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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Conservatives and Libertarians Continue to 'Come to Jesus'

Author: Reilly Capps/Sunday, July 7, 2013/Categories: climate change

By Reilly Capps 

As we've written over and over again, a carbon tax -- revenue-neutral! revenue neutral! -- is the single-most important piece of legislation being proposed today. We've noted how whole other countries have tried it as well as just a small valley in Colorado

(Revenue-neutral means that gas taxes will go up, but your income taxes will go down.) 

Of course every NPR-listening HuffPo-reading liberal in the world wants this tax. Those folks want to tax everything, from sugar to tanning booths. Now they literally want to tax air. (Yes, CO2 is just air.) 

But the identity of some supporters of a carbon tax are more surprising. It's those people who may turn the tide. 

We've written about how economists favor a carbon tax, how Reagan's supply-side guru favors a carbon tax, how a former Republican congress member favors a carbon tax

And the hits just keep coming, as conservatives Come to Jesus. At the libertarian Cato institute, folks who never met a tax they liked, they are publishing article after article supporting a carbon tax. Much of their summer issue of a spin-off publication, Regulation, is devoted to it. 

While Regulation usually rails against taxes and government (and regulation), it is fairly consistently in favor of a carbon tax. A hedge fund manager puts the cost of carbon at at least $20 per ton. An MIT economics professor says that we might want to tax carbon as high as $200 per ton. That's a huge number. "It is essential to establish that there is a social cost of carbon," the author, Robert S. Pindyck, writes. Even the guy who warns against carbon taxes climbing too high admits -- and who gets his salary from, essentially, big oil -- says that there should be some tax on carbon. Daniel Sutter wrote, "The case for a tax in the range implied by many economic models ($5 to $25 per ton) is strong." And this guy is the Koch Professor of Economics at Troy University. As in, the most influential oil producers in America Koch brothers. Yeah. I know. 

Nobody can believe it. Heads are spinning. I've had fun over the past few hours reading the comments on this article on Reason, the nation's leading libertarian magazine. Steve Chapman makes obvious points about why we need to raise gas taxes and lower income taxes: hot world, we could reduce income taxes, promote growth, help our grandkids, etc. etc. 

It's all incredibly reasonable. And, in the comments below the article, you can practically see libertarians' heads explode. 

They rant about communism, compare global warming to unicorns, bloviate that "scientists are the new high priests," say "lab coats don't make you infallible," say "breathing emits CO2. Does this mean we can finally tax the air?"

There are a lot of eff words. They're very libertarian about their comments policy at Reason. 

Here's my favorite comment of all: "I hope the hippie chick Chapman is trying to impress is a good enough [lay] to be worth the embarrassment of this article."

But these angry commenters, as usual, are not representative. Most conservatives understand that globl warming is happening, and many would accept a carbon tax-- revenue neutral! revenue neutral! 

How could you not, once you understand it? As Hugh noted earlier, NPR's Planet Money team explained a revenue-neutral carbon tax as simply and clearly as could be possible. Here it is again, in case you missed it. It's worth posting and re-posting. 


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