Nevertheless he is right on this one!
My support for a punitive Carbon Tax goes back many years and is well documented on this Blog: (July 2007, May, October, and November 2008).
An Opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal brought Hansen's statement to my attention. (The chart above is from Hansen's June 2008 presentation.)
With gasoline at $2 or less, and the memory of $4 and more clearly in mind, NOW is the right time to impose a $1/gallon carbon tax.
Hansen calls his proposal "Tax and 100% dividend" because it will apply equally to all forms of sequestered carbon (coal, oil, natural gas) and all of it will be returned, equally per-capita, to everyone with a Social Security number.
Other than collecting and distributing the carbon tax dividend, the government will have no role in using these revenues to select the specific alternative energy solution that will arise. By making carbon-based energy relatively more expensive, the carbon tax will spur consumers to conserve energy and also to select products that utilize alternative, non-taxed, energy. The tax will thus put an umbrella over researchers and corporations working on all sorts of alternative energy without imposing the heavy (and politicaly motivated) hand of government "experts" to tip the balance in favor of any one.
The proposed carbon tax will be revenue-neutral, returning money to the people. The tax will also be ultra-progressive since it returns the money equally per-capita while the rich will be paying most of the tax because they use more energy and products that require energy to produce and transport.
Here are some direct quotes from Hansen's remarks:
Tax and 100% dividend can drive innovation and economic growth with a snowballing effect. Carbon emissions will plummet far faster than in top-down or Manhattan projects. A clean environment that supports all life on the planet can be restored.
... Principles must be crystal clear and adhered to rigorously. A tax on coal, oil and gas is simple. It can be collected at the first point of sale within the country or at the last (e.g., at the gas pump), but it can be collected easily and reliably. You cannot hide coal in your purse; it travels in railroad cars that are easy to spot.
“Cap” [and trade of carbon credits] ... may do as much harm as good. ...
The entire carbon tax should be returned to the public, with a monthly deposit ...
A carbon tax will raise energy prices, but lower and middle income people, especially, will find ways to reduce carbon emissions so as to come out ahead. Product demand will spur economic activity and innovation. The rate of infrastructure replacement, thus economic activity, can be modulated by how fast the carbon tax rate increases. Effects will permeate society. Food requiring lots of carbon emissions to produce and transport will become more expensive and vice versa – it is likely, e.g., that the UK will stop importing and exporting 15,000 tons of waffles each year. There will be a
growing price incentive for life style changes needed for sustainable living.
The present political approach is to set carbon emission reduction goals for 2025 or 2050. The politicians do not expect the goals to be reached, and they define escape hatches that guarantee they will not. They expect to be retired or become lobbyists before the day of reckoning. The goals are mainly for bragging rights: “mine is bigger than yours!”
The worst thing about the present inadequate political approach is that it will generate public backlash. Taxes will increase, with no apparent benefit. The reaction would likely delay effective emission reductions, so as to practically guarantee that climate would pass tipping points with devastating consequences for nature and humanity.
Carbon tax and 100% dividend, on the contrary, will be a breath of fresh air, a boon and boom for the economy. The tax is progressive, the poorest benefitting most, with profligate energy users forced to pay for their excesses. Incidentally, it will yield strong incentive for aliens to become legal; otherwise they receive no dividend while paying the same carbon tax rate as everyone.
Special interests and their lobbyists in alligator shoes will fight carbon tax and 100% dividend tooth and nail. They want to determine who gets your tax money in the usual Washington way, Congress allocating money program-by-program, substituting their judgment for that of the market place. The lobbyists can afford the shoes. Helping Washington figure out how to spend your money is a very lucrative business.
But we can save the planet and alligators by making sure that not one thin dime of the carbon tax is siphoned off by lobbyists for their clients – 100% must be returned to citizens as dividend. Make this your motto: “100% or fight! No alligator shoes!”
Check the position of your congresspersons. If they spout things like “global warming is the greatest hoax in the history of the universe”, check the shoes of the people who visit them or have dinner with them. Changes in Congress are needed if we want our children and grandchildren to win this one.
Because of great benefits to the nation, humanity and nature, this approach soon would be adopted by other nations, providing an obvious path toward international agreements. (Jim Hansen)