For more years than I care to count, the Carbon Tax Center beseeched pollsters to take Americans’ temperature on revenue-neutral carbon taxes. Time and again we explained that polling about carbon taxes had to incorporate the option of returning revenues to households ― as most carbon tax bills would do. Otherwise, the tax came off as all stick and no carrot, and about as appealing to most folks as a cold shower.
Finally, a Stanford University-Resources for the Future poll asked that question. The results, released today, show that two-thirds of Americans support making corporations pay a price for carbon pollution, provided the revenues are redistributed, i.e., made revenue-neutral. The poll’s finding is the most powerful indication yet that the public is warming to carbon taxation as the premier policy for combating climate change.
Stanford and RFF commissioned the polling firm SSRS to interview 1,023 U.S. adults on climate-related issues in January. Two findings from the poll — that Americans of Hispanic descent are particularly climate-concerned, and that half of Republicans would favor a presidential candidate who supports fighting climate change — led to front-page New York Times stories. (Click here for the story on Hispanics and here for the story on Republicans.) The full poll was made publicly available today at a briefing at the National Press Club in Washington.
The poll was supervised by RFF university fellow Jon Krosnick, who has been polling Americans on climate change for two decades as head of Stanford’s Political Psychology Research Group. Its section on carbon taxation included these two questions:
Q92. Do you think the federal government should or should not require companies to pay a tax to the government for every ton of greenhouse gases the companies put out?
|Should not require||35|
Q92x. Do you think the federal government should or should not require companies to pay a tax to the government for every ton of greenhouse gases the companies put out? All this tax money would be given to all Americans equally by reducing the amount of income taxes they pay.
|Should not require||31|
The second question adds the revenue-neutral proviso, blending two alternative ways to return revenues to the public — as a tax shift or as “dividends.” Both questions insinuated that “companies” would pay the tax, which may have shaded the outcomes in favor of the tax. Nevertheless, the takeaway is unmistakable: the idea of taxing carbon pollution and distributing the revenues fairly has gained tremendous public acceptability.
CTC is grateful to Prof. Krosnick and his colleagues at Stanford and RFF for conducting the poll and framing the carbon tax inclusively. The full poll Q&A is available here (PDF). You’ll find our Q&A excerpts at p. 48.
Give money to the government and get it back – – without loss.
Right! anyone dumb enough to believe that is dumb enough to vote Democrat!
The truth is that CO2 doesn’t make a bit of difference.
CO2 has risen 25% in the last 20years while satellite-measured temps have gone static.
Feynman said “If the facts don’t match the hypothesis, the hypothesis is WRONG!”
The CO2 control knob is busted. QED
Kyle Massey says
The problem, Jim, is that these ARE the people that Feynman railed about. Their blind, unquestioned belief in AGW long ago crossed over into the realm of religion. The very idea of saying “the science is settled” would have made Richard Feynman howl. If it cannot be questioned, it isn’t science.
D Smith. says
Where do they think the companies get the money from? A magic pot of gold at the end of a progressives rainbow?
All money to pay costs, whether wages or taxes , comes from the single source of revenue…….the pocket of the Consumers of goods and services.
ALL the taxes including the CEO’s own income tax, comes from the Consumer, The higher the taxes ,the higher the costs to the Consumer.
The Corporations should LOVE a carbon tax, because they know ,even if LIz Warren or Gov O”Malley doesn’t,, that it’s all paid for by the Consumers. Refundable to the Company? Oh they will love that..
Although I don’t believe any pollster from Stanford or anywhere else. Polls are political propaganda . nothing more.
Okay, I got it. The question was of the form “Would you support a carbon tax on corporations with the tax monies being redistributed among citizens?” So it’s a promise of “free money” for citizens paid for by corporations who will pass the costs of the tax along to… the citizens (i.e. it’s nonsense).
Joan Ferber says
The question not asked is if you would be willing to pay more in taxes to get some of your money back because you won’t get all you pay in carbon tax back. The plan is to give it back to ALL households even if you don’t pay. Deceitful.
John Schaefer says
What poll results show is that 2/3 of the American public are smarter than the fossil-fueled critics whose comments appear above.
Kyle Massey says
You asked if people would favor taking money away from someone else, and giving it to them. Two-thirds said yes. That is a sad commentary on the American public, but a disgrace to you for purveying such a ridiculous fantasy scenario. As them if they would like to pay more for everything they purchase, to cover the cost of this hypothetical “gimme” program. Then publish the results of that poll. Until then, you’re just pimps.
