Komanoff: The Time Has Never Been More Right for a Carbon Tax (U.S. News)
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Komanoff asks: If efficiency hasn’t cut energy use, then what? (Grist)
Komanoff: Senate Bill Death = Win for Climate (The Nation)
Q&A: Charles Komanoff (Mother Jones)
Everyone’s 2017 was eventful . . . and disruptive . . . and difficult.
From January into April, we, like many of you, marched and protested while trying to see a way forward for carbon taxes under a denialist U.S. regime.
We spoke at gatherings across New York City. We published an article in The Nation magazine decrying left-green dogmatism that doomed the campaign in Washington state to enact the USA’s first carbon tax. We allied ourselves with the Climate Leadership Council’s audacious Republican-branded carbon tax proposal. We published a 120-page guide to state carbon tax prospects compiled by Yoram Bauman, the economist-activist who spearheaded the Washington referendum.
By then we were 100 days into a new administration whose cruelty and heedlessness were sickening. At a climate march in New Jersey, we called the complicit U.S. Republican Party “a racket to restore patriarchy, extractionism and white supremacy.” This truth grew even sharper a month later when Congressional Republicans cheered Trump’s repudiation of the Paris Climate Agreement.
We kept working. We retooled CTC’s carbon tax spreadsheet model, incorporating the latest data, snazzing up the user interface and graphics, and for the first time apportioning refinery emissions among their “downstream” sectors — driving, freight and air travel (jet fuel). With this change and the ongoing shrinkage in coal-fired power generation, driving is gaining on electricity for the dubious distinction of most climate-damaging U.S. sector.
Meanwhile, a campaign for congestion pricing in New York City — fees charged to vehicles driven into and within gridlocked city centers — was gathering steam amid meltdowns in the city’s mass transit system, worsening traffic gridlock, and a void of political leadership. When Gotham’s SUV- and helicopter-riding mayor crowned himself leader of state-and-local-government resistance to the White House, we upbraided him on live radio, setting off a media frenzy that continues today.
But our criticism went beyond tabloid fodder; it pointed to the persistent gap between public postures and personal acts — a breach that carbon taxes could help repair.
Our pivot from national carbon tax campaigning accelerated in August, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo unexpectedly announced his support for congestion pricing. Shortly after, the analytics team advising the governor reached out to me: Would I help them deploy my monster congestion pricing model to score different congestion pricing plans?
Of course I said yes and plunged into massive updating and retooling of the model, which continues as I write this post. Details of the governor’s proposal are expected in a few days and the public debate and legislative donnybrook will almost certainly extend for several months. The fight is important, not just for the sustainability of New York and other global cities, as I argued last week on Streetsblog, but to finally establish in the USA the principle at the heart of carbon taxing: that the most surefire and equitable way to reduce pollution is to make polluters pay for it. [Addendum: The details can be found in my January Streetsblog post, The Fix NYC Congestion Pricing Plan Looks Solid — If Cuomo Aims High, which includes a link to the governor’s panel’s report.]
CTC’s program for 2018
At the national level, the main event by far for carbon taxing this year is to bring an end to Republican climate denialism. This could mean routing the GOP in the midterms, or some other path to repudiating the party’s nearly monolithic rejection of science-based climate policy and its all-out embrace of fossil fuels. It may also require, in the states, dismantling the gerrymandering that, combined with Democrats’ “clustering” in urban precincts, entrenches Republicans’ control of Congress far beyond their share of Americans’ votes.
I’m sorry to say that the notion of a bipartisan federal carbon tax is barely on life-support, as we wrote here last week, decrying the passivity of the Climate Solutions Caucus — the Noah’s Ark-like conclave that we formerly touted as a possible incubator for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Nevertheless, CTC will continue our technical support and policy advice to members of Citizens Climate Lobby and to the Climate Leadership Council. But we harbor no illusions that current Republican officeholders will provide political leadership or even partnership for meaningful carbon pricing legislation.
There’s a corollary: it may be time to rethink revenue-neutral carbon taxes. As much as we love carbon fee-and-dividend, with its powerful logic of linking rising carbon taxes to rising “green checks,” the revulsion against Trump and the G.O.P. could make it harder to sell progressives on programs with a seemingly middle-of-the-road cast. We also can’t dismiss arguments by Frank Ackerman and others that the “fat tail” of climate worst-cases demands national mobilization on a scale that only government action can generate.
Along with political action and some soul-searching, CTC is primed this year to
- Monitor and parse actual carbon emission reductions in states, sectors and countries with carbon pricing, including the 9 RGGI states;
- Assess and fact-check claims of economies decarbonizing without carbon pricing;
- Expand our networking with state and national carbon tax advocates in the U.S. and overseas;
- Seek common ground on carbon taxing with environmental and climate justice advocates;
- Explore alliances with progressives working to meld carbon pricing with “mobilization” strategies;
- Seek out Republicans-conservatives who have genuine interest in non-token carbon taxes;
- Gain a better understanding of the possibilities and limits in fossil fuel divestment and litigation campaigns;
- Continue improving and disseminating our carbon tax spreadsheet model;
- Restock CTC’s Web site;
- Keep writing op-eds and magazine pieces promoting carbon taxes;
- Use our blog to post commentary on unfolding political developments, policy proposals and energy trends.
As we head into the new year, we thank you for your past support and your partnership. Contributions to support our work in 2108 (please use this link) will, as always, play a valuable role in keeping CTC edgy, timely and forward-focused.
Could Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s declaration in August that congestion pricing for New York City “is an idea whose time has come” bring needed momentum to carbon taxing?
A strong thread connects congestion pricing and carbon taxes. Just as limited street space in New York warrants a congestion fee, the atmosphere’s limited capacity to absorb carbon necessitates a carbon emissions fee.
Congestion pricing levies fees on vehicle travel into or within the core of a city. Singapore, London and Stockholm have deployed such fees for decades to discourage unnecessary traffic and raise revenue to improve transit and road infrastructure.
I’ve been quantifying the benefits of congestion pricing for New York City city and mobilizing public support for well over a decade. The campaign I’m allied with, called Move NY, proposes tolling car and truck traffic into Manhattan’s central business district, surcharging yellow cabs and Ubers circulating within the CBD, and lowering tolls on outlying bridges that have been used as cash cows to fund transit.
The governor controls the city’s mass transit, and political tradition dictates that congestion pricing legislation must run through Albany. Since Cuomo’s “August surprise” — he rebuffed the idea throughout his tenure as governor — I’ve re-directed my advocacy from carbon taxes to congestion pricing.
That’s a shift in venue but not in philosophy. Both types of fees incentivize all of us who would fire up fossil fuels or occupy road space to do so sparingly. They also help bring forth investment and innovation in alternatives: renewables and efficiency in the case of carbon; transit, cycling and density in the case of urban transport.
A congestion charge for New York will establish in America the foundational principle for a carbon tax: safeguarding our climate and other public goods requires that we charge for uses that damage or deplete it.
Cuomo’s announcement also validates conservative luminary Milton Friedman’s dictum about crises and change:
Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.
How has the political impossibility of congestion pricing in New York given way to an air of inevitability? As Friedman prescribed, a crisis was required. It came this year, as a twin storm of gridlocked streets and cascading subway delays. But years of concerted advocacy were required to blast through political inertia and lay the crisis at Cuomo’s doorstep.
And true to Friedman’s dictum, NYC advocates for transit and livable streets have developed alternatives: the Move NY plan has dozens of elements that together can unsnarl the streets and modernize transit, as the New York Times reported last month in this profile of the “three amigos” leading the plan: traffic guru “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, political campaigner (and CTC board chair) Alex Matthiessen, and myself.
We don’t yet know if Cuomo’s congestion proposal, which is expected next month, will be strong medicine or weak tea. But as one long-term advocate said last week, the argument is no longer whether to charge a congestion price, but how much.
The lesson for climate campaigners is clear: our job is to keep building the philosophical and political groundwork for carbon taxing.
That way, when the seeming political impossibility of carbon taxing gives way to the aura of inevitability, the carbon tax that emerges can be robust, comprehensive and fair.
In the meantime, if you live or work in New York City or State, voice your support your city and state rep’s and urge them to support the Move NY congestion pricing plan.
And don’t stop organizing, teaching and advocating for U.S. carbon taxes.
(This post was researched and co-authored by CTC volunteer Diane Englander.)
A prominent Minnesota politician is hitching her candidacy for governor to a carbon dividend plan designed to reduce climate-damaging emissions and create jobs in clean energy.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto unveiled her Minnesota-Powered Clean Energy Plan on Sept. 20. The landing page of her gubernatorial campaign website depicts her on a rooftop driving home a solar inverter with a socket wrench. “Rebecca Otto walks the talk,” the page proclaims, urging voters to elect “a Governor who will actually do something about climate change.”
