Why Americans Want a Carbon Tax, But Won’t Support One at the Polls

Why Americans Want a Carbon Tax, But Won’t Support One at the Polls

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A coal fired power plant spews emissions
May 26, 2020

An economist looks at how economic worries, and political ideology, have made carbon taxes a tough sell.

Economists generally agree that the most efficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming is by putting a price on carbon in the form of a carbon tax. Consumers, though, can tend see things differently. The idea of taxing the fuels that run our cars, and power our homes and jobs, has given Americans pause and, as a result, no carbon tax has been levied to date in the United States.

Nevertheless, calls for a carbon tax have become more frequent as concern over climate change has intensified. On Capitol Hill, there are half a dozen carbon fee proposals in circulation, with backing from liberals and conservatives. States have also explored carbon pricing, most notably the state of Washington, where two recent carbon tax ballot initiatives were defeated at the polls.

Ioana Marinescu, an economist at the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the challenge of enacting a carbon tax. She also explores policymakers’ efforts to develop carbon tax legislation to appeal to the broad public, and what might be required for these efforts to ultimately succeed.

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