The Volokh Conspiracy

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Climate Change

Are Federal Greenhouse Gas Emission Regulations A Sensible Strategy for Climate Change?

If there is an urgent need for emission reductions, regulatory ossification and legal risks counsel the consideration of other approaches, such as a carbon tax.


The Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly working on new regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, according to newly confirmed Administrator Michael Regan. Such regulation would attempt to fill the void left by the repeal of the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan and judicial invalidation of the Trump Administration's paltry replacement. The EPA is under pressure to move quickly in order to support the Administration's ambitious climate targets. Some expect the Administration to embrace the goal of reducing GHG emissions by 50 percent within a decade.

Coming anywhere close to such emission reductions requires immediate action. Thus it's curious that the EPA, environmentalist organizations, and Congressional Democrats are placing so much emphasis on federal regulations in their climate strategies. What they seem to ignore are the legal, administrative, and procedural constraints on using federal regulation as a rapid emission-reduction tool. If a 5-4 Supreme Court was willing to stay the Clean Power Plan, what are the chances a 6-3 Court would sustain a CPP 2.0 or (more ambitiously) an attempt to declare carbon dioxide a criteria air pollutant. (Briefs rejecting the latter move under UARG almost write themselves.)

The regulatory process is slow, and many regulatory strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are highly vulnerable to legal challenge, as I explain in a just-released analysis authored for the Niskanen Center, "Legal and Administrative Pitfalls that May Confront Climate Regulation." If the goal is rapid decarbonization, fiscal tools such as a carbon tax, are a much more promising way to go.

From the paper's introduction:

There is a mismatch between the stated urgency of the problem and the focus on federal regulation as the dominant climate policy tool. Environmental advocates and the Biden administration are committed to urgent action on climate change, as dramatic and rapid reductions in greenhouse gases are necessary to meet the administration's long-term targets and to ultimately stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) at acceptable levels. Yet some potential paths forward entail significant practical obstacles and legal risks, particularly if the aim is to achieve emission reductions quickly.

Prioritizing regulatory measures over fiscal instruments may be a strategic mistake. Regulatory mandates, particularly if based upon existing statutory authority, will be vulnerable to legal attack, obstruction, and delay. Even in the best of times, the control of GHG emissions through federal regulation would be a long and cumbersome process, requiring dozens of complex rulemakings. Yet these are not the best of times. Federal agencies, the EPA in particular, are depleted of personnel and expertise. At the same time, a phalanx of economic and ideological interests stands ready to challenge every climate policy initiative. A potentially hostile judiciary will further complicate efforts to make federal regulation a central component of carbon control.

Enactment of climate legislation expressly authorizing federal regulation of GHG emissions and other regulatory efforts to reduce the carbon intensity of the American economy can reduce the legal risks and accelerate the rate at which such policies can be adopted and implemented, but only on the margin. Adopting regulatory controls, sector-by-sector, technology-by-technology will be immensely resource intensive for the EPA and other federal agencies. Even with authorizing legislation, federal regulatory strategies may remain more time-consuming, conflict-ridden, and legally vulnerable than fiscal measures. A carbon tax, in particular, would be more legally secure and administratively easier to implement than regulatory controls on energy use and GHG emissions. In all likelihood, a nationwide carbon tax could be implemented in less time, and with less legal and administrative wrangling, than a single, sector-specific GHG emission standard.

The full paper is available in PDF here.

Consider that a single major rulemaking takes at least two years. Really big rules take longer. Controlling greenhouse gas emissions through regulations will require many such rules, as they are adopted sector-by-sector, and there's only so much the EPA can be expected to do at one time. If the EPA finalizes seven major regulations in a single year, it's been productive.

Note also that it took the EPA several years to develop and implement the regulations governing the acid rain cap-and-trade program, even though the program had express statutory authorization. By comparison, British Columbia was able to implement an economy-wide carbon tax in a matter of months. If the goal is to create widespread incentives for emission reductions as quickly as possible, there is simply no comparison.

