Yesterday, I moderated a debate on the question: Resolved: Under no circumstances should conservatives support a tax on carbon emissions. The debate was organized by the R Street Institute and the Heartland Institute as a debate among free market friends. For the proposition were James Taylor from Heartland and David Kreutzer from the Heritage Foundation. Against the resolution were former Congressman Bob Inglis from the Energy and Enterprise Initiative and Andrew Moylan from R Street.
The audience consisted of perhaps 150 197 people. Looking over the list of the folks who RSVPed to the discussion most of the attendees could be fairly characterized as leaning conservative or libertarian.
Briefly, Inglis and Moylan argued for a revenue neutral carbon tax which would basically level the playing field for all forms of energy by replacing the panoply of energy regulations and subsidies.Taylor and Kreutzer countered that it is a total fantasy ("pixie dust") that the Democrats and environmental activists would allow for revenue neutrality. To my mind, Kreutzer had the best line of the evening when he said that is delusional to believe that $200 billion could walk across town in DC without being molested.
Inglis and Moylan argue that history has shown time and again that unless conservatives offer the public a plausible plan more in line with free market thinking, that the activists will eventually be able to get their regulatory nightmares enacted. Taylor and Kreutzer responded that by offering a tax, the activists will end up saying, thank you, and push on with their schemes to regulate, subsidize, and control anyway.
The debate was spirited, but friendly. At the end of the discussion, we called for a division of the house and all participants agreed (with some surprise) that the majority was opposed to the resolution. In other words, a revenue neutral carbon tax could be acceptable to conservatives and libertarians.