Otto’s plan is centered on a carbon charge that would begin at $40 per metric ton of CO2 and increase by 10% each year — a trajectory steep enough to cut carbon emissions by almost 30 percent (below 2005 levels) within a decade if applied nationally, according to CTC’s carbon tax model (Excel file), though not as much if applied only in a single state.
Three-fourths of the carbon revenues from Otto’s proposal would fund “Quarterly Clean Energy Cash Dividends” that Otto estimates will pay $600 a year to every Minnesota resident, with the dividend growing in tandem with the rising carbon price. The remaining 25% of the new revenue would fund “Clean Energy Refundable Tax Credits” for up to 30% of the cost of household energy-efficiency investments including electric cars, solar panels, triple-pane windows and insulation, and heat pumps.
The tax credits will “create tens of thousands of good-paying new private-sector jobs — often paying more than $80,000 per year — in every community across Minnesota,” Otto says, with “the work able to be financed with no money down” in many cases.
The 54-year-old Otto is one of six aspirants to the nomination of the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Minnesota Democratic Party organization has been known since the 1940s. Others include a U.S. Representative and the Mayor of St. Paul. Local newspapers suggest as many as a dozen Republicans may also contend to replace Gov. Mark Dayton, the two-term incumbent who is not seeking re-election. The race is viewed as “wide open” by Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier.
An Illinois native who now lives in the small town of Marine on St. Croix, northeast of the Twin Cities, Otto is serving her third consecutive four-term as state auditor. In 2006 she handily defeated the incumbent Republican, then won by a squeaker in 2010, becoming the only Democrat ever re-elected to the office. In her 2014 re-election she won by her widest margin to date, outpacing Gov. Dayton by six percentage points.
Otto’s plan is a variant of the fee and dividend approach espoused by the non-partisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby and, more recently, the Republican-leaning Climate Leadership Council. It charges fossil fuel providers a fee pegged to their fuels’ carbon content and returns revenues to households as equal “dividends.” Her 25% allocation to clean energy tax credits can be seen as a pragmatic concession to business and job concerns that invariably arise in state-level carbon-pricing campaigning.
Otto is arguably the highest-profile U.S. political candidate to attach a campaign to an explicit and transparent price on carbon. She says that her 11 years as state auditor have taught her that Minnesotans want economic opportunity along with solutions to pressing problems such as climate change. She also views her program as a counterweight to “fossil fuel interests [that] spend billions to control our democracy and sow doubt and confusion [to] protect their profits at the expense of Americans.”
Minnesota has a history of seeking to address climate change. In the 1990s, state activists including the St. Paul-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance mounted a campaign for a billion-dollar state “tax shift” to reduce income and property taxes by taxing energy and fuels. While their proposal didn’t make it into law, it laid the groundwork for later carbon tax efforts. Since 1993 the Minnesota legislature has required the state Public Utilities Commission to incorporate air pollution costs into decision-making on power plants. In July the PUC ordered this “shadow price” raised to a range of $9.05 to $43.06 per short ton of CO2 by 2020. (Utility Dive gives details and explains the wide range.)
Otto’s plan would go much further, of course, embedding actual carbon costs in fuel and electricity prices and perhaps igniting a spark among the other 49 states. In an article this week for Scientific American, States Can Lead the Way on Climate Change, Otto wrote that “If other state leaders adopt similar proposals, the 2018 midterm elections could become a watershed moment when America seizes on a new state-level approach to tackling climate change and finally begins to steer the Titanic away from the iceberg.”
At a minimum, Otto’s campaign ensures that not just climate change but the idea of actually charging for carbon emissions will be front and center in next year’s Minnesota gubernatorial race. If she wins, however, her proposal still faces two potential hurdles: the state legislature and the Minnesota state constitution, whose Article 14, Section 10 could be interpreted as requiring that “excise taxes” on gasoline be paid into the state’s highway distribution fund (see discussion in CTC’s report, Opportunities for Carbon Taxing at the State Level, pp 91-92). However, if the carbon price is construed otherwise, e.g., as a fee, Otto’s proposal could be in the clear.
To view the latest census data on U.S. household incomes is to marvel at — and be appalled by — the unequal distribution of income in America.
In 2016, according to official data released last month, the lowest-earning one-third of U.S. households received just one-twelfth of total money income, which the Census Bureau defines as “the arithmetic sum of money wages and salaries, net income from self-employment, and income other than earnings.”
