Carbon Pricing Wrong Approach to Combating Climate Change

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As far back as 2012, when a legislative coalition in out nation’s capital was not-so-secretly discussing a tax on carbon dioxide, Energy Fairness has argued against carbon pricing as an approach to climate change.

“Any way you slice it, the continued talk about a carbon tax is surprising and, frankly, a little appalling,” we wrote in July of 2012. “Those who believe new carbon taxes are a solution to our future are a lonely minority. I assure you the public at large doesn’t want them.”

While putting a price on carbon has been proposed – and even implemented – by a few international leaders as a way to cut emissions, the reality is that carbon pricing will do little to combat climate change. Australians found this out the hard way when their government implemented a price on carbon, a move that cost businesses and consumers dearly and ultimately led to Prime Minister Julia Gillard losing her job.

As we explained in the Wall Street Journal in July of 2013, “Australia’s climate policies were devastating to its economy, with the brunt of the impact felt by working-class families. Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s common-sense reform proposals would scrap the costly carbon tax and stop Australia from trying to address a global issue on the backs of families and businesses. The U.S. has a chance to get it right without the damage to consumers and the economy. Reasonable people can disagree about the best way forward, but Australia has clearly shown us what doesn’t work.”

Why won’t carbon pricing make a difference? Because emerging economies are replacing the developed world as some of the world’s largest CO2 emitters. Put simply,  carbon pricing makes energy more expensive in the developed world, shifting energy intensive manufacturing to China, India, and other burgeoning economies. Nations like China and India are more concerned with pulling their economies into the first world than solving global environmental issues. Carbon pricing takes them in the wrong direction.

Plus, without first-world economies on board, a price on carbon might actually lead to more carbon emissions. Nobody wants that.

If carbon pricing isn’t a viable global option, then what is? Energy experts point toward using more clean burning natural gas-fired power and emission-free nuclear energy for reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. We can keep coal on the table, too, with carbon capture technology that continues to show promise.

These options are scientifically solid solutions that we could implement today without bankrupting the developed world’s economies. Instead, some politicians continue to talk about carbon pricing as a solution and call for unrealistic goals for renewable energy. Al Gore, for example, has called for the U.S. to run completely on wind and solar power since 2008. That hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

It’s time to put the idea of carbon pricing on the shelf for good. Instead, policymakers should work alongside energy experts and researchers to plot a more realistic course that unleashes our ingenuity rather than hamstrings our economy. We have all the resources we need to move together into a cleaner future that keeps the lights on.