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?