There are other reasons to prefer a carbon tax beyond those I discuss in the paper, including the fact that implementing such a tax requires less government involvement in discrete business decisions, such a policy does not presume which sorts of technologies or innovations are the best way to reduce emissions, such use taxes are less susceptible to rent-seeking than regulatory equivalents, and (perhaps most important given the structure of the Senate), A carbon tax could be adopted through reconciliation. I would like a carbon tax to be revenue neutral--what some call a "fee and dividend" approach--but others might see it as a way to fund the greening of infrastructure and early climate adaptation efforts.

My paper focuses on regulatory strategies. Similar considerations should inform reliance upon other fiscal tools, such as infrastructure spending. On the one hand, the rapid greening and upgrading of infrastructure can help lay the foundation for a low-carbon future. On the other hand, existing regulatory structures are not particularly conducive to fast action. As Vanderbilt's J.B. Ruhl has explained, the nation's "old green laws" may stand as obstacles to a "Green New Deal." This problem, however, should be easier to address than regulatory ossification, and federal spending on infrastructure and the like is less legally vulnerable than aggressive regulations.

The practical constraints I identify need to inform the development of climate policy if the goal is, in fact, to reduce emissions and ultimately stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. As I write in the paper:

Any meaningful climate policy will face concerted opposition. If climate policy is to be effective, the fact of such opposition, and its potential to delay and derail implementation, must be taken into account. It is often said that the perfect policy should not be the enemy of the good. It is equally true that a good policy that cannot be implemented as planned is not so good after all. If the aim is to adopt climate policy measures that are capable of reducing GHG emissions quickly and sustainably, this analysis suggests a carbon tax and federal spending initiatives are more promising than federal regulatory measures.

NEXT: My "The Hill" Article on Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid

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  1. No.

    1. Yes it's profoundly silly. The biggest barrier to reducing our greenhouse gasses by 50% in 10 years is enough cleaner power to replace it.

      The Texas power debacle showed the dangers of depending on wind or solar to replace gas, coal, and oil, so that means to get there we need to go nuclear in a big way. That is if we are serious. But if we aren't really serious then rhetoric and taxes and shutting down our current power sources is the way to go.

      1. Concur - Renewables have huge engineering hurdles. As most everyone knows, Texas lost 70-90% of wind & solar electric generation for 9 days ( 2.12.2021 through 2.19.2021) . What is overlooked is that the Entire US lost wind and solar electric generation during those same 9 days.

      2. The only option to meet that goal would be nuclear power. A massive building spree of new nuclear power plants.

      3. Kazinski,
        First, I agree we need nuclear power to move forward with lower emissions electricity generation. Absolutely. It is one reason I support a price on carbon emissions which favors nuclear - while many "Clean Energy Standards" or "Green Energy" approaches specifically define clean energy while excluding nuclear.
        Second, I think the only thing that the Texas outages should teach us is how tradeoffs of price and efficiency effect worst case scenario outcomes. Wind power works fine in the winter - there are wind turbines all over northern states that work just fine in worse conditions. They simply need the winterization packages which cost a bit more. It is like building a house with no insulation and complaining when your pipes freeze. The only thing the Texas power outages teach me is that the state of Texas did not stress test their power system for performance in subfreezing conditions - and, surprise, it failed the real world test. Completely avoidable. And completely understandable.

        1. Ben Franklin - comment "Wind power works fine in the winter – there are wind turbines all over northern states that work just fine in worse conditions."

          That is not completely true
          The electricity generated from wind during the period Feb 12th through feb 19th was between 5% to 25% of normal generation during that 9 day period in Texas. That 9 day drop in electric generation from Wind also occurred across the entire North american hemisphere. Europe has the same / similar periods of little or no wind generation for 3-4 day periods. The are that other states did not suffer from the loss of wind generated electricity as bad as Texas during that 9 day period - A) most areas of the country and canada on have 10%-12% penetration of wind generated power and b) most areas have capicity markets, where as texas / ercot is a energy market.

  2. We are overdue for the Maunder Minimum and its associated Mini-Ice Age. You will regret your regulations by the lawyer profession.

    1. Of course David. Blame lawyers for every ill know to man.

      1. A quick look about Earth and through human history shows government dictatorship and corruption are far and away the worst thing for humanity. You go into government to get rich and do well for your family, and in no honest ways.

