Archive for the ‘Newsletter’ Category

Help Make Our Capitol Hill Briefing on Carbon Taxes a Big Success

11/13/2008 by Daniel Rosenblum

CTC’s Special Request for Your Support

On January 20, 2009, less than ten weeks from today, the United States will have a new president and a new Congress. After eight years of obstruction by the Bush administration, and years of delay before that, the United States is finally poised to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

On December 9, six weeks before Inauguration Day, the Carbon Tax Center is holding a briefing on Capitol Hill to articulate to the incoming Administration and Congress why a tax on carbon emissions must be the centerpiece of a new U.S. climate policy. Headlining the briefing is NASA climatologist James Hansen, a powerful advocate of a carbon tax. Dr. Hansen will be followed by two eminent economists, Prof. Gilbert Metcalf of Tufts and Dr. Robert Shapiro, currently at Sonecon and formerly U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs. James Hoggan, chair of the David Suzuki Foundation and a highly regarded Canadian pollster, will speak on public opinion regarding British Columbia’s carbon tax and the impact of the Liberal Party’s carbon tax proposal on last month’s Canadian national election.

The briefing is being hosted by Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and author of a carbon tax bill introduced last year. Mr. Larson is Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, making him the fifth-ranking Democrat in the House, and has been mentioned as a possible successor to Rahm Emanuel, Chair of the Caucus and soon to be chief of staff to President Obama. The briefing will run from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and will take place in a Ways & Means Committee hearing room, B-318, in the Rayburn House Office Building. The Climate Crisis Coalition has joined us as conference organizer, and Friends of the Earth and the Environmental & Energy Study Institute are serving as co-sponsors.

We are particularly pleased that James Hansen has agreed to be our keynote speaker. For over 20 years, Dr. Hansen has distilled mounting evidence that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide will soon lead to disastrous climate change into urgent calls for action by the United States and other major emitters. Dr. Hansen courageously rebuffed efforts by the Bush administration to muzzle him and has continued to combine world-class research and public education on the imminence of potentially devastating climate change with exhortation for action. At the top of Dr. Hansen’s agenda, and a focal point of his presentation at our briefing, is the need for carbon pricing delivered through steep but equitable revenue-neutral carbon taxes.

Following Dr. Hansen’s keynote address, economists Metcalf and Shapiro will detail the mechanics of carbon taxing, and Mr. Hoggan will share his research findings on public opinion concerning Canada’s experience with carbon taxes.

We invite you to join us at the December 9 briefing. To ensure its success, including vital follow-on work, we ask for your generous financial help.  Political dynamics in Washington have changed dramatically and CTC intends to be fully engaged to ensure that carbon taxing gets a full hearing. Your support will enable us to take full advantage of this long-awaited opportunity to effectively advocate for a U.S. carbon tax.  Please click our Donate Now button or click here for instructions on making a contribution.


A Convenient Tax – June 2008

06/27/2008 by Daniel Rosenblum

We launched the Carbon Tax Center seventeen months ago to inform and engage the public about the need for and benefits of revenue-neutral carbon taxation. Coincidentally, that same week the United States Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of mainstream environmental organizations, major electricity generators and giant industrial corporations, announced its formation and legislative agenda: a federal carbon cap-and-trade system. To state the obvious, USCAP has a lot more money and political clout than we do. Not surprisingly, USCAP managed to buy a tremendous amount of press and political support for its cap-and-trade program.

Our strategy at CTC has been simple. We provide an objective source of carbon tax and cap-and-trade related facts, economic arguments and news. We let the public know about the broad support for a carbon tax from economists and opinion leaders across the political spectrum. We were confident the public and Congress would eventually recognize that a revenue-neutral carbon tax is far superior to cap-and-trade for a variety of efficiency and equity reasons that we set forth in an issue paper on our Web site and in a variety of debates and other forums. We expected that Americans would see that the cap-and-trade scheme proposed in bills such as Lieberman-Warner is essentially a tax, with the revenue doled out to special interests. We were betting that once cap-and-trade was revealed as a hidden tax proposal, its putative political advantage over a straightforward carbon tax would vanish.

Events are proving us right. Cap-and-trade’s aura of inevitability evaporated in the U.S. Senate this month. Why? Because, just as we predicted, Senators balked at the cap-and-trade bill’s complexity, its windfall profits for carbon polluters and the feeding frenzy to distribute the revenues in classic pork-barrel fashion.

