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01/09/2013

Comments

Marissa Gubler

A small carbon tax on businesses could promote innovation to create greener technologies, improve air quality, decrease the rate of global climate change, and reduce the United States’ consumption of foreign fossil fuels. However, while John Whitehead holds valid points about the benefits of a carbon tax, he does not delve into possible negative consequences. While a carbon tax would encourage businesses to reduce their consumption of carbon-releasing technologies, a high carbon tax could become a financial problem for some American businesses to the point of driving them to locate overseas, where they can survive without being burdened by high taxes. A possible consequence of a high carbon tax is the outsourcing of American companies, which takes away precious jobs for Americans, thereby creating financial difficulties. On an interesting note, how is the government going to monitor how much carbon an entity emits? If there is not a good way to monitor this, then entities can fudge their carbon emissions data while still releasing similar or greater amounts of carbon dioxide.

Shawn Swaney

When Friedman says in his response "I have a hard time trying to find something to disagree with in this column", I can certainly empathize. When I read about how excess carbon levels could impact sea levels rising, I thought back to some other things that I have seen before. I watched a documentary over the summer called "Sun Come Up", which documented the story of the people of the Cartetet Islands. The sea levels are rising so much, that they are basically being forced to evacuate their home. The rising salt water prevents any crops from being grown and their land is eventually going to go underwater. Tyey have no food, no space, and basically no hope but to pick up and leave. I've seen in many places that it is estimated that the island will be completely submerged by 2015. Many other islands are facing the same problem. Here's an article I found that showed some of them:http://www.businessinsider.com/islands-threatened-by-climate-change-2012-10?op=1

While this deviates from the original topic of a "carbon tax", I think that specific consequences of carbon emissions have to be taken into consideration when potential legislation is being discussed. Anecdotes like the Carterets show the fate we could soon face if we don't begin to seriously think about carbon emissions and rising sea levels. How do we, a nation separated by a huge ocean from the aforementioned islands, respond to something that isn't a domestic issue?

Kate LeMasters

Friedman makes the valid point that, based on our current actions, the US is simply asking the market and Mother Nature to release their wrath on us, presenting with virtually insurmountable problems. In modern news and consumer-based discussions, the market and climate are often thought as mutually exclusive: we must harm our environment to better our national debt, or we can protect our environment only if we enter into more debt. For instance, coal mining is seen as necessary for our economy but as destructive to the environment, as is building gas lines. Friedman rightly states that most citizens take one side or the other with liberals in support of environments and conservatives in support of reducing the deficit. If we continue to place them in separate categories, we will never come up with a solution. Holding these two topics as mutually exclusive allows one problem to lessen, but the other to worsen even more severely than before. If we promote environmental standards but neglect the economic ramifications, the debt will decrease at increasing rates, and vise versa if we ignore the environment.
The carbon tax he presents seems to parallel our class discussion of the gas tax. Raising gas taxes would encourage more energy efficiency, would prevent free riding, and would help lessen the national debt. This seems to be the most holistic measure, as most, but not all, efficient energy projects will have high upfront costs. As we aim towards more sustainable sources of energy and efficiency standards, the costs are likely to be high and have great opportunity costs at the beginning. However, as higher standards are reached and our efficiency increases, the overall costs and opportunity costs for scaling back on coal mining, etc. will decrease. That being said, a tax on pollutants is the most logical way to begin intertwining the issues of climate and the market, and once it makes headway, other measures must be taken.

Hampton Ike

Friedman addresses two of the most critical issues facing the United States today; the climate and the national deficit. Both of these issues are severely polarizing in the political arena, and this partisanship inhibits any meaningful legislation from being passed. The left and the right use these issues as litmus tests for party lines as well as talking points for political rhetoric. Friedman attempts to circumvent politics in identifying two critical points of no return; the environment reaching 450 ppm in greenhouse gases, and the deficit equaling 90% or above the nation's GDP. He offers a solution of a carbon tax per ton of emission, which he claims would cut the 10 year deficit in half. I agree that a carbon tax could be a possible solution, but that it should likely be less aggressive and combined with a more harsh cap and trade system. Furthermore, he mentions his desire for the carbon tax to supersede any legislation regarding social programs, "What would you rather do to help solve our fiscal problem: Give up your home mortgage deduction and wait two more years for Social Security and Medicare, or pay a little extra for gasoline and electricity?". The statement by Friedman is very simplistic, (as it has to be in an editorial), and I disagree that social security and medicare would not need to be curtailed and altered. However, that is an issue for another time, and Friedman does offer valuable information and analysis of the current climate and deficit crisis.

Austin Pierce

Both climate and fiscal policy are important for the governments of the United States; furthermore, the political miscontruance of the issues often leaves people with muddled perspectives on the issues. One of Friedman's best points is the fact that neither parties approach to the issues is sacrosanct, and the use of objective measures will be necessary to achieve appropriate conclusions. I wish there had been more explication on what he viewed the dangers of more carbon were. I'm not trying to say there aren't any, but I believe the next step from this article would be to examine the predictions for the climate results, as I believe those are a little harder for more people to understand than the consequences of the debt-to-GDP ratio reaching 90% plus of the GDP. This is probably because people consciously interact with the value of the dollar more than they do with the carbon ppm count, and the impact of the carbon ppm count increases would likely be more on environmental resources than more easily quantifiable, and appraisable, natural resources. This will likely need more support (and thus more evidence) to produce any necessary changes, and many people will still be less likely to support carbon taxes and the like until these other effects are better explained and advertised.

