investment and regulation than when it is presented as a tax on carbon pollution, suggesting the Green New Deal framework has advantages over an exclusively carbon-tax framework.”

Data for Progress found that among Democrats support for new public investment was almost 15 percent higher than support for a carbon tax—and that is without the explicit personal costs of a tax being made clear to survey participants.


Building a principled coalition

American Energy Alliance

Statement of Principles:
I. Affordable, reliable energy is a vital aspect of human wellbeing, providing electricity for our factories, hospitals, and schools, heat and light for our homes, and locomotion for the cars, trucks, trains, and ships that move people and goods about the planet. In concert, these energy uses create the modern standard of wealth and health we have come to enjoy.

II. Energy derived from carbon-based fuels fits the affordable, reliable profile necessary for human wellbeing. Carbon-based fuels—given their density, abundance, portability, and dispatchability—are key resources, both here in America and across the globe, where as many as a billion people still lack electricity.

III. Political schemes designed with the explicit intention of increasing the cost of the carbon-based fuels deprive people of affordable, reliable energy. A tax on carbon dioxide emissions, commonly called a carbon tax, is one such scheme. A carbon tax would hinder access to affordable, reliable energy and therefore harm our quality of life.

IV. Private decisions made on a free market best reflect people’s interests. Central planners, despite claiming the mantle of the public good, act only to limit our choices. Energy freedom—the liberty to produce and use affordable, reliable energy—enables people to manage life’s challenges as they see fit, including those that may be heightened by carbon dioxide emissions.

V. The American principles of individual liberty and decentralized governance endorse energy freedom. Implementing a carbon tax in order to satisfy computer models is contrary to those principles. Energy freedom ensures affordable, reliable energy will continue to promote human wellbeing, here in America and abroad.


IER’s Take

As I mentioned last month, this statement of principles is a work in progress over at AEA. We intend to add a permanent page to the AEA website to serve as our hub for carbon tax opposition and we’d like to garner the support of as many think tanks, advocacy groups, and non-profits as we can. If you’d like to join the standing coalition against the tax or if you have any feedback for me, please let me know by responding directly to this email.

Thank you,

Jordan McGillis

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