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The video below is a rare debate about the wisdom of a carbon tax on June 13, 2013. James M. Taylor, senior fellow for The Heartland Institute, was a participant, and kicked green tail. (See James’ take on the debate in his latest Forbes piece.) The text below is excerpted From James’ synopsis of the event that he emailed to fellow Heartlanders:
Former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis and R Street senior fellow Andrew Moylan argued in favor of a carbon tax. Heritage Foundation senior fellow David Kreutzer and I argued against it. Although the debate was among “conservatives,” most of the more than 100 people in the audience were liberals from environmental activist groups. I found that rather amusing.
Inglis and Moylan argued for a tax-and-trade system whereby we impose a carbon tax and then eliminate other taxes so that the carbon tax is revenue neutral. My main arguments were:
(1) there is no way government would ever actually eliminate the other taxes;
(2) even if we eliminated other taxes, government would quickly raise them back to previous levels and we would now be stuck with an extra tax;
(3) because the whole point of a carbon tax is to induce less production and use of coal, natural gas, etc., most of the economic harm of the carbon tax (i.e., higher energy prices caused by a switch to wind power, solar power, etc.) would not be in the form of direct tax collection and therefore would not be offset in a tax trade;
(4) carbon dioxide benefits human welfare and the biosphere so there are no net negative externalities to tax;
(5) EPA already harshly punishes carbon dioxide emissions without providing tax offsets, so an additional carbon tax is unnecessary and would result in unjust double punishment;
(6) low-carbon energy sources already receive special subsidies that tilt the playing field in their direction, so a carbon tax is again unnecessary and unjust;
(7) any effort to impose taxes to account for environmental externalities cannot focus solely on carbon dioxide while giving a free pass to wind power birds kills, solar power water depletion, wind and solar power’s massive land development, etc.
The big news of the debate, in my opinion, was that I backed Inglis and Moylan into a corner whereby they agreed they would support a carbon tax-and-trade scheme if – and only if – (1) we repealed all existing EPA regulations regarding carbon dioxide and related issues, (2) we eliminate all subsidies for “green” energy, and (3) we treat all environmental externalities (such as bird and bat deaths as the result of wind turbines) equally and not single out carbon dioxide for special punishment.
Even under such conditions, I pointed out that (2), (3), and (4) above still argue against a carbon tax-and-trade.
Watch the debate for yourself below: