Fill in the blank:
Our fear is that with so many billions at stake, any carbon _____ program will necessarily be beset by crippling delays, inside-dealing and favoritism run wild. The result will be to disgust and disillusion the American public so that it turns against putting a price on carbon emissions altogether.
- either tax or cap-and-trade
- neither tax nor cap-and-trade
My answer is 3. Just like any government policy, both a carbon tax and cap-and-trade can be gamed through the political process. It is goofy to try to argue that one would be gamed more than the other.
The quote was taken from Carbon Tax Center blog and they have their own answer:
When we two (Charles & Dan) resolved last fall to form the Carbon Tax Center, we looked forward to tangling with anti-tax ideologues on the Right and advocates of state intervention on the Left, not to mention Flat-Earthers who deny climate change altogether. We never anticipated that we would be debating with our friends and allies in the environmental community, but that became inevitable when, just before we launched announced the CTC, four large environmental organizations teamed up with major corporations to back carbon cap-and-trade regimes through the U.S. Climate Action Partnership.
CTC has no quarrel with the notion of tradeable emission allowances. In fact we credit the sulfur dioxide permit program enacted as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments with helping drive down acid rain emissions from power generation. But the scale and complexity of the carbon problem positively dwarf those of sulfur. (Block That Metaphor Department? We have likened the disparity to the difference between a French mud hut and the Palace of Versailles, in an article in Gristmill; and to the difference between a Mozart sonata and a Wagnerian opera, in an invited post on the on-line Portfolio magazine.) Our fear is that with so many billions at stake, any carbon cap-and-trade program will necessarily be beset by crippling delays, inside-dealing and favoritism run wild. The result will be to disgust and disillusion the American public so that it turns against putting a price on carbon emissions altogether.
On this score, CTC finds itself in fine company. In just the past two months, outspoken criticisms of carbon cap-and-trade proposals have been published in Reason magazine, the Financial Times (U.K.), the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times Science Section "TierneyLab" blog, to name just a handful. Of critical importance, each piece has been effusive in its support of a carbon tax. As we were posting this newsletter, the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute weighed in with an extraordinarily cogent report comparing a carbon tax with cap-and-trade that unambiguously backs carbon taxing as "the superior policy option."
These testimonials are collected on our Supporters and Tax vs. Cap pages. The L.A. Times editorial is especially noteworthy. The sole editorial in the May 28 (Sunday) edition, the 1,600-word Time To Tax Carbon made as resounding a case for a carbon tax — both in preference to cap-and-trade and for its capacity to stimulate carbon-reducing investment and innovation — as we've seen. Here's one passage:
A carbon tax simply imposes a tax for polluting based on the amount emitted, thus encouraging polluters to clean up and entrepreneurs to come up with alternatives. The tax is constant and predictable. It doesn't require the creation of a new energy trading market, and it can be collected by existing state and federal agencies. It's straightforward and much harder to manipulate by special interests than the politicized process of allocating carbon credits.
Reading manifestos like this, it's hard to resist the feeling that a shift is underway from cap-and-trade to a carbon tax. Indeed, a few days after the L.A. Times ran its editorial, an editor at a popular environmental blog wrote to say:
It's been a slow process of education for me… What brought me around to my pro-tax position is, ironically, my libertarian streak. The essential libertarian insight is that complexity and bureaucracy are invitations to corruption. Big business will try their best to game the system. We know that. Politicians will be subject to lobbying and financial support. We know that. So the best route is the one that minimizes complexity and bureaucracy.
Since the biggest rap against a carbon tax has been its lack of popular support, "conversions" to the carbon tax camp such as that above could have a snowball effect, as each new adherent makes success more plausible. Part of our job at the Carbon Tax Center is to help the world see how rapidly the snowball is growing. We hope to have more to report in future newsletters.