Global warming? No. Carbon tax? Yes.

Marketplace Staff Oct 18, 2006

Global warming? No. Carbon tax? Yes.

Marketplace Staff Oct 18, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: This week some scientists attributed two events to global warming: Britain’s hottest summer since at least 1659 and the collapse of an Antarctic Ice shelf back in 2002. There’s still a fierce debate over whether global warming actually exists. Commentator David Frum, for one, isn’t convinced. But he still believes in the carbon tax, a tool environmentalists wanna use to fight climate change.

DAVID FRUM: You don’t have to believe that global warming is a problem to believe that a carbon tax may be the solution.

A carbon tax is a tax on all activities that emit carbon dioxide, principally the burning of fossil fuels — not just gasoline, but also natural gas, jet fuel, propane and coal.

Think of it as an energy tax with an inbuilt subsidy for renewable energy and nuclear power, our current best hopes for moving to a post-petroleum economy.

Environmentalists like the carbon tax because they blame rising carbon dioxide levels for the increase in average temperatures that has been observed in the northern hemisphere since 1970.

Now, we don’t in fact know that recent warming represents anything more than a normal fluctuation in global climate.

We certainly do not know that the dangers and costs of any warming would be greater than the benefits.

So why a carbon tax? When I was at law school, cynical students used to joke that the best answer to any exam question about a judicial opinion was: “Right result; wrong reason.”

And that is what the environmentalists have reached with the carbon tax.

The United States has failed dismally to prepare for the retirement of the baby boomers.

Medicare, Social Security and other programs carry liabilities so huge that they have led one famous economist to ask: Is the United States already bankrupt?

At the same time, the United States must pay for the long war against Islamic extremism. Yet the United States spends one third less now than we did 20 years ago on national defense — only about four and half percent of national income.

So where is the money to come from?

If the Democrats take Congress in a month, the Bush tax cuts will likely be allowed to expire.

Taxes on saving and investment will rise at exactly the moment when an aging society will need all the saving and investment it can possibly encourage.

We conservatives hate to see new taxes. But sometimes a new tax is the necessary price for eliminating an old tax.

Almost 100 years ago, the United States replaced many of its high tariffs with an income tax — a good move, even the most taxophobic of us would agree.

Today, conservatives want to see the end of taxes on capital gains and dividends and further cuts to the inheritance tax, to name just a few.

Taxes on energy move us away from taxing productive investment toward taxing consumption.

And taxes on carbon-based energy help move us toward a future in which the Persian Gulf region reverts to the obscurity it so richly deserves.

JAGOW: David Frum is a former speech writer for President Bush and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In Los Angeles, I’m Scott Jagow. Thanks for listening and enjoy your day.

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