The United States Federal Government Should Adopt a Nationwide Carbon Tax
PRO (4 arguments)
A carbon tax is a specific price the government charges for carbon content per ton in fuels (most proposals range from $15 to $30 per ton). Where the raised revenue would go depends on the various proposals that have been put forward—to fund R&D for green energy technologies, to help lower-income families pay for increases in electricity prices dues to the tax, and, in light of the current situation, to pay down the national debt. Supporters say that the tax would incentivize companies to limit greenhouse gas pollution and is an important step in addressing climate change. Furthermore, they say it would boost the green energy industry, creating jobs.
The main purpose of carbon tax is to ensure that companies or organizations that emit huge amounts of CO2, cut down if not eliminate their emissions, minimizing pollution and the effects of global warming in the process. When everyone takes part in this noble cause, whatever damage the environment is experiencing at the moment can be lessened and pave the way for possible healing. Maybe then, the environment would last longer and people would still have a planet to live in for the next millennia.
In 2008, British Columbia implemented the first comprehensive and substantial carbon tax in North America. By 2012, the tax had covered approximately three-quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions in the province. This carbon tax has reduced emissions in the province by 5–15%. Polling data show that the public initially opposed the tax but now generally supports it. At the same time, models show that the tax has had very small negative effects on the economy. British Columbia now has the lowest personal income tax rate in Canada and one of the lowest corporate rates in North America, too. British Columbia’s fuel consumption is also down. Over the past six years, the per-person consumption of fuels has dropped by 16%. During that same period, per-person consumption in the rest of Canada rose by 3%. “Each year the evidence becomes stronger and stronger that the carbon tax is driving environmental gains,” says Stewart Elgie, an economics professor at University of Ottawa and head of Sustainable Prosperity, a pro-green think-tank. At the same time, BC’s economy has kept pace with the rest of the country.
This is an actual place where the carbon tax has been tested and PROVEN to work - not a hypothetical, but real results.
Duke University Institute for Environmental Policy and The Economist magazine
Money paid by polluting corporations could be used to pay down government debt, lower taxes or fund green energy research and development. According to the Congressional Budget Office “A 20 dollar per ton carbon tax would raise nearly 1.2 trillion dollars over the next decade.” This money can be used to fund government programs, green energy research and development, or for the military, for example.
Our country is over $19 trillion in debt so more money can help pull us out of debt. People like the idea of using a carbon tax to find a carbon-less energy source to sustain our planet. It’s the same idea as using a soda tax to pay for diabetes medicine research, or a tobacco tax to pay for lung cancer research.
It is very unusual for people to WANT government to tax them, but Americans see how important it is to save our environment and are willing to pay more to pollute less. According to a 2014 University of Michigan poll, 60% of Americans agree that the revenues raised by a federal carbon tax should be used to fund renewable energy programs. That's the highest level of support among tax options presented and one that crossed the political divide with majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents saying they would support the tax, according to the National Surveys on Energy and Environment.
According to New York Times, “revenue generated by carbon tax could be used for a variety of purposes.” For example, after phasing in a carbon tax in 2008 in British Columbia, the tax collected is used to lower income taxes for their people. Their economy is now prevailing and having a carbon tax has benefitted their society.
The Congressional Budget Office, University of Michigan, New York Times
The carbon tax imposes a tax on each unit of greenhouse gas emissions and gives firms an incentive to reduce pollution whenever doing so would cost less than paying the tax.
According to Yale University, proponents of a carbon tax say their plan has one overriding benefit: Its simplicity. They contend that by imposing a predictable and steadily increasing levy on fossil fuels, the carbon tax will also drive development of alternative sources of energy. Additionally, countries that use a cap and trade system haven’t made a dent in carbon emission. According to MIT Technology Review, the European cap-and-trade system, is the world’s largest pollution market, hasn’t made much of a change in CO2 levels because the caps are not low enough and politicians don’t have the stomach to lower caps to a level that would actually decrease CO2 levels.
CON (4 arguments)
A carbon tax could raise prices of many goods because of energy costs, which would affect our economy negatively. Many goods, such as flour or meat, takes energy to process and ship. If there was a tax on carbon than the price of these goods would sky rocket. A carbon tax would tax 85% of energy we use, and almost everything produced and processed requires the use of energy. Almost every business in the US runs on coal and oil. They need this energy to transport and manufacture items. A tax on 85% of energy would raise the prices of transporting and manufacturing items, therefore raising prices of these items themselves. Many people survive on cheap foods, but with a carbon tax these cheap foods would become more expensive. It would be almost impossible to set up a good carbon tax that took this into account while still benefitting the economy and the environment. Therefore, a carbon tax would be ineffective and would cause harm to our economy as a whole, particularly by raising prices.
We don’t need to raise the prices of almost everything as an attempt to help the environment. It’s just not worth it.
When moving from academic theory to historical experience, we see that carbon taxes have not lived up to the promises of their supporters.
Only 4 nations — Ireland, Sweden, Chile, and Finland — actually have carbon taxation today. The largest economy to ever have a carbon tax, Australia, repealed it in 2014 over concerns it was harming the economy. No country taxes CO2 emissions at the levels deemed necessary to substantially mitigate global warming as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.. The study found that even the most well regarded carbon taxes haven’t done much to actually reduce CO2 emissions. Even in British Columbia — touted as the world’s finest example of a carbon tax — the experience has been underwhelming. After an initial (but temporary) drop, the B.C. carbon tax has not yielded significant reductions in gasoline purchases, and it has arguably reduced the B.C. economy’s performance relative to the rest of Canada.
A carbon tax will make the costs of virtually everything go up. Poorer citizens spend a lot of their income on gas for the commuting to work, and initiating a carbon tax would raise the price of gasoline. This would leave them with less to spend on essentials like food, shelter, and clothing.
Critics have said carbon taxation disproportionately harms the poorest members of society. A 2009 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a carbon tax would double the tax burden of the poorest households, making it effectively impossible to have both a carbon tax and a living wage. A tax on all man-made greenhouse gas emissions would make the tax burden of the poorest households three times greater than that of the richest households, according to the study. A non-revenue neutral carbon tax in the U.S. would impose a net tax hike of at least $695 billion in its first 20 years.
It is unfair to put the expense of cleaning up the environment on the backs of the poor.
Cap and trade has become the cornerstone of successful efforts to achieve low-cost reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions in the United States.
Environmental Defense Fund economist Gernot Wagner said. “Putting a price on carbon emissions via cap and trade is among the best possible ways to get emissions down quickly and cheaply." Europe uses a cap-and-trade program to keep its carbon dioxide pollution within levels required by international agreements. Two cap-and trade programs also operate in the U.S., and states are considering creating more. In addition, some countries that started with carbon taxes, including Norway, Sweden and Germany, now are increasingly relying on cap and trade. The cap-and-trade option has attracted far more attention and has many more supporters than the carbon tax, including President Obama, key Congressional leaders, and an influential coalition of environmental groups and big businesses, including General Electric, Dow Chemical, Shell Oil, and Duke Energy.
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions