Hang on to your seat – the tectonic plates of policy discourse are shifting

Posted June 21st, 2007 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Civics 101

Is Congressman Dingell getting ready to retire or something? David Roberts unearthed the following remarks from CongressNow which is only available by subscription:

…Boucher, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce energy and air quality subcommittee, last night said that no decisions have been made about a carbon tax, despite comments by House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) yesterday that a carbon emissions “fee” may be necessary to affect climate change in addition to a cap-and-trade scheme….

…”My own judgment is that we are going to adopt a cap-and-trade system and some form of carbon emission fee to achieve the reductions we need,” Dingell said when discussing climate change legislation he intends to bring up in September…

Wonder if the Pigou club had anything to do with this? I know he didn’t call it a “gas tax” but, as summarized in a previous post – the Pigou Club Manifesto published by Greg Mankiw as an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, outlines all the reasons policy wonks keep pushing for a gas tax increase, in spite of campaign consultants who tend to steer clear of such proposals. It is good for creating incentives to reduce consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and road congestion, and places some of the burden on oil companies who would [maybe] reduce prices as consumption goes down. He also argues that consumption taxes are better for economic growth than income taxes because the latter discourage saving and investment, and therefore encourage R&D for gasoline substitutes. And, last but not least, it is a national security issue. To which I would add, that if we all knew what we would get in return, there might even be greater willingness-to-pay a higher gas tax. It would be a small price to pay for a dedicated fund for mass transit that would reduce the need to drive. Like in Europe, where fuel taxes are used to fund an excellent public transportation system. He concludes: “don’t expect those vying for office to come around until the American people recognize that while higher gas taxes are unattractive, the alternatives are even worse.”

Other previous posts about a gas carbon tax: Seeing purple – which summarizes some remarks made by Daniel Bromley, and a follow-up post,


Addendum: And in case you need any more good arguments for a gas tax, here is a link to everything posted on the topic by the geniuses over at the Environmental Economics blog. The Ecological Economics blog has also had quite a bit of commentary on this one.

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