We don’t buy the notion that in rejecting cap-and-trade, the Senate is defying the public outcry for an effective response to global warming. As John Tierney wrote in his New York Times science blog, “Maybe a better deal — and a better policy — will emerge from this failure.” Tierney emphasized that James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who has been so outspoken on the imminence of global warming, now backs a “tax-and-dividend approach” with carbon revenues “divided equally, so that people who use less energy than average — like lower-income people — would get back more than they spend.” As Tierney pointed out, “Refunding money directly removes the temptation for Congress to treat … carbon-reduction revenues as a chance to dispense trillions of dollars worth of favors — as proposed in last week’s bill, which was aptly dubbed ‘pork-and-trade.’”

Sound familiar? It should. Hansen’s proposal is the same revenue-neutral carbon tax the Carbon Tax Center has been urging all along. In fact, if you’ve been keeping up with our posts you may have noticed that CTC adopted the tax-and-dividend terminology several weeks ago, a switch we picked up from Peter Barnes’ excellent work on cap-and-dividend.

Meanwhile, as readers of our posts and our “Latest News” headlines surely know, the real action on revenue-neutral carbon pricing is in Canada. Liberal Party Leader Stéphane Dion has transformed the climate debate in Canada with his proposal for a $15.4 billion, 4-year “Green Shift.” Read our post on the subject for a quick summary, the Green Shift Handbook for the details and our “Latest News” for reaction to the Green Shift in Canada and around the world. And on Tuesday (July 1), British Columbia inaugurates the Western Hemisphere’s first substantial and comprehensive carbon tax — a day after it distributes dividend checks from the revenue-neutral tax to households and businesses.

A tremendous opportunity awaits. The failure of the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade scheme has created a huge opening for a better and more workable method for putting a price on carbon. Splits within USCAP have re-emerged. In a powerful speech on June 25, Lewis Hays, III, Chairman and CEO of FPL Group (a member of USCAP), reiterated his support for a carbon fee stating, “[T]he simplest and most effective way to price carbon is with a continuously escalating fee – or a ‘tax’ as the big carbon emitters like to call it. Under a carbon fee that starts modestly and rises steadily over time, companies will find it more and more expensive to use dirty fuels.”

To take advantage of the opportunity and to capitalize on the post-election window in which new policy ideas can command serious attention, the Carbon Tax Center is organizing a conference in Washington, D.C. this November. Our goals are to:

  • increase public awareness of the environmental and economic advantages of a carbon tax over other policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • place carbon taxes higher on the U.S. Congressional agenda;
  • enable carbon tax advocates to forge connections with one another:
  • address obstacles (political, economic, and scientific) to enacting a U.S. carbon tax, and to discuss the ideal form of such a tax;
  • recognize leaders who have publicly advocated a U.S. carbon tax; and
  • discuss lessons learned from the Green Shift proposal in Canada.

We are assembling a terrific roster of speakers and participants. James Hansen has already agreed to speak, and we anticipate many more leading voices on climate change and carbon pricing.

We need your financial help to make our conference happen and to continue our essential work. You can contribute to CTC in three ways, two of which are tax-deductible:

Tax-deductible:

Write a check or money order to ELPC (Environmental Law & Policy Center), writing Carbon Tax Center in the memo line; mail it to ELPC at 35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60601. ELPC is CTC’s fiscal sponsor.

or

Make an on-line contribution via Groundspring by clicking on the DONATE NOW box on our website, www.carbontax.org.

Not deductible:

Write a check or money order to Carbon Tax Center and send it to our New York City mailing address: CTC, 636 Broadway, Room 602, New York, NY 10012.

Please be as generous as you can, and please donate today. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Charles Komanoff
Dan Rosenblum


A Convenient Tax – May 2008

05/4/2008 by Daniel Rosenblum

Thanks to the gas tax “holiday” proposed by Senators McCain and Clinton, gasoline taxes (a component of carbon taxes) have become a major issue in the presidential campaign. Senators McCain and Clinton have been attacked across the political spectrum for pandering. Politicians from President Bush to House Speaker Pelosi have rejected the idea, as have newspaper editorial boards from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a powerful carbon tax advocate, may have been the most succinct, calling a temporary suspension of the federal gasoline tax “about the dumbest thing I’ve heard in an awful long time from an economic point of view” and saying he did not see “any merit to it whatsoever” (NY Times, May 2). Economists have been nearly unanimous, with over 100 economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, signing a statement opposing the gas tax holiday.

In our last newsletter we acknowledged that “the ‘T’ word is unpopular with politicians,” but asserted that “awareness is growing that ‘putting a price on carbon’ is an essential element of any successful strategy to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” In fact, awareness is growing faster than we expected. We’re heartened by the widespread recognition that the gas tax holiday proposal is fundamentally flawed because it undercuts the need to properly price gasoline and would encourage gas use just when it is essential to discourage consumption. In breaking news, the Monday (May 5) New York Times will report that by 49% to 45%, more Americans think that lifting the gas tax is a bad idea than approve of the plan.

