When James Taranto did Best Of The Web on the WSJ one of his favorite logical fallacies was “no true Scotsman.” We are not sure if James Freeman has continued the tradition or not. Mario Lewis, jr. at the Competitive Enterprise Institute must not be a Taranto fan because his conclusion about enacting a carbon tax is that:
It’s irresponsible to provide bipartisan cover for one-sided assessments that hype climate change risk and deny climate policy risk. No true conservative will do it. [Emphasis added]
Since we are on the record as favoring a modest carbon tax under certain conditions and we don’t like being cast out of the conservative tent we read Mario with interest. We also checked out Another Carbon Tax Defeat at the WSJ that reports on the provincial election in Alberta Canada where the conservatives opposed to the carbon tax instituted by their predecessors won 63 seats compared to 24 for the leftists. The WSJ lists additional failures of the carbon tax at the ballot box:
Progressives keep touting the carbon tax as inevitable, but then why does it always lose at the ballot box? In 2014 Australia repealed a carbon tax two years after it was imposed. Last year French President Emmanuel Macron was forced to suspend increases in gas and diesel taxes after national protests. Voters in Washington state defeated a carbon tax for the second time in November, and legislators recently pulled a proposal for a statewide carbon tax in Maine.
After digesting it all we don’t favor state or provincial carbon taxes but we do still favor a modest federal carbon tax. We don’t favor the former because it is disruptive causing business to spend their time avoiding taxes. We still favor the latter because we see no reason to treat gasoline differently from other forms of carbon. Carbon does pose some risk for people and a price for emissions other than zero seems reasonable. We don’t want to leave the price to the academics because we want to ensure that a carbon tax is modest. In addition, we see a great political opportunity because, as the WSJ editorial demonstrates, the progressives are hyper-interested in a carbon tax.
Let’s check out the “true” conservative and see what is bothering him. Mario’s first concern about a carbon tax is:
The “conservative” perspective, at least insofar as I have had any role in articulating it, is not that climate change is a hoax or poses no risks but that we have more to fear from climate policy than from climate change itself.
We agree. We think that this is an extremely strong argument for a modest carbon tax in the US. That would be one way to reduce the risk from carbon policy.
Most of the rest of the article is about the limited risks from climate change. We can’t say we agree on each and every point but we agree in general. We both agree so why doesn’t he want to put a tax on carbon other than gas? Here is where MWG doesn’t agree with Mario:
To put the matter more simply, there is no principled or stable compromise between market-driven American energy dominance and politics-driven deep decarbonization. [Emphasis added]
We admit to being confused by the part in bold. Well, we just don’t understand it. We agree that there are decarbonization zealots but we don’t want to give them a link. We think that market-driven and deep decarbonization are mutually exclusive but not anywhere near collectively exhaustive. We think both of those groups are relative small even though we belong to the former. We disagree that a modest carbon tax would embolden the left. It is true that the left wants to increase every tax so the carbon tax would be no different. It takes an act of Congress to change taxes.
Sidebar: Well, not exactly. The president already has some authority to increase tariffs and Wisconsin’s own Sean Duffy (yes a Republican) wants to give him more authority to unilaterally tax Americans. We are not for casting out but we have to say that Sean has lost his conservative mind on this one. End Sidebar.
Mario thinks that a modest carbon tax would increase the uncertainty for businesses. We think it would reduce the uncertainty. We think it is a great opportunity to negotiate. Surely Mario would like a reduction in the subsidies to “alternative” energy as a part of the package.
We don’t think that Mario has lost his conservative mind on the carbon tax. He has made different judgments than we have. We still like ours and still think that a modest federal carbon tax is good policy and good politics.