At the other end of the scale, the top 7 percent earning households — those with incomes of at least $200,000 — pulled in 27 percent of U.S. income last year. Note the symmetry: those at the top earn four times their pro rata share, while those in the broad bottom earn only one-fourth of theirs.
Stark as these figures are, they don’t capture the full extent of the wealth gaps — the one between the rich and the middle class, and the other between the middle and the poor. These gaps accumulate over generations, as the New York Times noted this week in its trenchant dive into the data, Bump in U.S. Incomes Doesn’t Erase 50 Years of Pain.
These disparities underlay Bernie Sanders’ “political revolution” campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination last year. And they added fuel to the sense of white grievance that energized Donald Trump’s successful run for the presidency. They also bolster the case for “carbon dividends” — the idea of distributing all or nearly all carbon tax revenues equally to U.S. households popularized as carbon fee and dividend by the non-partisan Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), and more recently advanced by the Republican-led Climate Leadership Council (CLC) under the rubric of carbon dividends.
Using incomes as a proxy for carbon emissions — a rough approximation but a reasonable one, given income-based differences not only in using electricity, gasoline and heating and aviation fuels but also carbon embodied in making and shipping consumer goods — we’ve used the census data to estimate that if all carbon revenues are returned to the public, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of U.S. households will take in as much or more money in the form of carbon dividends as they would pay out in higher fuel and goods prices due to carbon taxes.
Our figure jibes with the U.S. Treasury Department’s finding in its Jan. 2017 report, Methodology for Analyzing a Carbon Tax, that the lowest seven income deciles will be net beneficiaries of a carbon dividends plan (see Table 6) . Our estimate of the share of U.S. households that will be net beneficiaries under carbon diviends, 65.9 percent before rounding, is up slightly from our prior 65.1 percent “better off” finding based on 2012 incomes. Among those 65.9 percent, which encompass 83 million households, the average gain (carbon dividend netted by carbon tax expense) per $100 billion in total carbon revenue is $415 per year.
While that net gain may seem small — just $8 per week — the revenue amount on which it’s based corresponds to a very modest carbon tax, around $23 per ton of CO2. A robust carbon tax that climbed to a level several times higher would generate correspondingly larger net dividends for the benefiting households. Moreover, the more indigent the household, the greater its estimated net gain.
The breakeven household income point is a shade over $85,000, a level 45 percent greater than the 2016 median household income of $59.000; “typical” households will be net gainers if their income is less, and losers if more. Of course, if the share of carbon revenues dedicated to revenue return is reduced, the percentage of households kept whole under carbon fee and dividend shrinks as well. Our calculations suggest that around two-thirds of carbon revenues must be returned as dividends in order for half of households to have their carbon tax fully offset. (See line chart below.)
A conundrum for the climate movement
The ability of carbon dividends to lift incomes of the bottom half or more of U.S. households creates a conundrum for the climate movement, especially now that Republicans, who traditionally align with capital and wealth, are beginning to sign up for carbon dividend proposals.
The progenitors of CLC’s carbon dividend plan, James Baker and George Shultz, are “exemplars of the outcast center-right GOP establishment,” as I described them recently in the Washington Spectator. At least as impressively, 28 current GOP U.S. House members have joined CCL’s Climate Solutions Caucus and thus signaled their possible openness to a carbon fee that reserves carbon revenues for dividends instead of applying them to cut corporate income taxes.
Yet many on the left are insisting that carbon revenues, or at least a large share of them, be invested in government-administered or financed clean-energy development and transportation infrastructure, especially in so-called frontline communities. Because each dollar of carbon revenue can’t be spent twice, the competing demands of carbon dividends vs. “just transition” proposals threaten to divide the climate movement — as they already did in last fall’s divisive I-732 carbon-tax referendum in Washington state, which I reported this past winter in The Nation magazine.
Ironically, it’s possible (indeed, I believe it’s likely) that allocating carbon revenues to dividends would more reliably benefit low-income families more than would spending the revenues on sustainable energy and transportation. Considering further that revenue-neutral dividend approaches might eventually garner meaningful support from some Republicans, it seems self-defeating for left-leaning or other climate advocates to reject them out of hand.
