Anyone serious about correcting our wasteful ways favors taxing them. It worked for cigarettes, and it will work for reducing carbon emissions.
A Canadian province, British Columbia, recently instituted the world's first carbon tax: "The carbon tax will apply to virtually all fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane, and home heating fuel." B.C.'s tax plan is far from ideal. The province exempts agricultural production from the tax, and has innovated a ridiculous "coupon bonus system" to encourage people to convert their vehicles to bio-diesel. New studies show biodiesel is actually worse for the environment than the fossil fuel it replaces. At a blog, Jurgen Hissen argues against government targeted incentives like coupons and highlights the advantage of a carbon tax:
To me the lesson is clear: personal freedom can and should be good for the environment. All people lack today are the right incentives. What governments ought to do is tax wasteful things; this goes for many activities demonstrated to be socially or environmentally destructive. Then let the people choose for themselves. And carbon taxes should be worldwide -- part of any future WTO scheme -- so as to discourage governments such as British Columbia's -- from exempting particular industries from the carbon tax.
Coupons to convert the car to biodiesel might be great for some people (certainly the biodiesel industry). But if an individual’s circumstances would allow him to save more fuel by telecommunting or by ride-sharing with their spouse than by converting their car to biodiesel, why should the government tell them the only thing that qualifies as “green” is to convert your car to biodiesel? This is textbook inefficient central planning. Let the individual decide how best to avoid paying the carbon tax.
. . . There ARE alternatives to the single- occupant -vehicle commute -daily- from- the- burbs lifestyle. I carpool and take the bus home. In the summer, I ride my bike. I bought a smaller house closer to work.
I had an amusing exchange with a prominent politician in Canada where they claimed that carbon taxes were bad because they were not the most effective way of improving vehicle fuel efficiency. The reason: because instead of driving consumers to get more efficient vehicles, carbon taxes might instead just drive consumers to find other ways of getting around. And this was a “problem”.
- Carbon tax centre website.
- Al Gore, Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, and New York Mayer Blooomberg are prominent supporters of a carbon tax. More supporters listed here.