Paul R

One thing that popped out to me in reading this article was the political party incoherence in policies. Republicans generally are pro business yet many would argue a new economic supply and demand business would be set up in the form of polluting tax credits. Both between countries and large corporations pollution tax credits which allow a certain amount of pollution could be bought and sold allowing those who need the extra polluting ability to continue operation while rewarding companies who phase out pollution thus gaining a competitive edge over their competition. Especially for developed countries, this form of global pollution control would benefit immensely because most underdeveloped nations would need to buy up larger quantities for their own companies to compete. The draw back, like with many things in life is that most countries would sign a document that would put them at a competitive disadvantage when they can simply ignore the proposal and carry on polluting and providing cheaper goods. Just like with the Kyoto Protocol, even if the United States were to start looking at a global agreement getting such a proposal passed in Congress would be almost impossible with the current partisan atmosphere in DC.
On a personal note I am never a strong proponent of government forcing new taxes on their people. I would hope a nation referendum would be held on such a controversial issue.
_Paul Reilly

Sommer Ireland

Friedman's column certainly highlights the benefits for a carbon tax, as with our current economic situation, the US hasn't been doing so hot; and with the environmental situation, things are a little too hot. Unfortunately the problem always seems to be the partisan politics in Washington. Congress can't seem to agree on anything. The tax questions that arose with the "Fiscal Cliff" appeared too difficult for Congress to deal with, and just adding another tax to the table for discussion just seems like it would be too much for them.
However, global warming is a serious issue that while some people try to downplay or even argue against, it exists and it's a serious problem that we are going to have to deal with. The tundra defrosting and releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere is only one of the few negative externalities of global warming. There is also drought which means poor crop production and wildfires. Both of which have negative effects on the economy. It makes it basically impossible to state that the environment doesn't affect the economy, because it does. For example if drought ruins the wheat crop in the midwest, supply of wheat goes down, prices go up, and all subsequent wheat product's (like bread and cereal) prices also go up. When prices go up, people don't buy as much which hurts the wheat market and thus affecting the aggregate economy. That's just one example of how they're intertwined. It shows that Washington cannot ignore global warming because it does affect the economy more than people think.

Alex Fernández

As the author notes, carbon pollution leads to a host of negative externalities. For that reason, most economists agree that it should be taxed. Our entire society bears the burden of carbon pollution, not just the individuals directly contributing to the contamination.
As we discussed in class on Thursday, market failure occurs when marginal private benefit and marginal social benefit are not equal. Carbon pollution resulting from carbon intensive industries leads to an imbalance in social and private welfare. Ideally a tax would decrease carbon consumption and put MSB and MPB in equilibrium. By enacting a carbon tax, Congress could effectively curtail carbon consumption, generate revenue, and keep our air a little cleaner.
I think the author addresses many of the positive aspects of a carbon tax but fails to consider some of the complications that could arise. All taxes have costs- costs arising from administering and collecting the tax. The appropriate level of the tax must also be determined so that the marginal social and private benefits are in equilibrium. Another issue that should be addressed is the potentially regressive nature of a carbon tax.
Another concern with implementing a carbon tax is that firms may shift production to other countries where such a tax does not exist. In this case, the tax is ineffective. A carbon tax would be most successful if many countries collectively agreed to adhere by it.

Charles Busch

In the article "The Market and Mother Nature", Friedman makes an interesting connection between climate change and the fiscal cliff. He references Obama's science adviser, who likens our current predicament to "driving toward a cliff in a fog." Friedman goes on to suggest that we can at least partially address both of these issues by implementing a carbon tax.
While he claims that this could cut the 10 year budget deficit in half, there remain a lot of question marks around a potential carbon tax. I agree with previous posts that consider the adverse effects of a carbon tax. An increase in gas prices and other every day living expenses could be hard on middle and low class Americans that have already been squeezed by the tough economy. Proponents of a carbon tax should make sure to ease the burden on low income earners by proposing reimbursements. Moreover, a carbon tax could further hamper our slow recovery, as industry could migrate to other countries without carbon taxes and send jobs overseas.
Certainly we must start somewhere in order to address issues of climate change and deficit reduction; however, measures to help alleviate these problems should be carefully conceived as to not damage a fragile economy.

Daniel Molon

Thomas Friedman’s article examines the possibility of implementing a carbon tax. His acknowledgement of the middle ground, cutting back on spending and increasing taxes, needed to solve our current pollution crisis while still keeping our system economically viable is what makes his proposal difficult to successfully pass. The increasing partisanship in the political spectrum has made significant changes to the economy difficult. The idea of adding a carbon tax would be vehemently opposed by many political groups, as this would prove to be an obstacle for American businesses when competing on a global scale. This would lead to the outsourcing of American jobs overseas. Choosing to tax businesses based on their carbon emissions would bring in a new stream of revenue for the government, however, the loss of American businesses and the increasing unemployment rate would reduce tax revenue and increase transfer payments to the unemployed, so I am skeptical of how a small carbon tax would cut the 10-year deficit by over 50 percent. Unless countries across the globe chose to cooperate in trying to reduce carbon emissions, it is unlikely for any country to take the first step of implementing a carbon tax, and thereby harm its own economy.

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