There’s Nothing “Responsible” About Supporting A Carbon Tax

by Rob Roper 

VPR covered a two-hour meeting hosted by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, in which the public policy director for the group, Dan Barlow, proclaimed, “VBSR is especially interested right now in how we can price carbon in a way that will grow our economy.”

SONY DSC

Translation: The owner of this establishment supports a Carbon Tax on Vermonters

So, if you see the sticker pictured here on the window of a local business, make sure to ask the proprietor why he or she supports a tax that will raise gasoline, home heating fuel, etc. on hard working Vermonters by roughly a dollar a gallon.

First, there is nothing “responsible” about supporting a Carbon Tax. There’s nothing economically advantageous to swapping a cheaper, more reliable source of energy that can exist on its own merits for ones that are more expensive, less reliable, and would not exist were it not for government mandates and subsidies. Doing so is not responsible; it’s idiotic.

Barlow cites the fact that Vermont has a growing “clean energy sector” such as solar and efficiency. Well, if you pour tax money into ANY sector you’re going to see jobs. If we took all the subsidies and mandates away from “clean energy” and applied them to paying people to do jumping jacks in the middle of corn fields, we’d have just as many jumping jackers as we do clean energy jobs. What’s harder to see are the jobs lost in the sectors of the economy from which the subsidy monies are confiscated.

Vermont does not need more jobs that require taxpayer dollars to stay afloat. We need more jobs that can support themselves and generate tax revenue. That is, jobs that provide products and services that have an intrinsic value to their customers and can exist organically, without government forcing them to purchase (and/or not purchase) something. If wind and solar can survive and thrive under those conditions, great! We wish them every success.

The logic of Carbon Tax Supporters gets even more convoluted…

Johanna Miller, the energy program director at Vermont Natural Resources Council, which also co-sponsored the event, says, “We can put more money in Vermonters’ pockets by starting to gradually get off of fossil fuels, and that simultaneously does take us significant steps forward in terms of addressing climate change.”

Face palm….

You cannot simultaneously tax people AND put more money in their pockets. The way the Carbon Tax proposal would work is the state would collect 100% of the tax (roughly half a billion dollars when fully implemented), and then “return” 90%, less the bureaucratic costs of collecting the tax, in the form of tax cuts, rebates, and various welfare programs. What Miller, Barlow and their organizations are trying to sell Vermonters is the notion that by taking $10 from you and giving you back $9, they are somehow putting “money in Vermonter’s pockets.” It’s insulting.

You can tax people and put more money into the pockets of SOME people. Not for nothing David Blittersdorf of All Earth Renewables, past and likely future recipient of renewable energy subsidies is on the board of directors of VBSR. (So, not shocking that they’re making this a priority.)

And, as for the statement that passing a Carbon Tax would “take us significant steps forward in terms of addressing climate change,” this is complete nonsense. There is no evidence that Vermont passing a Carbon Tax will in any way — either significant or microscopically useless — have any impact on global climate trends. At all. Ever. To imply that it will is a flat out lie.

This whole thing would be comical if not for the fact that VBSR and VNRC are two large, well funded organizations with significant membership and political pull in the State House. 2018 is going to be a busy year!

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

ChrisB November 2, 2017 at 8:35 am

I completely agree that a tax on carbon is a poor idea.
“Sin taxes” are often self-defeating and are at best marginally effective. Once the “sinful practice” (such as smoking) is reduced, politicians find that whatever they were funding with that tax soon becomes under-funded.

I do believe that a fee which is refundable to the public would work though. This is what Citizens Climate Lobby is endorsing. It is a fee on carbon – not a tax – because the govt doesn’t get to spend the funds collected. Instead these are distributed equally back to the public, household by household, in equal amounts to each. That way those that use lots of carbon pay in a lot, but get back much less. Likewise those that are frugal with their carbon footprint pay in very little, but receive moderately more than they paid into the fee.

Then as the excess GHG problem wanes, those equal payments to households will gradually wane as well. But the expense of GHG caused problems (which can be costly to the public) will also decrease – somewhat offsetting the decreased payments to the public. It’s an elegant idea whose time is fast approaching.

Reply

Rob November 2, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Two things to consider regarding the Climate Lobby plan, Chris. Fist, there really is no difference between a tax and a fee. In either case the government collects the money and redistributes it as it sees fit. Technically, a fee is only supposed to be used to cover the cost of administering that which is paying the fee, but as we’ve recently seen with the Vermont legislature and the “fees” imposed on mutual fund registration that principal is out the window. They want general revenue. Second, I think you underestimate what will happen in regard to those checks. As you point out, with a sin tax as the behavior declines the revenue dries up for whatever program it funds. If the money were actually being used to reduce smoking, to use your example, that would be just fine. But if the money from a Carbon Fee were used to fund a check to every Vermonter, many people will come to look upon that payment as an entitlement, and, likely there will be tremendous pressure to raise revenue to continue writing the checks.

Reply

William Hays November 4, 2017 at 3:11 am

I now live in (No Sales Tax) Montana, having previously lived in $towe. Somehow, I can afford (barely) to smoke two packs of cigarettes per day, and also enjoy wine, beer and brandy. I’d love to live in Vermont again, but you’d have to evict/deport all the D-P-S-C’ers. Not likely, in the few years I have left. Will stay in MT, methinks. Turn 79 next month, me. Could do without the current +3 F. temperature, but beats listening to “The Three Stooges” VT has in Congress. Yar! It is snowing, too!

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