For our part, CTC supports any viable carbon tax proposal, revenue-neutral or not, provided it would not demonstrably exacerbate economic inequality or other social injustice. Thus far we have refrained from endorsing the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act introduced in July by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), pending analysis of the regressive aspects of its proposed tax swap to reduce the corporate tax rate to 29 percent, from 35 percent, among other provisions.
That said, crunch time is coming for carbon dividend apostles. If the late summer hurricanes that have ravaged southeast Texas, Caribbean nations and much of Florida won’t induce Republican office-holders to spurn their party’s denialist orthodoxy and embrace revenue-neutral carbon taxing, it’s fair to ask if they’ll ever push for genuine climate solutions.
Note: This post was originally headlined “Worsening Economic Inequality Should Broaden Support for Carbon Dividends.”
Here we cross-post my article published in The Washington Spectator magazine yesterday, under the headline, A Carbon Tax With Legs. Except for a handful of line edits below, the two versions are the same.
For years, carbon tax advocates scoffed at the notion that Exxon-Mobil would back a tax on climate-damaging carbon pollution. We saw through the vague hypotheticals in which the oil giant cloaked its occasional expressions of support. Rather than invest political muscle in carbon tax legislation, Exxon for decades funded a network of deception that blocked meaningful action on climate.
So why are we taking notice that this past June Exxon formally endorsed a so-called Republican carbon tax plan? And why am I not up in arms that the plan entails granting Exxon and other fossil fuel owners immunity from legal damages for the climate havoc caused by extracting and burning these fuels?
It comes down to two reasons. First, there’s little chance that oil, coal, and gas companies could ever be made to pay more than token amounts for the ruin their products cause. Second, though bankrupting big oil may seem appetizing, it’s a distraction from the real goal of “demand destruction” — shrinking and eliminating the use of carbon-based fuels. The fastest path to that goal is through a robust carbon tax that manifests the harms caused by those fuels in the prices the marketplace sets for oil, coal, and gas, as the new proposal would do.
The carbon tax plan is dubbed “Republican” because its public faces are those of George Shultz and James Baker, exemplars of the outcast center-right GOP establishment. Two factors set this plan apart from current Republican orthodoxy.
First, the Shultz-Baker tax is no slouch. It would start at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide and rise from there, putting it miles above anything floated by oil companies or Republican officeholders. The price is high enough not only to nail the coffin on coal, by far the dirtiest fossil fuel, but also to put a serious dent in oil usage.
After a decade, according to my modeling, U.S. carbon emissions would be 27 percent less than last year and 36 percent less than in 2005, the standard baseline year in climate analysis.
Second is the equitable distribution of the carbon tax proceeds. They would be disbursed to American families as “dividends,” with equal revenue slices for all. This approach is not only income-progressive, making it a black swan among Republican policy ideas; it also buys support for raising the tax level over time, since the dividends would rise in tandem.
The Shultz-Baker tax may actually have political legs. While the current White House and Congress are tribally bound to vilify anything smacking of Al Gore or Barack Obama, the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential election could bring a reckoning on climate policy. With a majority of Americans in a recent poll calling climate change “extremely or very important” to them personally, Republicans may soon be seeking an escape hatch.
Three attributes in the Shultz-Baker proposal meant to win over the center-right are anathema to progressive elements in the climate movement. We can call them: no investment, no regulation, and no litigation.
“No investment” means dedicating the carbon revenues to the dividend checks, leaving none for government to construct carbon-free energy and transportation systems or to remediate the “frontline” communities most ravaged by fossil fuel infrastructure. Yet economists are convinced that the price-pull of the carbon tax will bring about this transition.
“No regulation” means rescinding EPA climate rules, principally the Obama-era Clean Power Plan prized by environmental powerhouses like the Sierra Club. But the Clean Power Plan is nearly “mission accomplished”: its target is already four-fifths met (and rising) as coal-fired electricity production is eaten away by natural gas, rising wind and solar power, and energy efficiency.
Finally, “no litigation” means letting carbon corporations and shareholders off the hook for producing and promoting their climate-ruining products — a bitter pill for the broad and insistent fossil fuel divestment and “Exxon knew” movement spearheaded so effectively by Bill McKibben. Yet would that be a grievous loss? Not according to Michael B. Gerrard, who directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School: “No lawsuits anywhere in the world seeking to hold fossil fuel companies liable for climate change have succeeded,” Gerrard told me recently via email. “Losing the ability to sue these companies for climate change would not be giving up a huge amount if it were in exchange for a large enough carbon tax.”
