By H. Sterling Burnett • Investor’s Business Daily
Recently, Real Clear Energy published a thoughtful analysis of carbon taxes authored by Vince Ginn and Jonathan Williams, allies of mine in the fight to promote individual liberty, constitutionally limited government, and U.S. energy dominance.
As Ginn and Williams show, the case for taxing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — intentionally and misleadingly called a “carbon tax” — is fundamentally flawed and, accordingly, has been rejected every time Congress has considered one. For instance, in 2009 and 2010, President Obama and Democrats, despite having control of Congress, failed to pass climate change legislation.
Ginn and Williams rightly note a carbon tax would raise energy prices, meaning it would increase the price of almost everything. Indeed, according to a 2014 Heritage Foundation analysis, the creation of a $37-per-ton carbon tax would lead to a loss of more than $2.5 trillion in aggregate gross domestic product, amounting to $21,000 in lost income per family by 2030.
In addition, a carbon tax would result in a loss of more than 1 million jobs, including 500,000 manufacturing jobs, by 2030.
Ginn and Williams also note a carbon tax is regressive, punishing the relatively poor more than middle-income or wealthy families, because the poor spend a higher portion of their incomes on energy and goods for which energy is a key component.
I have published a number of analyses of various carbon tax proposals and share Ginn and Williams’ disdain of carbon taxes. Having said that, I think there is one important aspect of carbon taxes Ginn and Williams — as well as myself, previously — paid scant attention to, and truthfully, it is the most critical fact.
The only reason to discourage the use of fossil fuels is to prevent purportedly dangerous climate change, yet the best evidence — as opposed to dubious computer model predictions — suggests humans aren’t causing dangerous climate change.
Almost every testable projection made by computer models concerning the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet has been proven wrong: Hurricanes aren’t getting worse; sea levels are not rising at an unusual rate; Antarctica is adding ice, not losing it; scientists can show no species have been lost due to climate change; droughts continue to wax and wane as they always have; and crop production continues to set records.
Indeed, throughout human and geological history, weather has consistently been more dangerous during cooler periods than during warmer periods. It’s also important to note measured temperatures are much lower than computer model predictions, indicating global temperature is likely not as affected by greenhouse gas emissions than many computer models have assumed.
Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Every human breath contains about 40,000 parts per million (ppm) carbon dioxide, 100 times higher than current atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. If one takes a carbon dioxide measurement in a typical college or high school classroom, he or she will find levels at 700—1,500 ppm, higher than the current 400 ppm background levels.
And the levels are as much as 12 times higher in submarines than background levels — yet no one in classrooms or submarines are dying as a result of these higher carbon dioxide concentrations.
Carbon Tax = Prosperity Tax
Government shouldn’t be trying to discouraging the use of fossil fuels to restrain carbon dioxide emissions if they pose no danger to human health at any reasonably expected levels — and they clearly do not pose any danger!
Restricting the use of fossil fuels is an especially bad idea because expanding their use is the quickest, surest way to decrease poverty and increase human flourishing globally. More than one billion people don’t have access to regular supplies of electricity today. Millions die prematurely from a lack of access to safe drinking water, modern transportation, and hospitals with continuously working electric lights, medical equipment, and refrigeration.
In the West, we take these necessities for granted, but they were all brought about on a large scale by the use of fossil fuels. Where coal, natural gas, and oil are in regular use, people are wealthy, and where their use is absent, poverty, disease, and hunger are rife. As a result, a carbon dioxide tax is a tax on freedom and prosperity.
There is no good time to enact bad policy and a carbon tax is one of the worst policies I can imagine, especially if you care about human well-being. It’s not just uneconomic, as Ginn and Williams show, it is immoral, promoted first by misanthropes and now taken up by special interests who will profit from government largesse, even as human misery grows