In addition, we are intrigued by a Wall Street Journal report that some members of Congress are advocating that proceeds of a windfall profits tax be used to provide rebates for consumers. It sounds a lot like the rebate we have proposed to return carbon tax revenues to the American people. While we take no position at this time on the merits of a windfall profits tax, it’s good to see thought being given to returning the windfall profit tax proceeds. It’s a step toward a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

Our next challenge is to convert the well-reasoned opposition to a gas tax holiday into support for a carbon tax. As a first step, we have begun preliminary planning for a Carbon Tax Conference to be held in Washington, D.C. in mid-November. The conference will be designed to focus public attention on a carbon tax as the best policy for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and is timed to occur just as a new administration and Congress begin establishing priorities and mapping out strategies. Interested in being involved in the early planning? If so, please let us know.

Please check our web page regularly for the latest developments on carbon tax issues and progress. We add important news stories to the “Headlines” column on our home page almost every day. Take a look at the excellent guest post by James Handley, an extraordinary volunteer at CTC, addressing the gas tax holiday issue. It was on our web page until today (in case you haven’t noticed, previous blog posts are listed just below the current post). Our next post will take up a related issue, the impact on demand of rising gasoline prices. There is more and more evidence that higher prices, such as would result from a carbon tax, lead to reduced consumption. That’s the premise of our proposed carbon tax and it’s being validated every day.

Finally, CTC does have to admit to one major failing. We’ve been so focused on policy issues and getting the message out that we haven’t spent the necessary time on fundraising. The result is predictable. We’re desperately short of money just when we need it the most. To continue playing our essential role, we need your financial help.

You can contribute to CTC in three ways, two of which are tax-deductible:

* Tax-deductible:

Write a check or money order to ELPC (Environmental Law & Policy Center), writing Carbon Tax Center in the memo line; mail it to ELPC at 35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60601. ELPC is CTC’s fiscal sponsor.

* Tax-deductible:

Make an on-line contribution via Groundspring by clicking on the DONATE NOW box on our website, www.carbontax.org.

* Not deductible:

Write a check or money order to Carbon Tax Center and send it to our New York City mailing address: CTC, 636 Broadway, Room 602, New York, NY 10012.

Please be as generous as you can, and please donate today. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Charles Komanoff
Dan Rosenblum


Happy New Year from the Carbon Tax Center!

12/27/2007 by Daniel Rosenblum

We established the Carbon Tax Center in January 2007. As we look back on our first year, we are thrilled by what we’ve accomplished.

CTC has established a reputation as the go-to web site for objective, non-partisan information on carbon taxes, with hundreds of hits almost every day. We have participated in conferences and debates in New York, Washington and Boston, we have appeared on national television, and we’ve been featured in newspapers, magazines and blogs. Congressional staff, academics, students and interested citizens of all stripes and from many countries have all turned to our site to get up to speed on a topic that is going to become increasingly vital as Congress and a new President grapple with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting the damage from climate change.

peterbowers.jpgThe good news is two-fold. One, CTC has established a very solid foundation. Two, there is widespread support for revenue-neutral carbon taxes across the political spectrum from economists, business leaders, pundits and other opinion leaders. Just take a look at our Supporters page.

But we are not naïve. We know that powerful polluters who use the atmosphere as a free dumping ground are not going to give up that entitlement without a struggle. We know that cap-and-trade has well-connected advocates, many of them with a strong economic self-interest to favor their second-best alternative over carbon taxes. We know that carbon tax opponents have tremendous financial resources they will exploit to maintain their advantages.

And we are mindful that the “T” word is unpopular with politicians. Fortunately, awareness is growing that “putting a price on carbon” is an essential element of any successful strategy to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While debate continues over the two basic ways to put a price on carbon, a carbon tax or cap-and-trade, we remain convinced that the advantages of carbon taxes are becoming increasingly clear.

A legislated price on carbon is unlikely before a new Congress and President take office, providing time for careful examination of the relative merits of a carbon tax and cap-and-trade. We intend to use the time to frame the choice between an equitable revenue-neutral carbon tax and cap-and-trade schemes that provide huge windfalls to polluting industries and the financial community. This will help voters and elected officials grasp the huge benefits of the prompt reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that will result from an easily implemented revenue-neutral carbon tax, compared to the excruciatingly slow reductions that would result from the endlessly tendentious process of implementing a cap-and-trade scheme.

CTC intends to play a central role in the ongoing debate. To do so, we need your generous financial support. As you make your end-of-year contributions, please think of the Carbon Tax Center and click our Donate Now button or click here for instructions on making a contribution.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Daniel Rosenblum
Charles Komanoff
Co-Directors

Photo: Peter Bowers / Flickr

Filed under Carbon Tax,Newsletter

A Convenient Tax — Issue #3

11/8/2007 by Charles Komanoff

Welcome to the latest issue of CTC’s newsletter, A Convenient Tax, summarizing the Carbon Tax Center’s progress in advancing carbon taxes in the United States. (For Issue #2, click here.)