        1. I view carbon pricing as the best method to allow markets to sort out our energy future. Carbon pricing is far superior to a miss-matched series of "carrots" where Congress passes bills to spend our tax $ supporting carbon capture and sequestration while insisting that carbon capture technologies continue to compete against the open disposal of waste CO2 in the air. And carbon pricing is superior to developing a series of regulations for emissions from electricity generation, and transportation (there are a lot of tail pipes out there) and gas furnaces in homes, and industrial processes. Simply price carbon and let markets work.

    2. Counting on sun spots rather than regulation or laws seems pretty foolish.

  3. Another win for Betteridge's Law of Headlines!

    A cynic, by the way, would say that they are following a regulatory path because of all the hurdles described in the article. They let the politicians get credit with their extremist base for "trying" without actually crippling the economy or being held accountable for the vastly negative consequences of those policies.

    1. Then the overdue Ice Age arrives. Can we scapegoat them for a quiet period of the Sun and sue the federal government for the 10 feet of snow to the second floor?

      Nothing is stupider than the lawyer. No lawyer is stupider than an Ivy indoctrinated one. No Ivy indoctrinated lawyer is stupider than one in government. Stupidest in all the land? A Justice on the Supreme Court.

      1. You don’t need to make up a story about a future ice age to counter the made-up stories about future warming. We could simply choose to decide things based on reality instead of made-up melodrama about the future. That would be preferable.

        1. Politicians around the world drool at the possibility of the regulatory burdens and blockages this new issue brings, as they can line their pockets fully backing off just a little bit.

          The error people make is assuming this is an abberation, a corruption of the politician by the businessmen. In fact, it is government working as designed and intended, as a wealth generation mechanism for those with police and armies behind them by getting in the way of the productive, for profit.

          One cynic even said so what if they get corrupt profit as long as they do the right thing? Obviously not learning one whit from the drag on human progress and generation of unfettered misery for millenia on millenia, since the first group of thugs entered a farmer trading post with clubs and demanded a cut for protection.

        2. Well Ben, you do know we are in an ice age right? We are currently in an interglacial, but the ice caps on the poles should make it clear we are in an ice age, and have been the last 3-4 million years, and this is just one of many relatively brief interglacials. The last time the earth's temperature was this low was as this current ice age is about 300 million years ago.*

          *Bartoli, G; Sarnthein, M; Weinelt, M; Erlenkeuser, H; Garbe-Schönberg, D; Lea, D.W (2005). "Final closure of Panama and the onset of northern hemisphere glaciation". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 237 (1–2): 33–44. Bibcode:2005E&PSL.237...33B. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2005.06.020.

          1. Stories about the future are just stories. The past and the future are distinct. We can know the past but not the future.

            1. Concur - You cant know where you are going unless you know where you've been .

              That is why the HS's (MBH98, MB 99, pages 2k, marcott, etc are such an abomination of science.

  4. Unless we are prepared to take the more direct approach and bomb Chinese coal plants, nothing we can do will reduce global emissions. These costly virtue signally regulations only advantage the Chinese economy versus ours and ensure that more coal is burned.

    1. You know they don’t care, right? Climate activists want to punish Americans. When GHG emissions don’t drop as a result of punishing Americans, that gives climate activists another opening to punish Americans again.

      1. They do care: They want every advantage in the economy they can possibly achieve. Laughing at the 'west' as they build a coal plant a week is one of those advantages.


    Williams 2021, jacobson, 2018 & 2015, connelly 2016 and a host of others claim the US can be 100% renewables by 2050 while eliminated fossil fuel for home and industrial heating. basically a 2x -3x increase in winter electric usage.

    Texas had a significant 36 hour drop on electric generation from natural gas on Feb 15th - approx 35%-40% drop. The promoters of green energy ignore that there was 70% -95% drop in electric generation from solar and wind for 9 days (feb 12 through Feb 19). That 9 day period was across the ENTIRE US - for those same 9 days.
    3-4-5 days loss of electric generation of 70+% is common across NA and Europe in the winter. Dec 2020, Jan 2021 & March 2021 each have had 3 or more periods lasting 36+ hours with a loss of renewable generated power in excess of 75% across the entire US.

    The point is that if the climate scientists can not comprehend basic engineering, how can they possibly understand the complexities of climate science.

