Carbon tax won’t solve U.S. energy challenges
In his Oct. 25 commentary “Carbon tax can reunite parties,” Chris Casey states that a carbon tax can “create jobs, clean up our air, promote technological advancements in energy, and that it doesn’t cost the American family one cent and could put money back into their pockets.” However, these claims are like the saying “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
The purpose of a carbon tax is to make fossil fuels and carbon emissions (carbon dioxide and methane) more expensive and promote alternatives. However, there currently are no low-carbon alternatives for the huge amount of energy and goods the U.S. and world use, except for nuclear (which I support). Renewable energy wind and solar produce a tiny fraction of current U.S. energy needs, are government subsidized, are unpredictable in their energy output, and do not produce energy when the wind is not blowing and the sun does not shine. Further, there exist no practical way to store large amounts of energy. So, the first effect of a carbon tax would be to promote construction of large numbers of new, expensive renewable energy sources. Because natural gas plants would have to remain operational as back-up to renewables, not only would the price of electricity rise for consumers in order to pay for new power plants, but the carbon tax would continue to be paid on the carbon still produced by the gas plants. Most forms of energy would cost considerably more.
Mr. Casey advocates a carbon “border-adjusted” tax, which is a tariff on all foreign imports whose production produces carbon gases, thereby driving up their price for consumers. Most likely other nations would retaliate with their own tariffs on U.S. exports, decreasing American production and jobs. Fossil fuels for energy is not the only source of carbon that would be taxed. Cement making, metal smelting and production of some chemicals made from fossil fuels also produce carbon and would be taxed. Manufacturing and packaging of products produce carbon gases. And large amounts of methane are produced by growing rice and raising cattle. Your food could be taxed. With all these sources of new major taxes, how much would be skimmed off by governments before any reached your pocket? Further, what the United States does to reduce carbon gases will mean little unless other nations with large, rapidly growing carbon emissions do likewise. But these developing nations (e.g., China, India, etc.) give greater emphasis to cheap energy in order to increase their living standard.
I support a gradual phasing out of burning fossil fuels for energy. I support both government and industry effort to develop other practical forms of energy generation and storage. But except for nuclear (currently expensive), we don’t have those yet. A carbon tax would not accelerate this process. Rather it would increase many costs for U.S. consumers far more than any tax returned to their pockets. A carbon tax currently is a bad idea.
DONALD BOGARD Bentonville