These are heady times for CTC. Each week, and sometimes every day, brings a major development in carbon pricing. Sometimes it has our fingerprints, and sometimes it’s a product of our work to establish a carbon tax as "the gold standard" way to put a price on carbon (as The New York Times quoted us last week).

In Just the Past Two Weeks …

New York’s Mayor Bloomberg delivered a powerful plea for a revenue-neutral carbon tax in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors last Friday. Here’s the lede of The Times’ on-line account:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced today his support for a national carbon tax. In what his aides called one of the most significant policy addresses of his second and final term, the mayor argued that directly taxing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change will slow global warming, promote economic growth and stimulate technological innovation — even if it results in higher gasoline prices in the short term.

Echoing the Tax vs. Cap page on our Web site: Bloomberg noted that cap-and-trade is at risk from gaming, profiteering and volatility, while a straightforward carbon tax offers the essential attribute of price certainty. What is more, Bloomberg spoke as the former businessman he is:

Having spent 15 years on Wall Street and 20 years running my own company, the certainty of a pollution fee — coupled with a tax cut for all Americans — is a much better deal. It would be better for the economy, better for taxpayers and — given the experiences so far in Europe — it would be better for the environment. I think it’s time we stopped listening to the skeptics who say, "But for the politics" and start being honest about costs and benefits. Politicians tend to prefer cap-and-trade because it obscures the costs. Some even pretend that it will lower costs in the short run. That’s nonsense. The costs will be the same under either plan — and if anything, they will be higher under cap-and-trade, because middlemen will be making money off the trades. A direct fee will generate more long-term savings for consumers, and greater carbon reductions for the environment.

By 10 a.m. last Friday, CTC’s blog had a link to the Times’ story, framing Bloomberg’s speech in terms of swelling political support for carbon taxing. Since then, AP, Reuters and Newsweek (in a cover story this week) have reported on Bloomberg’s carbon-tax call.

We can’t say whether the mayor took his cue from us, or the center-right American Enterprise Institute (which issued its own report in June backing carbon taxes), or from his own internal compass. But back in July, in a piece on Gristmill, we linked Bloomberg’s NYC congestion pricing initiative with carbon taxing. We also drew Rep. John Dingell’s attention to the parallels, during a conversation with him last month (see below).

The big development the previous week was President Nikolai Sarkozy’s promise to consider a French revenue-neutral carbon tax and his urging that Europe examine the option of a European levy on imports from non-carbon-taxing countries. Sarkozy’s pledge puts pressure on the United States to do the same, a point made by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen as President Sarkozy arrived in the U.S. this week for meetings with President Bush.

Next Week

Special Invitation to NYC-area readers: CTC co-director Dan Rosenblum will be featured at a NYC Bar Association "Tax vs. Cap" debate in mid-Manhattan next Tuesday morning, Nov. 13. Go here for location, time and registration.

Congressional Support Grows for a Carbon Tax

In our last newsletter we reported on carbon tax bills introduced by Representatives Stark (D-CA) and Larson (D-CT). The two have now joined forces, with Rep. Stark and eight other members co-sponsoring the Larson bill. (Our Bills page has a list of the 10 sponsors and a summary of both bills.)

We stopped by Rep. Larson’s office recently in Washington and were deeply impressed with his staff’s and Mr. Larson’s commitment to a carbon tax. The news that Rep. Larson, the fifth highest member of the Democratic House leadership, will be participating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali next month is also heartening.

Eclipsing this, however, is the hybrid carbon tax proposal floated by the venerable John Dingell, a member of the House of Representatives since 1955 and long-time chair of its Commerce & Energy Committee. Rep. Dingell’s staff reached out to us in late June for help estimating the carbon, petroleum and revenue impacts of a carbon tax that also included a surcharge on gasoline and jet fuel. Over the ensuing three months we refined our tax impact model (see below) and ran at least a dozen scenarios, which we discussed with his staff in a stream of telephone discussions and e-mails.

When Mr. Dingell released his proposal on the evening of Sept. 26, we were ready with a blog post on both our Web site and Gristmill, branding the idea a "hybrid carbon tax," praising Dingell’s vision, and quantifying the impacts. We’ve also taken the fight to those of our fellow environmentalists who have let their battles with Dingell over car mileage standards blind them to what Dingell calls The Power in the Carbon Tax. (For the record, we strongly support tougher CAFÉ standards but we regard the hybrid carbon tax as an even bigger breakthrough.) Mr. Dingell expressed his gratitude in a phone call last month. (Click here to participate in a public poll on Dingell’s hybrid carbon tax on his Web site.)

