ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Plugged In

Plugged In


More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives
Plugged In HomeAboutContact

How EPA could push a carbon tax


Email   PrintPrint



Carbon tax has been popping back up on the radar this week. First, the Congressional Budget Office included a carbon tax in a myriad of ideas to reduce the federal deficit. There are a bunch of energy-related measures in there but the one that stands out to me is the carbon tax. According to the CBO’s estimates a tax on greenhouse gas emissions would reduce the deficit by $1.06 trillion over the next ten years.

Trillion!

Now, Brad Plumer at The Washington Post asks the trillion dollar question: “Could the EPA push a carbon tax on its own?”

The answer is: maybe.

Basically, EPA has authority to set federal guidelines for carbon emissions from existing power plants and states can meet these in a bunch of different ways. A state-specific carbon tax could be one of the approved methods for complying with EPA’s rules.

Or states could implement a cap & trade scheme a la California/RGGI/Quebec.

Either will likely be more economically efficient than say hard limits on GHGs per kWh, and in the end, a carbon tax or trading scheme should result in the same outcome. How you get there is a matter of what your priorities are. Do you care more about the price of the externality? Then you set a dollar amount (tax). Do you care more about the amount of emissions? Then you set a cap and let people figure out the best way to meet it.

I probably wouldn’t hold my breath for a carbon tax, but it is at least a possibility. Of course, a nationwide carbon tax would just be simpler to implement than separate state programs, but alas.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? david.m.wogan@gmail.com Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





Rights & Permissions

Add Comment

Comments are closed.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American MIND iPad

Give a Gift & Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now >>

X

Email this Article

X