Karen Carlson says
In response to Kyle & others. This is not a proposal based on greed. Carbon fuel industries have not paid anywhere near their share of the cost of their product, that is, the harmful effects to health and the environment. Plus they get subsidies of all sorts!! No wonderful our energy is based on carbon! If a tax is imposed in order to make this industry pay its fair share, in time, the market will figure out there are other energy sources that make economic sense. While the market is making this adjustment, every person who pumps a gallon of gas will pay for that added tax–and it’s this tax that will be returned. So it’s not a gimme deal at all. It’s a way to help us out as the cost of carbon fuel rises. If you don’t drive a car or heat your house you will certainly get a deal but this circumstance doesn’t describe the vast majority of US residents.
James Handley says
Yes, Karen, you nailed it. A carbon tax would price in climate damage from free dumping of CO2 by fossil fuels, making low- and zero-carbon alternatives more attractive. That’s the desired effect: substitution of renewables and efficiency for fossil fuels. The undesired effect: reduction in income, can be avoided by returning the revenue in ways unconnected with fossil fuel use.
At Wednesday’s National Press Club briefing, a reporter asked Jon Krosnick about his poll question: a tax on business with revenue returned to households. Jon feels poll respondents understood the tax will be passed through. He feels they’re also aware that businesses often have more options than consumers to respond to carbon taxes by shifting to other energy sources or becoming more efficient, so it’s important for businesses to feel the pull of a carbon price.
One of Krosnick’s surprising findings: Public concern about climate has remained high and relatively flat for a decade, despite both disinformation campaigns and the devastation of storms that could be attributed to climate change. His inference: The public is more savvy than propagandists and politicians think.
Maybe the public’s savvy applies to economics, too? If Jon’s right that the public understands why a carbon tax is most effectively imposed upstream, and that returning revenue fairly downstream can correct its income effects, it really is time for policy-makers to take note.
But I will be paying more and not getting back what I pay in carbon tax because it will be redistributed to all households. NOT FAIR at all. The money has to come from someone and if it was stated where the money would be coming from the responses would undoubtedly be different.
Rick Wackernagel says
One of the problems of revenue neutrality is that it leaves the Dept of Energy’s research on renewable energy and energy efficiency underfunded. Energy Secretary Moniz said at his confirmation hearing that it’s underfunded by a factor of 3. The public-sector plays a very large role at the basic and applied research end of the R&D pipeline. That section is inhospitable and largely uneconomical for the private sector, due to risk of failure and time to marketable product. Much of private-sector R&D is built on public-sector research. While the private sector will respond to the increased demand for low-carbon innovations, its response will be limited by underfunding public-sector research. This will increase the duration of the transition to a low-carbon society. In addition, the public sector can develop low- and no-cost innovations that the private sector won’t because of limited or uncertain profit potential. Shorting public-sector research and development will increase the duration and cost of transitioning to a low-carbon society. Telling Congress to find the funding is asking it to solve a problem it hasn’t been able to solve. Using a portion of the carbon-tax revenue would be giving them a solution.
A carbon tax will increase the demand for low-carbon alternatives.
Jan Dietrick says
If our Congress were motivated by truth-seeking and consensual decision-making then allocating some carbon tax revenue for alternative energy development would be politically possible, but it’s not. Revenue neutral is a non-negotiable feature for those in power. The window for being able to make a difference is narrowing and we don’t need to want the perfect to be the enemy of a policy that can get passed and do the basic job of lowering carbon emissions.
A feature of revenue neutral is that is has been shown to be an economic stimulus creating more ways to achieve energy efficiency that all combine to stimulate new income tax revenues that can be spent pushing alternative energy. Those working in local economies transitioning toward alternatives say that the minute the County votes to take charge of it’s own energy sourcing, there is a powerful price signal for invention, innovation, investment. Putting on top of those local efforts a federal price correction steadily freeing up the market to drive the transition from fossils fuels to alternatives , lobbying can then focus on shifting the massive subsidies away from fossil fuel extraction to renewables.
Another potentially huge driver of alternative energy technology is the Community Choice Energy movement, an accelerating trend whereby localities take local control of their electric power sourcing. It is demonstrated by the Rural Electric Cooperatives, Marin and Sonoma CCA’s in California, and is spreading across California and being explored in Chicago. The motive of greater local energy generation efficiency and security are enough to drive unimaginable innovation, if not by free market forces that every consumer can participate in, then at least by a locally transparent democratic prioritizing process for localizing energy generation.. Visioning is limited by assumptions based on the carbon pricing paradigm of the past. There are many opportunities that will only see the light of day when driven by a federal revenue neutral price on carbon and will be appropriately developed as communities take control of local energy efficiency and generation. using the profits that have been taken out of those communities by the investor owned utilities..