Needless to say, a carbon tax bill won’t pass Congress until 2009 at the earliest — public education is needed non-stop until the White House and Congress resolve to make carbon pricing a central element in climate policy. CTC is laying the intellectual and political foundation now for action in 2009.

Carbon Tax Research — National and State

Seeking out and advancing knowledge about carbon taxes is a big part of our mission. To analyze Rep. Dingell’s draft proposals, we scaled up our state-level carbon tax spreadsheet into a national 4-Sector Model — so-called because it disaggregates the U.S. carbon economy into four discrete pieces (electricity, automobiles, airlines and "other"). The model now encompasses the entire U.S. and includes the capability to model a supplemental tax on petroleum products (gasoline and jet fuel, in this case). Advocates and legislative staff in Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, California and Minnesota are currently using it to estimate impacts of state-level carbon taxes.

Much is still to be done on the modeling front. Our next steps are to incorporate "upstream" carbon costs in fuel prices and to reconcile our more-conservative model results with the "bigger bang" predicted by carbon tax supporters at the American Enterprise Institute and several resource think-tanks. We’re also stepping up our cataloging of carbon pricing research. Work at universities and think tanks is proliferating, and we want to establish CTC as the foremost English-language clearinghouse.

Media Continue to Rely on the Carbon Tax Center

Maybe it’s our revamped Web site. Or maybe carbon taxing is moving into the mainstream. Or both. CTC has been in the news a lot lately. Some recent highlights: mentions in two separate on-line New York Times articles on the same day (Friday, Nov. 2), in the news story reporting on Mayor Bloomberg’s carbon-tax address in Seattle, and in an analytical piece, The Real Climate Debate: To Cap or to Tax? • publication of a feature story on carbon taxes in Tikkun magazine • mentions in Conde Nast’s Portfolio.com, Forbes.com, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and literally hundreds of environmental and climate blogs. • We maintained our standing as the leading site on Google for those searching "carbon tax." • Our Web site continues to receive over 500 visits each week.

Going Forward

The next eighteen months are shaping up as the period in which competing policies to reduce carbon emissions will be examined for their effectiveness, cost and political viability.

CTC’s strategic goal continues to be to shape that debate and properly frame the issues by working with environmental organizations and other allies to solidify support for the concept of putting a price on carbon, while educating and inspiring opinion leaders, grassroots organizations and decision-makers to go for the "gold standard" of carbon taxes rather than settling for the less predictable, less transparent, less universal and less equitable cap-and-trade approach.

As The Times noted last week:

"Making the price predictable is the most significant move you can make to control global warming," says Charles Komanoff, a long-time environmental economist who [with Dan Rosenblum] has recently started the Carbon Tax Center as an advocacy group. "It would tilt literally billions of energy critical decisions toward using less carbon."

If you agree, please help us as we develop the intellectual ammunition, provide technical assistance, assist local, state and federal carbon tax initiatives, energize a broad coalition of interest groups, and mobilize public support for fair and effective carbon taxes.

CTC is proving its effectiveness daily. To continue playing our essential role, we need your financial help. We gratefully thank all of you who have already donated to CTC. We ask carbon tax supporters who are not yet CTC contributors to become so today.

You can contribute to CTC in three ways, of which two are tax-deductible:

  • Tax-deductible:

Write a check or money order to ELPC (Environmental Law & Policy Center), writing Carbon Tax Center in the memo line; mail it to ELPC at 35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60601. ELPC is CTC’s fiscal sponsor.

  • Tax-deductible:

Make an on-line contribution via Groundspring by clicking on the DONATE NOW box on our website, www.carbontax.org.

  • Not deductible:

Write a check or money order to Carbon Tax Center and send it to our New York City mailing address: CTC, 636 Broadway, Room 602, New York, NY 10012.

Please be as generous as you can, and please donate today. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Charles Komanoff
Daniel W. Rosenblum

Filed under Carbon Tax,Newsletter

A Convenient Tax — Issue #2

06/4/2007 by Charles Komanoff

Welcome to the second issue of A Convenient Tax, the Carbon Tax Center’s newsletter, summarizing our progress in April and May. (For Issue #1, click here.)

The big carbon-tax developments this spring have been (i) the first overt expressions of Congressional support for a carbon tax, (ii) a torrent of criticism of the competing “cap-and-trade” approach by editorial writers and other opinion leaders, and (iii) a significant increase in CTC’s visibility on the national stage.

Congressional Support for a Carbon Tax

Two milestones were reached in the national political arena in April.

