Liberals denigrate Exxon chief's carbon tax idea

Tim Carney:
Exxon Mobil is supposed to be the biggest "climate criminal" of all, and so it discombobulated the environmental Left in 2009 when CEO Rex Tillerson — now Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state — endorsed a carbon tax to discourage greenhouse-gas emissions and mitigate climate change. Exxon holds that position to this day.

Environmentalists posited cynical reasoning behind Exxon's support for taxing carbon dioxide: Exxon is supporting a measure they know will never become law as cover for opposing more popular legislative solutions, such as a cap-and-trade scheme like the one Democrats were trying to pass through Congress at the time.

Cynicism is always appropriate when analyzing corporate lobbying. Maybe Exxon really has supported a less flexible, scarier-sounding carbon tax because they know it will have a harder time becoming law than a more flexible more business-friendly cap-and-trade scheme.

But if you study that 2009 cap-and-trade legislation, an innocent and civic-minded explanation of Exxon's stance also presents itself: Cap-and trade, like other clever schemes for reducing greenhouse gasses, is absurdly inefficient. Such systems rapidly devolve into crony corporate-welfare boondoggles in which everyone rushes to figure out how to cash in on them. If your policy goal were to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, then you would simply tax greenhouse-gas emissions.
I oppose cap and trade for the same reason I oppose private market manipulation.  A free market is the most efficient way to buy and sell goods and services.  Government market manipulation is as bad and corrupt as that by the private sector.  I am not that crazy about a carbon tax either.  The tax would reduce the incentive for alternative energy sources to become more efficient.

If alternative energy is to be successful it must find a way to be competitive with other forms of energy, or it will drag down the economy and people's standard of living.  These schemes would all fall especially hard on the poor.


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