    1. Texas has poor to very poor energy storage resources at a societal scale. Moreover, the wind power systems were also not weatherized.
      That is not even engineering. It is only a notch above elementary school math.

      1. There a number of problems with the Texas/ERCOT system, which are fairly apparent (assuming that you get info away from the agenda driven websites). The initial crash at 1;30 am 2.15.2021 which resulted in a 20GW per hr drop in less than 5 minutes was stability issue in the system.

        Because of the pricing and subsidies associated with wind/solar, it becomes very uneconomical for maintain & winterizing the gas electrical generation. Wind generation has penetrated 25+ % of electric generation. The more wind generation in the system, the greater the instability issues.

        Again back to my point, if a climate scientist cant grasp why 100% renewables are not viable, how can they grasp the complexities of climate science.

        1. I failed to mention that ERCOT is a energy market and not a capacity market, so building reserve capacity is not economical -

          1. Because they wanted a 'market' wind and solar could actually be bought in.

      2. There is no grid-scale energy storage outside of pumped hydroelectric. There are not enough locations on the planet to build hydroelectric dams to hold a small fraction of the power necessary for even an hour of American power.

        There are a handful of grid scale batteries in the world. They are ludicrously expensive and tiny in comparison to their hydroelectric counterparts. There is also the question about whether there is enough lithium or other metals on the planet to make even a few hours storage possible.

        Perhaps sufficient storage could be accomplished by hydrogen electrolysis. However, there are large losses involved this idea, so you would need at least three times total grid capacity of wind and solar to make this work. However, as these are engineering limitations and not absolute limits, it may actually be possible.

        You do not get to criticize people for failing to have technology which is hypothetical at best and actually trends towards science fiction.

  6. "Any meaningful climate policy will face concerted opposition."

    This does not, of course, imply that any climate policy which faces concerted opposition is "meaningful" or sensible.

    1. They’ll never, not even for one minute, consider trying to find a compromise plan that respects Americans' needs and can get a bipartisan majority vote in Congress.

      1. A compromise with people who refuse to admit there even is a problem? How does that work?

        1. You do realize that you can't just declare a "problem" and automatically be entitled to do anything you think necessary to 'solve' it, right? You actually need to persuade other people that there's a problem. AND that your proposed 'solutions' are both necessary and reasonable.

          And the failure to persuade them doesn't entitle you to act, it means you can't.

          Fundamentally, if you can't accept that, you want a dictatorship, not a democracy.

          1. You can't just declare there isn't a problem in the face of overwhelming evidence and expect to be treated as if you're reasonable human beings, especially while you're exercising disproportonate minority power to block or delay or sabotage solutions. We have the right to take you for what you are, not for what you claim to be.

            1. I don't particularly care if you regard me as a reasonable human being.

              I'm just pointing out that it doesn't MATTER if you think the other side are unreasonable. Unless you plan to rule by force, you have to persuade them to agree with you anyway.

              Sounds to me you think that being right, in your own minds, is the only justification you need to force your desired policies on other people. I suspect you wouldn't enjoy being on the receiving end of that reasoning.

              1. Well, you're unreasonable, paranoid and driven by grievance, so you jumped to rule by force, when what the Republicans have shown is that if you pull the right levers of power and stack things a certan way and game the system, a minority can maintain a stranglehold on power and a roadblock to prpgress, so we've a;ready been on the receiving end of something. Well, it should not be impossible, and certainly no more tyrannical than what you've been doing, for a majority to undo some or most of that in legal and democratic ways and enact polices supported by the majority of voters.

                1. This is entirely unresponsive to Brett's comments.

                  Are you incapable of understanding simple, rational sentences? Or are you choosing to take that posture here because you don't like the implications?

                  What do you call someone who demands to rule others against their will and without seeking their consent or agreement?

            2. You can’t just declare there isn’t a problem in the face of overwhelming evidence and expect to be treated as if you’re reasonable human beings.

              The first problem is that the "overwhelming " evidence is quite underwhelming.
              Secondly, the proposed solutions are either non-viable or make the perceived problem worse.

              1. That's just a lie, and what a pity all you great minds decided to lie and doom-monger about it rather than help out.

                1. Nige
                  March.25.2021 at 10:29 am
                  "That’s just a lie, and what a pity all you great minds decided to lie and doom-monger about it rather than help out."