First, California Democrat Fortney “Pete” Stark, the second-most senior member of the House Ways & Means Committee, introduced the first carbon-tax bill in Congress in a generation. The Save Our Climate Act, filed on April 26 and co-sponsored by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), would impose a $10 per ton (of carbon) charge on coal, petroleum and natural gas when the fuel is either extracted or imported. The charge would increase by $10 every year until U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have dropped 80 percent from 1990.

Prior to introducing the Save Our Climate Act, Rep. Stark’s staff reached out to CTC for guidance on carbon tax administrative and technical issues, as well as the optimal tax level, While the tax rate in the bill is several times less than what CTC is urging, we support it as an essential first step in the long legislative process, especially since the ramped-up tax in future years would tip millions of future carbon-critical decisions in land use, manufacturing and household purchasing toward carbon-conserving alternatives.

How quickly the Stark bill receives a hearing will depend on both the national political climate and the interest shown by other Ways & Means members. CTC has met with staff for other Committee members, as well as for Reps. McDermott and Stark, to review fine points and to convey the message that support for carbon taxing is growing in the grass roots.

In the other political milestone, Sen. Chris Dodd has built a strong carbon tax plank into his presidential election platform. Sen. Dodd, a Democrat who has represented Connecticut in the Senate since 1980, is making a Corporate Carbon Tax the centerpiece of his plan to eliminate 80% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“I don’t know how we can possibly talk about honestly getting to the [carbon] number we need to get to if you’re going to just dance around [the tax],” Dodd said as he campaigned in New Hampshire in April. “Price is the last real barrier.” Sen. Dodd has forthrightly put a carbon tax on the home page of his campaign Web site. In fact, on May 31 Sen. Dodd released a new television ad to run in Iowa and New Hampshire that promotes what he refers to as “a courageous corporate carbon tax to transform American industry.” CTC regards the senator’s corporate carbon tax as a lead-in to a universal carbon tax that can propagate incentives for carbon reductions throughout our economy.

Editorial Writers Back Tax, Take Whacks at Cap-and-Trade

When we two (Charles & Dan) resolved last fall to form the Carbon Tax Center, we looked forward to tangling with anti-tax ideologues on the Right and advocates of state intervention on the Left, not to mention Flat-Earthers who deny climate change altogether. We never anticipated that we would be debating with our friends and allies in the environmental community, but that became inevitable when, just before we launched announced the CTC, four large environmental organizations teamed up with major corporations to back carbon cap-and-trade regimes through the U.S. Climate Action Partnership.

CTC has no quarrel with the notion of tradeable emission allowances. In fact we credit the sulfur dioxide permit program enacted as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments with helping drive down acid rain emissions from power generation. But the scale and complexity of the carbon problem positively dwarf those of sulfur. (Block That Metaphor Department? We have likened the disparity to the difference between a French mud hut and the Palace of Versailles, in an article in Gristmill; and to the difference between a Mozart sonata and a Wagnerian opera, in an invited
post on the on-line Portfolio magazine
.) Our fear is that with so many billions at stake, any carbon cap-and-trade program will necessarily be beset by crippling delays, inside-dealing and favoritism run wild. The result will be to disgust and disillusion the American public so that it turns against putting a price on carbon emissions altogether.

On this score, CTC finds itself in fine company. In just the past two months, outspoken criticisms of carbon cap-and-trade proposals have been published in Reason magazine, the Financial Times (U.K.), the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times Science Section “TierneyLab” blog, to name just a handful. Of critical importance, each piece has been effusive in its support of a carbon tax. As we were posting this newsletter, the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute weighed in with an extraordinarily cogent report comparing a carbon tax with cap-and-trade that unambiguously backs carbon taxing as “the superior policy option.”

These testimonials are collected on our Supporters and Tax vs. Cap pages. The L.A. Times editorial is especially noteworthy. The sole editorial in the May 28 (Sunday) edition, the 1,600-word Time To Tax Carbon made as resounding a case for a carbon tax – both in preference to cap-and-trade and for its capacity to stimulate carbon-reducing investment and innovation – as we’ve seen. Here’s one passage:

A carbon tax simply imposes a tax for polluting based on the amount emitted, thus encouraging polluters to clean up and entrepreneurs to come up with alternatives. The tax is constant and predictable. It doesn’t require the creation of a new energy trading market, and it can be collected by existing state and federal agencies. It’s straightforward and much harder to manipulate by special interests than the politicized process of allocating carbon credits.

