Ralph Nader for a Carbon Tax in the Wall Street Journal


Nader is properly worried about the spread of environmental protectionism if a global cap-and-trade climate deal is struck in the next couple of years. As Nader and his co-author Toby Heaps write:

Good intentions to limit big polluters in some countries but not others will turn any meaningful cap into Swiss cheese. It can be avoided by relocating existing and new production of various kinds of CO2-emitting industries to jurisdictions with no or virtually no limits. This is known as carbon leakage, and it leads to trade anarchy.

How? The most advanced piece of climate legislation at the moment, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, contains provisions for retaliatory action to be taken against imports from carbon free-riding nations. Married with the current economic malaise, the temptation to slide into a righteous but runaway environmental protectionism—which Washington's K Street lobbyists would be only too happy to grease—would almost certainly lead to a collapse of the multilateral trading system…

True, trade anarchy might reduce emissions via a massive global depression. But there would be a lot of collateral damage. Because of the sheer scale of the challenge and the state of the hyperglobalized economy, we will need the same price on carbon everywhere, or it won't work anywhere.

Whole Wall Street Journal op/ed here. Some of my thoughts on the rent-seeking disaster that cap-and-trade would be here and here.  One further thought: After advocating a carbon tax as the least bad alternative, I have been persuaded that it's politically impossible. People are not going to vote for a politician who promises to significantly boost what they pay at the pump and pay for power.