An el­e­gant cli­mate pol­icy from Repub­li­cans

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ap­peared in The Wash­ing­ton Post:

A group of prom­i­nent Repub­li­cans brought a re­fresh­ing mes­sage to Wash­ing­ton last week: cli­mate change is a threat that de­serves se­ri­ous at­ten­tion, and the GOP should em­brace smart ways of deal­ing with it. What sorts of ways? The group has a car­bon emis­sions-re­duc­tion plan ready to go. And it is ex­cel­lent.

In­stead of in­dulging in the fic­tion that car­bon emis­sions will take care of them­selves with min­i­mal gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion, these vet­eran Repub­li­can hands en­dorsed what econ­o­mists in­sist is the best ap­proach to deal­ing with the sprawl­ing car­bon emis­sions is­sue: a car­bon tax. Put a price on the pol­lu­tion, and busi­nesses and con­sumers will change their be­hav­iour in thou­sands of ways that gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tors would not have pre­dicted and could not have com­pelled.

This process, driven by en­ergy con­sumers, pro­duces the largest car­bon cuts for the buck. Its ba­sic struc­ture is also sim­ple enough for most peo­ple to un­der­stand, and, since Congress would be writ­ing it into the law, it could not eas­ily change from pres­i­dent to pres­i­dent, as cur­rent reg­u­la­tions can.

The coun­cil’s plan would ini­tially peg the tax at $40 per ton of car­bon diox­ide emis­sions — which, the group’s ex­perts say, equates to about 36 cents per gal­lon of gaso­line — and set it to rise at a steady rate year af­ter year.

How could this pos­si­bly be a po­lit­i­cal win­ner, par­tic­u­larly for Repub­li­cans who spent years ac­cus­ing pres­i­dent Barack Obama of at­tempt­ing to raise en­ergy prices? The group pro­poses that the tax re­place the cli­mate rules the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency es­tab­lished un­der Obama, which Repub­li­cans hate. The plan would also re­bate the money the tax raised back to ev­ery Amer­i­can.

The total pic­ture, then, is a pol­icy that would defuse the cli­mate is­sue for Repub­li­cans, with­out grow­ing gov­ern­ment rev­enue, while rolling back en­ergy reg­u­la­tions and send­ing Amer­i­cans a reg­u­lar cheque in the mail. These dyed-in-the-wool Repub­li­cans have pro­posed an el­e­gant cli­mate pol­icy that ad­dresses an is­sue of wide­spread con­cern and poses no threat to con­ser­va­tive ide­ol­ogy. The rest of their party should lis­ten.

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