Reading manifestos like this, it’s hard to resist the feeling that a shift is underway from cap-and-trade to a carbon tax. Indeed, a few days after the L.A. Times ran its editorial, an editor at a popular environmental blog wrote to say:

It’s been a slow process of education for me. What brought me around to my pro-tax position is, ironically, my libertarian streak. The essential libertarian insight is that complexity and bureaucracy are invitations to corruption. Big business will try their best to game the system. We know that. Politicians will be subject to lobbying and financial support. We know that. So the best route is the one that minimizes complexity and bureaucracy.

Since the biggest rap against a carbon tax has been its lack of popular support, “conversions” to the carbon tax camp such as that above could have a snowball effect, as each new adherent makes success more plausible. Part of our job at the Carbon Tax Center is to help the world see how rapidly the snowball is growing. We hope to have more to report in future newsletters.

CTC’s Visibility Continues to Grow

  • CTC co-director Dan Rosenblum appeared on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer – a substantive interview enabling Dan to make the case for a carbon tax to an aware nationwide audience. Click here to see the interview.
  • Articles by CTC co-director Charles Komanoff in Gristmill,
    Common Dreams, and Conde Nast’s Portfolio.com,
    along with quotes in the New York Times and the Detroit Free Press.
  • We surpassed Wikipedia to become the leading site on Google for those searching “carbon tax.” CTC’s Web site, www.carbontax.org continues to
    receive almost 1,000 visits each week from across the USA as well as Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Other CTC Highlights from April and May:

We are continuing to provide technical and logistical support to advocates organizing for state-level carbon taxes in Colorado, Washington State, New York State and California. We have greatly improved our state-level spreadsheet model for estimating the CO2 reductions and revenue generation from different levels of carbon taxes. The model now allows for time lags in demand response, and it reflects supply-side incentives (toward lower-carbon fuels and power generation) as well as demand-side conservation. We hope to “grow” the model to the national level and post it on our Web site soon.

Going Forward

The next two years
will be the crucial period during which competing policies to reduce carbon emissions will be examined for their effectiveness, cost and political viability. CTC’s strategic goals focus on shaping that debate and properly framing the issues by:

  • Working with environmental organizations and other allies to solidify support for the concept of “putting a price on carbon.”
  • Educating opinion leaders, grassroots organizations and decision-makers that while cap-and-trade is also a vehicle to put a price on carbon, carbon taxes are far superior because they provide a more predictable and less volatile price and are transparent, immediate, universal and equitable.

We anticipate engaging in these activities during 2007-2008:

  • Continuing to develop intellectual ammunition on key issues including revenue recycling, tax equity, “co-benefits” of a carbon tax (e.g., for national security), and the potential “bang” for each carbon tax “buck.”
  • Providing technical assistance to opinion leaders, grassroots organizations and decision-makers, including
    responding to requests for technical information from political campaigns.
  • Assisting local and state-level carbon tax initiatives.
  • Spearheading a sign-on statement by economists and other experts calling a tax on carbon emissions more effective, transparent and equitable than a carbon cap-and-trade regime.
  • Working with a broad coalition of interest groups (labor, environmental, economic justice, national security, etc.) to support carbon taxes through a national sign-on statement and other actions.

It’s clear that CTC is proving its effectiveness every day. But we can’t continue to play our essential role without your financial help. We heartily thank those of you who have already donated to CTC. We ask carbon tax supporters who are not yet
CTC contributors to become so today.

You can contribute to CTC in three ways, of which two are tax-deductible:

  • Tax-deductible:
    Write a check or money order to ELPC (Environmental Law & Policy Center), writing Carbon Tax Center in the memo line; mail it to ELPC at 35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60601. ELPC is CTC’s fiscal sponsor.
  • Tax-deductible :
    Make an on-line contribution via Groundspring by clicking on the DONATE NOW box on our website, www.carbontax.org.
  • Not deductible:
    Write a check or money order to Carbon Tax Center and send it to our New York City mailing address: CTC,
    636 Broadway, Room 602, New York, NY 10012.

Just as a carbon tax now will send climate-appropriate price signals to businesses and individuals and help lock in low-carbon investment for the long haul, your financial support today will enable CTC to build on our current successes and
chart a growth trajectory. Please be as generous as you can, and please donate today. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Charles Komanoff
Daniel W. Rosenblum

Filed under Carbon Tax,Newsletter

A Convenient Tax – Issue #1

04/4/2007 by Daniel Rosenblum

(Note: We’ve changed the newsletter’s name. While the “truth” about global climate change may have been inconvenient, the carbon tax for combating it is straightforward, transparent and simple to administer — in a word, convenient! — CK & DR)

Welcome to the first issue of A Convenient Tax, the Carbon Tax Center’s newsletter. It’s been a very successful initial two months. Here are highlights.

Our Successful Launch

In just two short months the Carbon Tax Center (“CTC”) has established a strong presence in Washington DC, New York City, within the environmental community and throughout the Blogosphere. Here’s a quick snapshot of what CTC has accomplished since our Jan. 22 start.

