Washington DC Conservative R Street Institute Promotes Carbon Tax

The R Street Institute is a new Washington DC based insurance-funded think tank which, among other things, supports a carbon tax. It was founded by Eli Lehrer, who bolted from the Heartless Heartland Institute during their meltdown last year.

There’s a debate in DC this week in which they will advocate for a carbon tax against the likes of James Taylor (the nasty one, n ot the folksinger).

Though the participants all share a broad vision of smaller and less expansive government, they have widely divergent views on the advisability of a carbon tax. Arguing against adopting a carbon tax will be James Taylor, senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, and David Kreutzer, research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Opposite them will be Andrew Moylan, senior fellow at the R Street Institute, and Bob Inglis, executive director at the Energy and Enterprise Initiative. Moderating will be Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine, who has written extensively about these complicated issues.

This is not a debate about climate science or man’s role in changing weather patterns. It is a debate about the structure of tax policy and whether a carbon tax lies inside or outside the bounds of the debaters’ shared conservative principles.

Date: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: FHI 360 Conference Center
1825 Connecticut Ave. NW, 8th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20009-5721

The terms of the debate seem structured in favor of the “inside” position.

The debate itself may not matter much, though: this is very “inside-the-beltway”. I think the carbon tax will not sell to the Republican base until they understand the risks and constraints much better than they do. So I’m still holding on to a supposedly refuted “information deficit paradigm”. Good information does not guarantee good decisions, but bad information pretty much guarantees bad decisions, doesn’t it?

Still, this is good news. The fact that somebody with the right plumage is coming out in favor of a tax is certainly a sign of progress.

Comments:

  1. I opine that it matters. If so called conservatives begin to provide support it will aid in having one sooner rather than too later.

  2. I have long felt that the solution to our environmental troubles is a substantial tax on all negative externalities (green house gas emission, pollution, toxic pesticide use, deforestation, mountain top mining, etc.) with the proceeds distributed equally per capita as taxable income, which is then fed into the calculations of needs-based benefits and the minimum wage.

    This way, those who are responsible for more than their share of environmental damage compensate those who are not, aligning the interests of businesses and other actors with the best interests of society.

    At the same time, we increase the ability of our economy to create jobs -- by reducing the cost of labor and diminishing the effect of the welfare trap -- without decreasing the standard of living of the poorest among us.

    • William Fraser says,

      ... the solution to our environmental troubles is a substantial tax on all negative externalities (green house gas emission, pollution, toxic pesticide use, deforestation, mountain top mining, etc.) with the proceeds distributed equally per capita as taxable income, which is then fed into the calculations of needs-based benefits and the minimum wage.

      Absolutely. Tax the bads. But what if the thing with the externalities is already highly lucrative for the public exchequer?

      In that case there is a confluence of good policy and electoral ... what's the word I'm looking for ... goodness. Saleability. Appeal.

      If an otherwise not-too-revolting party is the only party that promises to rebate the proceeds of existing bads taxes, it will substantially improve its chances of election. Or so it seems to me. Does anyone see a reason why it wouldn't?

      This is most recently brought to mind by the Japanese government's recent experience. Japan had been importing uranium at $0.25/MMBTU. With the Fukushima meltdowns, the Japanese government has found itself reluctantly compelled to accept the import of natural gas instead. Imported as LNG, it has been costing $16/MMBTU.

      Royalty rates on natural gas are hard to find, but in the USA they are either 12.5 percent or 18.75 percent.

      Each gigawatt of Japanese nuclear capacity whose restart is prevented by spontaneous street protests means 66 million MMBTU of additional natural gas demand annually. If the Japanese government can't take any less than the lower, one-eighth rate, they're stuck with an extra $133 million per blocked reactor per year; about 50 are blocked, so in that circumstance they're compelled to take an extra ~$6.6 billion per year.

      A party that promises to, if elected, make the government rebate this money equally per capita as taxable income is likely to win, and if the party then keeps its promise, the government will no longer be tempted to find ways of preserving that income.

      So strong, I suspect, is this temptation that its removal will tremendously change government behaviour, and this change by itself will do much more to promote the ending of the taxed bads than any amount of added taxation, with the government keeping it, would. Indeed, the effect of the latter approach is of the opposite sign. It strengthens the bads.

      • The extra imports of coal and LNG occasioned by stopping most of the nuclear fleet is causing Japan to have a net trade deficit. I am quite sure this is a far greater concern to politicians than a mere few billions in import taxes.

      • David B. Benson says,

        Japan ... net trade deficit. I am quite sure this is a far greater concern to politicians than a mere few billions in import taxes.

        Why are you quite sure of that?

        And is it OK to slip from my "behaviour of government" to "politicians"?

  3. Pingback: The Climate Change Debate Thread - Page 2710

  4. Pingback: Another Week of Global Warming News, June 16, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered


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