Carbon Tax climate-change-carbon-tax-swap

Published on May 19th, 2012 | by Susan Kraemer

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Climate Bill Idea? Polled GOP Voters OK Carbon Tax Swap

May 19th, 2012 by  

 

climate-change-carbon-tax-swap

image via Shutterstock

Comment sections of sites like ours are strewn with the kneejerk response of Republicans when asked to confront and help fix climate change. No! No! Hoax! Lalala! It’s all about tax! Big Government! Conspiracy! UN control!

So you might think that a carbon tax to cut greenhouse gas emissions is the last thing that could pass our congress. But deep in a recent poll is a very encouraging response to a question about reducing carbon by a carbon tax, if it is paired with a corresponding reduction in income tax.

This shows a new way to get Republicans to share in taking the responsibility needed for developing the climate policy that must be developed to maintain a climate that we can all stand to survive in. So it is a very encouraging result, and one that I hope that policy makers in congress take a careful look at.

Zach covered the poll when it came out from Yale last month. One question struck me as showing a way forward on climate policy.

Here is that actual question as posed by the pollsters, and it even includes a definition to make it really clear what it is – a tax swap that is truly revenue neutral.

“Would you be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who supports legislation to reduce the federal income tax that Americans pay each year, but increase taxes on coal, oil, and natural gas by an equal amount? This tax shift would be “revenue neutral” (meaning the total amount of taxes collected by the government would stay the same), and would create jobs and decrease pollution”.

Of Republicans polled 51% would support or strongly support such a candidate, along with 74% of Democrats.

Now, just in case you think the polling group must have been skewed, other questions got more predictable responses.

“How much do you support or oppose the building of the Keystone XL pipeline?” Even while supporting taxation to cut carbon dioxide, 87% of these same Republicans support or strongly support building the Keystone pipeline, along with 50% of the Democrats. So these truly are fairly typical Republicans in the polled group.

And just in case you might think they only heard the “lower my taxes” part of the question, they also responded in a way that is consistent with that response, to the question “Do you support or strongly support regulating carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) as a pollutant; 67% of the Republicans answered yes, along with 84% of the Democrats.

Republican voters have been regularly ousting their congress members who’ve ever voted for all of the Democratic clean energy and climate bills for decades till now. Gone are Senators Lincoln Chafee, Gordon Smith, Norman Coleman, Arlen Specter who all previously voted with Democrats on sensible and responsible climate policy proposals. Only Senators Susan Collins and Cynthia Snowe remained unscathed.

But congress has not yet proposed swapping a carbon tax that would displace income tax. It is an idea that Al Gore suggested a few years ago in a famous hearing before Senators Boxer and Inhofe.

Given that his proposed BTU tax in 1993 (which exempted clean energy BTUs) set off the carbon lobby in a fury that has not abated in the two and a half decades since, no one has dared suggest a straight carbon tax since. But perhaps, by devising a way to swap it in an income tax cut, Republican voters can overpower the influence of the carbon lobby on their representatives in congress?


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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



  • Germany did this a decade ago, and Americans should know more about it: http://www.renewablesinternational.net/americans-support-revenue-neutral-carbon-tax/150/537/38394/

  • Bill_Woods

    “Republican voters have been regularly ousting their congress members who’ve ever voted for all of the Democratic clean energy and climate bills for decades till now. Gone are Senators Lincoln Chafee, Gordon Smith, Norman Coleman, Arlen Specter who all previously voted with Democrats on sensible and responsible climate policy proposals. Only Senators Susan Collins and Cynthia Snowe remained unscathed.”

    I’m not sure why you’re blaming Republican voters. Chafee, Smith, and Coleman were all defeated in general elections by Democrats. Specter switched to the Democratic party and was defeated in a primary. Olympia Snowe was considered a shoo-in for re-election, but she opted to retire.

    • “I’m not sure why you’re blaming Republican voters.”

      Because Republican voters failed to support Chafee, Smith and Coleman in sufficient numbers against Democrats.

      Specter was going to be primaried because he was insufficiently Republican, and so he threw his lot in with the other side by switching – but other than on clean energy, was insufficiently appealing to Democrats, so he could find no home there.

      I agree that Snowe and Collins are unscathed in 55% renewable Maine. “Only Senators Susan Collins and Cynthia Snowe remained unscathed”.

      Hopefully as states become more clean powered due to state level Renewable Energy Standards which mandate increasing the percent of clean power, more states will become like Maine where even Republicans routinely accept responsibility for averting climate disaster.

  • F James Handley

    I hope you are right that R’s could be open to a revenue neutral carbon tax swap. I was encouraged by that poll myself.

    BTW, the BTU tax DID NOT exempt clean energy like hydro. By taxing clean as well as dirty energy it had little or no climate benefits, and was simply a revenue measure.

    I recommend “The Case for a Carbon Tax” by law professor Shi Ling Hsu. Terrific research and writing; great case for a tax swap.

    James Handley
    Carbon Tax Center
    http://www.carbontax.org

  • Edward Kerr

    Wonderful idea but likely never to see the light of day. Regardless of whether we tax our income or our spending for fossil fuels we will still be paying those taxes. Peter/Paul situation…

    As an aside. You state that CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas. I would suggest that CO2 is (sorry for the drug reference) a “gateway” greenhouse gas. While CO2 is responsible for the initial warming of the globe, it will be the Methane that that warming will release that will be the REAL primary greenhouse gas and there will be NO TAX solution to that Pandora’s Box. When this methane box fully opens (it’s a jar now) squabbling over taxes will be the least of our problems.

    Ed

    • the difference is that the first tax discourages work and the second tax discourages pollution.

      great point on the greenhouse gases — that’s one i have to use!!

  • GaryR

    Susan — There is an even simpler, revenue-neutral idea being pushed by the nonpartisan Citizens Climate Lobby. It is called carbon fee and dividend. It would put a gradually increasing tax/fee on carbon at the source and rebate 100% of proceeds to households on a flat basis. This idea is better than linking to taxes because if we start messing with the tax code, who knows who will end up with the shorter end of the stick? Not only that, but as fossil fuel use ebbs because of the tax, revenues will drop. How will we then make up the revenue shortfall to fund ongoing government operations? With the fee and dividend idea, the amount of the rebate simply decreases with the drop in fossil fuel use. Further, energy taxes are known to be very regressive. With carbon fee and dividend, 60-70% of households on the lower end of the income distribution curve break even or come out ahead. Pete Stark based HR 3242, the Save Our Climate Act, on this concept. I hope you will look into it.

    • Yeah, the general concept of a swap can be done different ways.

      A similar cap/dividend idea that was one of many to fail filibuster a few years ago, despite cosponsoring by Republican Susan Collins.

      http://grist.org/article/why-cantwell-collins-is-best-and-how-it-just-might-win/

      Also a “feebate” on SUVs/EVs – a fee on gas guzzlers that was refunded to those registering gas sippers.

      And yeah, there is exactly that problem with a tax “as fossil fuel use ebbs because of the tax, revenues will drop. How will we then make up the revenue shortfall to fund ongoing government operations?”

    • yes, i’m a big fan of the carbon fee & dividend. would be wonderful if we could somehow educate the public and push that thing through.

  • jdavies

    Excellent news and a brilliant idea! Everybody loves a personal tax cut! and if the “downside” is less pollution and more jobs, it should be a no-brainer!! I hope this gets picked up and fast!!

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