26 March 2009

Carbon Tax vs. Cap and Trade? Ask the Green Tweeters!

A few colleagues of mine were having a discussion about some of the options policy makers have to reduce carbon emissions in the United States and we quickly boiled it down to "carbon tax or cap & trade." Of course, we're a bunch of PR flacks (not that there's anything wrong with that) and not enviro-brainiacs, so I thought I'd ask some of my green peeps on twitter where they fell on the issue. These are the people I trust the most on environmental issues.

I have to admit I was a little surprised at their answers, but I probably shouldn't have been. Among this non-scientific sample of quick responses from a handful of tech-savvy environmentalists, it seems the carbon tax idea is seen by most (not all) as the more practical solution, though there are some doubts about its political feasibility. At the very least, I think it's safe to say you can find some environmentalists with some serious green street cred willing to work with either idea.

Obviously this isn't an issue that gets resolved in 140 characters or less, but it does give a good snapshot of first reactions. And it opens the door to more substantive discussions. Here's a sample of the reactions I got:

sustainablog sustainablog I used to say cap and trade, but, more and more, I lean towards the carbon tax... it's simpler...

Tim Hurst ecopolitologist I'd say carbon tax. In some respects, there's more certainty. It would be a Herculean shift, but we could replace income tax with it.

Paul SmithGreenSmith ...market fluctuation with permit values, and includes those that don't necessarilly have an enviro bent.

Paul SmithGreenSmith Carbon tax. That way, it's a straightforward proposition. You pollute, you pay. The more you pollute, the more you pay. This eliminates...

Hugh Byrnegreenbiztweets I think cap & trade gets the ball rolling towards improving the political climate for a carbon tax. One begets the other.

Lighter FootstepLighterFootstep I think carbon tax is the most direct solution. Sure could use a better name, though. The complexity of C&T hides its real costs.

David@thegoodhumanthegoodhuman i like cap better, but carbon tax prob easier to implement/follow.

MariaEnergiaMariaEnergia Cap and trade: there's a set limit to the CO2. Haven't heard of limits w/ carbon tax. If there could be a limit w/ tax, I'd revise opinion.

Tom Kimmerertomkimmerer C tax would be easier to administer than cap-and-trade. C&T is vulnerable to market speculation (AIG!).

Tom Kimmerertomkimmerer It's that awful word 'tax'. A huge tax increase, even if directed only at a segment of economy, is hard to sell.

Tom Kimmerertomkimmerer Cap-and-Trade is working for Sulfur could work for C. Devil in details. Carbon tax is simpler, but politically unacceptable

Jonathan Gitlindrjonboyg cap and trade did work very well for acid rain, so it could work as long as appropriate limits were set, but what about China etc

Taylor Sheltonjtshelton carbon tax, most definitely. turning to markets when they started the problem doesn't make a bit of sense.

Jonathan Gitlindrjonboyg A carbon tax that included China would be OK I guess.

Prestonjetsongreen very tough ... c&t has more problems, but I'm more apt to go market-based than a tax. C&T needs accuracy, should apply to everything.

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