Let's face it, the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis is a politician's wet dream. An existential threat to humanity, invisible and insidious, whose computer-predicted effects won't be validated or rejected until long after today's most junior Senator has left office decades from now. It is a crisis which can only be averted through massive and sustained government mandate and there are legions of true believers chomping at the bit to castigate and slander anyone who dares question AGW dogma. Honestly, who could possibly be against saving the planet?
It's a blank check sitting politicians can safely write knowing it won't be cashed until they're long gone.
Even though many politicians now accept the catastrophic climate change hypothesis, most Americans are reluctant to accept the higher taxes and energy costs required to "fight" global warming. To avoid transparency and shift blame from themselves to energy producers most politicians favor a "cap and trade" approach. Under this regimen the government tells each company how much carbon dioxide they will be allowed to emit and if the company exceeds that arbitrary limit it is required to buy carbon "credits". This approach to battling the phantom menace of global warming has been implemented in the EU and has thus far proven to be ineffective at reducing CO2 emissions.
But it has proven quite effective at filling government coffers and transferring money from carbon-intensive industries to the favored "green" sectors of the economy.
Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson is having none of it. He demands transparency from Washington:
Tillerson said a carbon tax "is the most efficient means of reflecting the cost of carbon in all economic decisions"--from company investments to consumer's choices about fuel and other products.Thank you, Rex, for this shot across the bow. Eschewing a convoluted trading scheme or carbon credit auction for a direct tax on carbon puts Congress' butts on the line, right now. No finger pointing, no obfuscating - each American will be able to see clearly how much the fight against global warming costs every time they fill up and pay their electric bill.
He said the tax should be "revenue neutral" -- meaning the government would reduce revenues from other sources if it added a carbon tax.
Revenue neutrality is icing on the cake. Since the push (putsch?) to reduce CO2 emissions is cloaked in rhetoric about saving the planet why let increased government revenue ruin the altruism?
Tillerson says he favors a tax on carbon dioxide over a cap-and-trade system because it would be "a more direct and transparent approach."But direct and transparent eliminates opportunities for lobbyists to reward Washington with campaign cash and exposes Congress to the voters' wrath after prices skyrocket. We can safely assume the direct and transparent carbon tax will get about as fair a hearing from the Democrats as one of Bush's judicial nominees.
Democrats in Congress and President-elect Barack Obama have been leaning toward cap-and-trade legislation, which would set a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide large operations like power plants could emit each year and reduce the limit over time, forcing companies to buy more permits or clean up emissions.
Frankly, hearing the CEO of Exxon Mobil say he prefers a carbon tax to cap and trade is like hearing a death row inmate saying he prefers lethal injection to stoning. Let's hope this is just a calculated gamble on his part. Americans won't stand for a carbon tax, but might be hoodwinked into accepting an innocuous sounding boondoggle like "cap and trade". If conservatives are going to accept the inevitability of legislation to combat climate change we need to lobby for the transparent (and reversible) carbon tax. Because once a carbon trading bureaucracy and infrastructure is created we will be stuck with it forever.