Planet Gore

More on the Tax vs. Rationing Front

Today the editors at the Washington Post ran a plea for Congress to get off the kick of Euro-style CO2-rationing schemes known as “cap-and-trade.” In their piece, titled “Climate Change Solutions” (and subtitled “Sen. Boxer is open to everything — except what might work best”), the Post admitted that these Rube Goldberg schemes cooked up by Enron and now pushed by all manner of “rent-seekers” like General Electric “are complex and vulnerable to lobbying, and they do not guarantee success. The experience of the European Union is Exhibit A.”


In closing, the Post stumbled onto a truth: “A carbon tax, by contrast, is simple and sure in its effects.”


Before we get too excited here, remember that doing something simply and surely doesn’t make it any less stupid. Still, this is an important milepost to record.


As I have argued for several years, despite the obvious disaster of this cap-and-trade scheme applied to something so widely released as CO2, it is dangerous for opponents to clumsily demand a tax, starting a race to the bottom among erstwhile opponents to design the niftiest energy tax. To do so relieves the energy rationers of the burden of which they are most frightened, which is most politically dangerous to their agenda.


The nuance didn’t appear to be all that difficult: “if you’re serious why aren’t you proposing a tax instead? Neither would ‘do anything’ but at least it’s much cheaper than this scheme designed by industry lobbyists, and at least would hurt seniors and the poor less . . . ” Notice the “you.” And also note how many issues one can raise with that query.


But, sadly, ’twas not to be. Some in industry, and conservatives from Charles Krauthammer and Art Laffer to Rep. Bob Inglis rushed to suggest a tax instead. All of this left the strange dynamic of opponents of the Kyoto agenda proposing a tax, and the bad guys coming to the public’s rescue. It bailed out cap-and-traders like then-candidate John McCain, who vaguely and disingenuously alluded to “those who want to increase your energy taxes” from whom he was protecting taxpayers with his “market mechanism.” In the place of these mythical straw-men we see ExxonMobil step forward to the delight of Moonbat central casting to offer a real face instead.

As I wrote elsewhere, Nancy Pelosi et al. really should send flowers in appreciation.
Yet it is not at all clear that these self-inflicted wounds are insurmountable.


Sure, the other side will now always have the “ah, they’re just pushing ExxonMobil’s agenda now” as a crutch, keeping their bogeyman and all of the infrastructure of their demonization campaign in play just when it was fading into irrelevance, but if certain quarters cool it on pushing their neat ideas of taxation, this entire enterprise remains headed for the boneyard. There are too many voices on their team calling for taxes, in the process disparaging the obvious deficiencies of their cap-and-trade, for either scheme to ever go forward in the face of the persistent “fairness” arguments presented by the UNFCCC context, Europe’s running disaster, etc.

Conservatives: The T-word should only cross one’s lips when describing cap-and-trade’s impact and operation. Leave the calls for energy taxes to the Washington Post and other among their movement’s constituencies.

This offers the best hope for a debate on the relative merits. And as the entirety of their effort (and last October’s bailouts, and last week’s Porkulus, and this week’s coming bills . . . ) reminds us, when there’s “crisis” there’s just no time for debate . . . hence the demand for crisis. And where there’s debate, they will lose.


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