Well, it is a surprise to me, and probably to a lot of people. But news from the US Climate Task Force and Fortune 500 is that US voters prefer a straight carbon tax over cap-and-trade once they are educated a little bit on the two options. This is what a recent survey shows. The survey finds that American voters actually prefer a carbon tax by a ratio of more than 2:1!
According to the survey, 58% of people supported the carbon tax, 27% supported cap-and-trade, and 15% were not sure or wanted neither.
Why might this be the case?
People are a bit averse to taxes. We all know that. However, according to Frank Luntz’ major new study on climate and energy issues, people really want to see “accountability for businesses and corporations.” Maybe once they understand what a carbon tax is compared to cap-an-trade, people feel that a carbon tax would take care of that issue most effectively. This is the first thought that comes to my head.
Of course, the concern that comes to my mind immediately after that is that once the issue hits mainstream media more, the anti-climate and clean energy crew would use the word “tax” to their advantage to scare the hell out of the general populous. But, of course, they will do the same with “cap-and-trade” and perhaps just as effectively.
Another issue that may have put the carbon tax higher in the minds of US voters is the fact that the second highest priority for people regarding “energy reform” (which they strongly supported) was that it “minimize new government bureaucracy.” Perhaps, with a cap-and-trade system looking so much more bureaucratic, people wanted to stay away from that more than the carbon tax.
The US Climate Task Force and Fortune 500 have their own list of some specific reasons why people seemed to favor a carbon tax, (the last of which I just conjectured about above). “Voters’ preference for a carbon tax approach to energy and climate change policy is grounded in a range of specific perceived benefits, including the notion that a carbon tax would have a greater positive impact on the environment, be better for the U.S. economy and for U.S. taxpayers, and also do more to achieve other important priorities, such as incentivizing energy-efficient behavior and minimizing new government bureaucracy.”
This preference for a carbon tax was “broadly shared among a diverse array of audiences and holds up across partisan and geographic divides.”
With a proposed bill still a priority but spending a lot of time in the back rooms of Congress right now, perhaps a shift from a cap-and-trade system to a carbon tax system is still an option.
The survey was conducted by telephone and included about 1,000 respondents from August 24-31, 2009.
Image Credit: Denise Cross via flickr under a CC license
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