  • Created the first Web site (www.carbontax.org ) devoted to taxing carbon emissions.
  • Formed a working partnership with veteran Washington (DC) environmental advocates who are committed to advancing a carbon tax in the current (110th) Congress and enacting one as soon as possible.
  • Provided technical assistance to legislative staff of a senior House Ways & Means Committee member (and gained a higher tax level in his anticipated carbon tax bill).
  • Raised probing questions about the “cap-and-trade” approach advocated by some large environmental groups and corporations, while maintaining a united front on the necessity of putting a price on carbon emissions,
  • Presented the case for “Carbon Taxes First” to an overflow Capitol Hill briefing organized by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), and at other meetings in New York, Washington and Westchester County (NY).
  • Developed a preliminary analysis suggesting that CTC’s proposed 10-year phased-in $370/ton carbon tax (ramped up by $37/ton, the equivalent of a 10c/gallon addition to petroleum prices, each year) could reduce U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide by at least one-third.
  • Shared information and strategy with carbon tax advocates in several dozen states, including developers of carbon tax proposals for Colorado, New York and Washington, DC.

CTC Media Highlights

  • CTC’s comprehensive, accessible web site attracts 100-150 visits a day from across the USA as well as Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia, making www.carbontax.org the #2-ranked site on Google for those searching “carbon tax,” surpassed only by Wikipedia. Note: On April 12 we leapfrogged Wikipedia, making us #1 on Google.
  • Prominent and complimentary coverage of CTC’s launch in the online version of the New York Times in late January, in Times columnist John Tierney’s Science Blog.
  • Time Magazine‘s use of CTC’s estimate of the carbon-reduction impact of a carbon tax in its Global Warming Survival Guide (under solution #5: Pay The Carbon Tax ).
  • Strong presence in online discussions of carbon taxes and cap-and-trade, including repeated mentions of CTC in Gristmill and Slate.
  • Attack on carbon taxing and CTC by climate deniers at Accuracy In Media.

Going Forward

The climate debate “has shifted incredibly quickly,” wrote New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt this week, and “the political debate now revolves around what … action should be [taken].” The next two years are the crucial period during which competing policies to reduce carbon emissions will be examined for their effectiveness, cost and political viability. CTC’s strategic goals focus on shaping that debate and properly framing the issues by:

  • Working with environmental organizations and other allies to solidify support for the concept of “putting a price on carbon.”
  • Gradually educating opinion leaders, grassroots organizations and decision-makers that while cap-and-trade is also a vehicle to put a price on carbon, carbon taxes are far superior because they provide a more predictable and less volatile price and are transparent, immediate, universal and equitable.

While CTC’s action plan will necessarily remain flexible, we anticipate engaging in the following activities during the next one to two years:

  • Continuing to develop intellectual ammunition on key issues including revenue recycling, tax equity, “co-benefits” of a carbon tax (e.g., for national security), and the potential “bang” for each carbon tax “buck.”
  • Providing technical assistance to opinion leaders, grassroots organizations and decision-makers, including responding to requests for technical information from political campaigns.
  • Assisting local and state-level carbon tax initiatives seeking to build on Boulder’s partial carbon tax adopted last November.
  • Spearheading a sign-on statement by economists and other experts calling a tax on carbon emissions more effective, transparent and equitable than a carbon cap-and-trade regime.
  • Working with a broad coalition of interest groups (labor, environmental, economic justice, national security, etc.) to support carbon taxes through a national sign-on statement and other actions.

That’s how things look at this juncture (April 1, 2007). It’s clear to us that CTC is proving its effectiveness every day. But we can’t continue to play our essential role without your financial help. We heartily thank all of you who have already donated to CTC. We ask carbon tax supporters who are not yet CTC contributors to become so today.

You can contribute to CTC in three ways, of which two are tax-deductible:

  • Tax-deductible: Write a check or money order to ELPC (Environmental Law & Policy Center), writing Carbon Tax Center in the memo line; mail it to ELPC at 35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60601. ELPC is CTC’s fiscal sponsor.
  • Tax-deductible : Make an on-line contribution via Groundspring by clicking on the DONATE NOW box on our website, www.carbontax.org.
  • Not deductible: Write a check or money order to Carbon Tax Center and send it to our New York City mailing address: CTC, 636 Broadway, Room 602, New York, NY 10012.

Just as a carbon tax now will send climate-appropriate price signals to businesses and individuals and help lock in low-carbon investment for the long haul, your financial support today will enable CTC to build on our current successes and chart a growth trajectory. Please be as generous as you can, and please donate today. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Charles Komanoff
Daniel W. Rosenblum

Filed under Newsletter