Even China Will Have a Carbon Tax Before We Do

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 26 2013 11:53 AM

Even China Will Have a Carbon Tax Before We Do

A labourer walks at an industrial residue disposal plant in southwestern China's Chongqing municipality.
A labourer walks at an industrial residue disposal plant in southwestern China's Chongqing municipality.

Photo by Reuters

President Obama and his team have made it clear again and again that he's not going to push for a carbon tax, yet the idea keeps popping back up. A Washington Post editorial called on the president to propose a carbon tax in his State of the Union address. The journal Nature suggested he trade approval of the Keystone pipeline for a carbon tax. Two weeks ago, a pair of Senators went ahead and introduced a carbon-tax bill.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

The latest White House kibosh on the idea comes from Obama's nominee for Treasury secretary, Jack Lew. According to The Hill, Lew put the administration's stance in blunt terms in a written response to a question from Utah Republican Orrin Hatch. "The administration has not proposed a carbon tax, nor is it planning to do so,” Lew wrote.

Advertisement

That doesn't necessarily close the door on a cap-and-trade scheme, which many environmental policy wonks regard as a second-best alternative. But in the weeks since he floated that idea in his State of the Union address, Obama has been quiet about this "bipartisan, market-based solution" as well.

In case you're curious, here are the basics of the Senate carbon tax bill—technically, a "fee and dividend" scheme—that Obama won't be fighting for:

  • Proposed by Democrat Barbara Boxer of California and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont
  • Would set a goal of cutting emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050
  • Would tax polluting companies $20 per ton of carbon emissions, a fee that would rise by 5.6 percent each year
  • Would refund 60 percent of the proceeds to the public, with the remainder going to clean-energy initiatives

And here's the full text of the bill.

Even if Obama were willing to push for it, the bill would be unlikely to get past Congressional Republicans. But the fact that he isn't virtually assures that even China will have a carbon tax before we do.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 24 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Partial Solar Eclipse of October 2014
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.