So is the promised carbon tax large (and solid) enough to justify dealing away the triad of litigation, investment, and regulation? My colleagues and I at the Carbon Tax Center believe it is.
The proposal is gathering steam. Not just Exxon but a dozen other corporations, including General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Pepsico, and three other oil companies (Shell, BP, and Total) formally endorsed the plan in June, along with the Nature Conservancy and the World Resources Institute. The political path for the Shultz-Baker carbon tax, not much wider than a human hair when it was launched last winter, is broadening rapidly.
Charles Komanoff, an economist, directs the Carbon Tax Center in New York City.
We’ve just posted the 2017 update to the Carbon Tax Center’s spreadsheet model of U.S. CO2 emissions. That’s our powerful but easy-to-use tool for predicting future emissions and revenues from possible U.S. carbon taxes. The model, which runs in Excel, accepts any carbon tax trajectory you feed it and spits out estimated economy-wide emission reductions and revenue generation, year by year.
Here’s what’s new:
1. A year of new data: The most obvious update is that we’ve incorporated 2016 baseline data on energy use, CO2 emissions and emission intensity into each of the model’s seven sectors.
2. Oil refining is now allocated to usage sectors: Last year we pulled oil refinery emissions out of “Other Petroleum Products” and into its own category, which accounted for an estimated 6.4% of U.S. CO2 emissions in 2015. We’ve now taken the logical next step and allocated those emissions into the economic sectors that require refining crude into product in the first place: autos (principally gasoline), freight (largely diesel), air travel (jet fuel) and the catch-all “other petroleum” encompassing home heating oil, propane, kerosene and residual oil used by industry. The lion’s share of Refineries’ 6.4% slice of CO2 emissions is now within autos; not only is gasoline by far the largest-volume petroleum product, it also consumes the most energy per unit among the major petroleum products. Although our model is again down to seven sectors, from eight, the change promises a more accurate prediction process by tying demand more closely to emissions.
3. Slimmed-down graphics: We’ve weeded out extraneous graphics so you can focus on what’s key: comparing emission reductions between the Climate Leadership Council’s carbon tax, a carbon tax pegged to the “social cost of carbon,” and future emissions absent carbon pricing. Other graphics break down emissions by sector (see graphic above), depict reductions in oil consumption and show carbon-tax revenues nationally and by household. Most importantly, you can input your own starting tax level and growth path and see how fast (or slowly) emissions fall. That’s still done in the spreadsheet’s “Summary” tab, which we’ve cleaned up to make it easier to navigate.
And don’t overlook these two features we added in 2015:
1. Smoothing the uptake of the carbon tax: The model now captures lags in households’ and businesses’ adaptation to more-expensive fossil fuels. You, the user, set the adaptation “ceiling” rate; the model automatically carries over any excess to future years. This feature is helpful for trajectories like the Whitehouse-Schatz bill, which kicks off with a bang at $45 per metric ton of carbon dioxide but then rises only slowly. Under our default setting, in which the economy in any year is assumed to be able to process only tax increments up to $12.50 per ton of CO2, the reductions from that initial $45/ton charge are spread over four years rather than, unrealistically, assigned to the first year.
2. Demand impacts vs. Supply side impacts: At the bottom of the Summary page is a new section comparing the projected CO2 reductions from changes in fuels’ carbon intensities (“supply side”) versus reductions from reduced energy usage (“demand side,” e.g., lower electricity purchases, less driving or flying). Under our default carbon tax — the one proposed by former Rep. Jim McDermott — an estimated 58% of projected CO2 reductions are on the supply side (i.e., due to decarbonization); a large minority, 42%, come about through reduced demand, illustrating that subsidies-only policies miss out on huge CO2 reductions. Indeed, clean-energy subsidies undercut decarbonization by stimulating energy usage through lowered energy prices, as we pointed out in our 2014 comments to the Senate Finance Committee.
Please download the spreadsheet — here’s the link again — and run it in Excel. See for yourself the relative efficacy of a carbon tax trajectory that increases by a fixed amount each year, as does the McDermott tax, vs. one like Whitehouse-Schatz that starts high but rises only by small, percentage-driven amounts. See also how much more quickly emissions decline under these and most other carbon tax scenarios, compared to the emission reductions from the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
As you work (play?) with the model, jot down your thoughts so you can tell us what works and what needs improving. Especially the latter, as we just wrapped the update an hour ago and there are bound to be glitches. Thanks.