                  Underwhelming evidence - care to discuss the quality of the paleoclimate reconstructions such as mhb98, mann jones 2003, pages2k marcott, post ante proxy cherrypicking, etc

                  Solutions - care to discuss the conversion to 100% renewables , Williams 2021, jacobson 2015 or jacobson 2018, connolly 2016.

                  let me know if you have any insight on those paleo reconstructions
                  Let me know if you have any insight in how the 100% renewable will work

                  The 36hour loss of 40% natural gas electric generation
                  in Texas/ERCOT during february 2021 pales in comparison to the 75% to 95% loss in electric generation from wind and solar for the 9 days .

                  Please provide us with some insight on the supposed lie

                  I eagerly await your insight

                  1. 'paleoclimate reconstructions.' Um. Look around you.

                    100% renewables - well, it's do or die.

                    1. Nige - your comments indicate you have no understanding of the science or the engineering hurdles.

                      Again I await your scientific insight

                    2. Hurdles schmurdles.

  7. Reason they won’t enact an effective carbon tax: it requires a vote by representatives of the American people and the last thing climate activists want is the American people getting a significant say in climate policy.

    That’s why they’ll use regulation, rule-making and sue-and-settle scams. Because it works around the American people to impose the climate religion on everyone despite what the American people want.

    1. "the last thing climate activists want is the American people getting a significant say in climate policy."
      That may be true but involving the public in debate is supposed to be what democracy is all about.

      1. Climate activists oppose democracy. They want to punish you for your climate sins. There’s not much chance you’d vote for that.

        1. As I recall, Joe Biden campaigned on a strong climate change agenda and won by a lot.

          1. I recall he hid in the basement, didn't talk to the press much, didn't answer questions, and "won" by having partisans violate election laws in swing states.

            Also, the President is not a king and does not rule by decree. We have a system of distributed power with checks and balances. Have you heard about representative democracy and federalism? You should look them up.

            1. I dunno, you guys also recall the election being fraudulent, so who cares what you recall? Didn't say he was a king, I said his policies had the support of the majority. People voted for it.

              1. No, "policies" did not have majority support.

    2. It is rather telling that he doesn't reflect on the implications of "concerted opposition" in a democracy; That maybe, just maybe, it's a sign you shouldn't be doing something. At least, not unless you can persuade enough people to make that concerted opposition go away.

      1. The concerted opposition that refused to accept the election results and sent a mob to try and change them? That concerted opposition? Should they have considered the implications of that concerted opposition and decided they shouldn't have won the election?

        1. The other side was burning cities all last year, and somehow we're supposed to ignore that, and pay attention to rowdy tourists, instead.

          I'm fine with enforcing the law against anybody who broke it in DC, but if last year's riots don't mean anything for the left's democratic legitimacy, then a small riot this year doesn't deprive the right of democratic legitimacy.

          1. Oh, no. That police brutality and lack of accountability can lead to burning cities should never be forgotten. (That's not a veiled threat or anything, it's an awkward fact of life in the US, it seems.) But police brutality and lack of accountaibility and the toll it exacts on citizens and the injustices and costs it engenders aren't lies, the way the fake election was a blatant, powergrabbing lie. Of course you have all the legitimacy democracy gives you, and quite a lot of it is exercised in efforts to supress it for others, but that doesn't mean it should be forgotten that you held a white riot on account of a lie, you always side with police brutality and lack of accountability, and you supress the votes of others.

            1. Oh, give me a break. Fictions about police brutality don't entitle you to burn innocent people's homes and businesses. Heck, truth about police brutality wouldn't entitle you to take it out on innocent people!

              Once you riot, you've given up the moral high ground.

              The right dug a bit of a hole on January 6th. The left spent 2020 digging a Grand Canyon.

              1. There's absolutely no entitlement about it, and it has nothing to do with a moral high ground, but if a populace that can't trust the arm of the state that enforces laws, then a society is destabilised and bad stuff happens. Either that arm of the state gets worse and worse or people try to stop it. Either way, you get breakdown. That Grand Canyon was dug by police brutality and lack of accountability. Your culture war entrenchment means you can't acknowledge any of that, but we've come to expect it.

