NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Carbon Tax Would Make No Sense

September 10, 2013

All too many bad ideas get endlessly recycled -- the carbon tax is one of them. A carbon tax could be a tax on coal, oil and gas carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other sources. Do you know how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere? It is a little less than 400 parts per million. Do you know what the optimum level of carbon dioxide is? No one does, even though some have the extreme conceit to think they do, says Richard Rahn, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

  • The earth's atmosphere is 78 percent nitrogen, about 21 percent oxygen, less than 1 percent argon, and only 0.038 percent carbon dioxide -- plus a variable amount of water vapor.
  • The gas is necessary for life -- plants cannot grow without it.
  • There is evidence that as carbon dioxide levels have risen, plants are growing faster, which means cheaper food.

Let's assume that those who think that global warming is largely caused by increases in carbon dioxide and that man has caused the increase are correct. Does it make sense for the United States to impose a carbon tax, when emissions from the rest of the world -- notably, India and China -- would be responsible for 93 percent of the temperature rise? Even with very high taxes on carbon dioxide emissions, the amount of warming that would be prevented is too small to measure on a 50 year time scale.

A carbon tax has real costs to the American economy. Energy prices and food prices would be higher, and virtually everything else that people consume would cost more. The results of higher prices are a lower standard of living, less economic opportunity, lower real wages and fewer jobs. All for what?

Source: Richard Rahn, "A Carbon Tax Would Make No Sense," Washington Times, September 2, 2013.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues