The tax cut Congress and President Trump delivered to the American people in late December is already paying dividends. Retirement funds and stock portfolios have boomed, corporations are repatriating billions of dollars they sheltered overseas, multiple companies have indicated they are going to invest right here in America with new factories and business expansion, and millions of workers have reaped benefits totaling thousands of dollars each in tax cut bonuses, stock options and wage increases.
With millions of Americans benefiting tremendously from these benefits, it might surprise some to hear a cabal of Democratic Party governors and liberal federal Democratic legislators are already angling to raise taxes once again. The governors of Washington State and Oregon, as well as Democrats in Congress, are now pushing bills to dramatically raise the price of energy through either a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions or by establishing a cap on carbon emissions that would force industry and businesses to buy “allowances” to emit additional carbon. Selling limited allowances to emit carbon dioxide is just a carbon tax by another name.
Energy is the lifeblood of any economy. A carbon tax would increase energy prices and thus cost jobs, making it difficult for U.S. companies to compete with foreign rivals and punishing the poor. Aside from these vital facts, neither federal nor state governments should impose a carbon tax because they would be utterly ineffective.
This was made abundantly clear by former Secretary of State John Kerry, who said in a December 2015 speech to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, “If we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse-gas emissions, guess what — that still wouldn’t be enough to offset the carbon pollution coming from the rest of the world.”
Indeed, when Barack Obama was president, the Environmental Protection Agency created the Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Induced Climate Change (MAGGICC) to assess the impact of the agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) regulations, which aimed to limit greenhouse gases from power plants. Despite costing the economy as much as $39 billion annually, the CPP regulations would have averted only .019 degrees Celsius of potential future warming by 2100, according to MAGGICC — an amount too low to be accurately measured with even the most sophisticated scientific equipment. And a state-based carbon tax would have even less impact on global temperature.
The only reason to discourage the use of fossil fuels is to prevent dangerous climate change. Yet, the best evidence — as opposed to dubious computer model predictions — suggests humans aren’t causing the climate to change in ways even remotely threatening to human health or environmental integrity.
Almost every testable projection made by computer models concerning the impacts of greenhouse-gas emissions on the planet have been proven wrong. Hurricanes aren’t getting worse; sea level rise has slowed; Antarctica is adding ice; scientists can show no species to have been lost due to climate change; droughts continue to wax and wane as they always have; and crop production continues to set records. Even actual measured temperatures are much lower than computer model predictions, indicating global temperature is most likely less sensitive to greenhouse gases being added to the atmosphere than computer models suggest.
Indeed, while climate alarmists warn warmer temperatures will cause extreme weather, like hurricanes and droughts, to occur more often and be more severe when they do occur, throughout human and geological history, weather has consistently been more extreme during cooler time periods than during warmer periods.
If humans aren’t causing apocalyptic global warming, there’s no good reason why governments should tax energy use. Discouraging fossil-fuel use is also immoral because expanding the use of fossil fuels is almost certainly the quickest, surest way to decrease poverty in the United States and abroad.
More than one billion people worldwide don’t have access to regular supplies of electricity today, with millions dying each year from preventable cardiopulmonary diseases caused by indoor air pollution resulting from their use of wood, charcoal, dung, and other materials used to light and heat their homes.
Millions more die prematurely from a lack of access to modern transportation and there being too few hospitals with working electric lights, medical equipment, and refrigeration. In the West, we take these necessities for granted, but they were all made possible by the use of fossil fuels. The use of coal, gasoline, natural gas, and oil makes modern life possible. Where fossil fuels are in regular use, people are wealthy, and where their use is absent, poverty, disease, and hunger are rife.
There is no good time to enact bad policy, and carbon taxes are undoubtedly that. No carbon tax, state or federal, will prevent any measurable amount of temperature or sea level rise, or reduce the likelihood of hurricanes forming or wildfires from occurring. These schemes are virtue signaling, akin to forcing people to wear a hair-shirt to atone for their carbon sins.
• H. Sterling Burnett (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute.