NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 10, 2007

Rep. John Dingell's (D-Mich.) tongue-in-cheek proposal for a tax on carbon emissions serves a useful point on the realities of global warming politics.  It's one thing to get Americans to pay 100 bucks to hear Madonna at a "Live Earth" concert, but quite another to accept that energy prices would have to rise by many multiples to make even a degree's worth of difference to the world's climate, says the Wall Street Journal.

That's why most politicians prefer policy artifice that disguises the cost of raising energy prices, says the Journal:

  • These policy tricks include higher automobile mileage standards and a "cap and trade" regime for swapping "credits" for carbon emissions.
  • The schemes shift the direct costs onto businesses, which then pass them along indirectly to unwitting consumers.
  • These policies still amount to taxes on energy use, but they allow politicians and green lobbyists to pretend that you can "save the world" for the price of a concert ticket.

Further, neither cap and trade nor higher fuel mileage standards would reduce emissions all that much, if at all:

  • Most of Europe has been busting through its carbon limits under the Kyoto Protocol, while the mileage mandates imposed in the United States in the 1970s didn't stop Americans from purchasing SUVs and trucks.
  • The only thing that has slowed those sales is $3 gasoline -- thus the policy logic of Dingell's tax proposal.

If Congressional Democrats are really serious about global warming, they'd nonetheless have the courage of their professed convictions: Take the Dingell honesty test and vote to raise carbon taxes.  But it's more likely that they, along with Rep. Dingell, will choose keeping their Senate and House seats to saving the planet.

Source: Editorial, "Truth in Global Warming," Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2007.


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