  8. Well, the masthead says "often" libertarian

    1. My thought exactly. WTH kind of libertarian advocates a carbon tax? Don't we exhale CO2? What is next, taxing our breathing?

      1. Yes. Former Governor of Maryland (and presidential candidate for like 36 hours or so), Martin O'Malley tried to tax the rain.

        1. To be fair to O'Malley, he was a vile, corrupt narcissist who should have been locked in stocks in the public square where citizens could poke his eyes out with sticks.

          1. His band, O'Malley's March, was worse than Vogon poetry. This is coming from a Mick who was nicely in his cups while "warming up" for Stiff Little Fingers or Black '47.

            Geneva Convention violation bad.

      2. C_XY,
        I have to say that your is a particularly infantile comment.
        he tax is on energy production at the source, not on people, cows, or rice paddies.

        1. Who do you think actually pays taxes on companies in your infantile beliefs?

          1. JesseAz,
            No you did not get it.
            Many energy economics have studied the matter at length. A CO2 tax is generally considered to be a viable and effective approach.

      3. Libertarianism (and also conservatism, though it may simply be a feature of modern conservatism, I dunno, there used to be a theoretical overlap in envirormental issues between conservative and liberals, whatever happened to that conservative strain I don't know) has no solution to offer for climate change, so it's either work with existing proposed solutions or oppose everything and pretend it's not happening.

  9. A carbon tax at the source would be a far more realistic (and fair ) approach to reducing emissions. The financials of many overall large scale energy options are already analyzed and costed base on the tax per ton of carbon (or CO2). The tax also avoids perverse economic incentives as well as favoritism to various energy production, storage and supply approaches.

    1. Sigh....not if it doesn't incorporate an international component. A real, practical, effective international component.

      Otherwise all it does is offshore carbon-intensive industries to other countries, which in turn use more carbon to ship the products to the US. In such a situation a carbon tax is counter productive....

      1. There is no way ANY US policy or regulation can incorporate an international component, certainly not in Indiam China or in energy impoverished Africa

        It is well known and demonstrated that tax policy is effective at driving domestic behavior. Good behavior starts at home.

        1. "There is no way ANY US policy or regulation can incorporate an international component...."

          Sure there is. Well thought out international policy and tariff policy can absolutely incorporate international components.

          1. I'd referred to US regulation and then you swivel to international policy and tariffs.
            Certainly a well-tuned carbon tax plus a tariff policy would be n effective international approach especially if coordinated with the EU which already imposes a carbon tax.

    2. Yeah, that was the concussion I came up with when I studied energy policy in school. A carbon tax really aligns the incentives extremely well.

      Just an awful thread, though.

      1. So not an economics class. Got it.

        1. Yeah, Jesse, you know better than all the experts.

    3. Ah, the Break Their Will plan, until they'll choose freezing in the dark over starving.

      Current regulations do not allow replacement energy to be built, so your only strategy is make energy too expensive to be used by the poor, leading to massive decline in standards of living, that's if it works, if it doesn't work we'll just inflate our way out of the carbon tax with income subsidies keeping pace with the tax.

      1. Kazinski,
        Items such as a carbon tax were explored in depth by Milton Friedman. They do not make energy too expensive for the poor as you claim without evidence. Rather the attribute the costs of remediating the commons to those who damage them. Note that energy distribution costs and costs of energy storage would not be influenced by a tax. Therefor e would would not see massive price increases such as you are postulating.
        Given the present planned obsolescence of appliances a new generation of super efficient appliances will also decrease energy costs for all.
        All of this comes without "picking winners" or creating perverse incentives that lead to gross anomalies (such as negative prices) in the energy market. Those effects have been seen markedly in Germany and to a lesser extent in Texas.

        1. Bullshit, a carbon tax will make the elderly and lower income people have to make choices between a more comfortable temperature at home or other expenditures. There is no way around that economic fact.

          If it's not about making it more expensive for people to heat their homes then they would exempt home heating costs from the proposed carbon tax. But they aren't doing that are they?

          1. The public does not see a tax. The do see a bill the reflects the cost of electricity, oil and gas producers. There are no exemptions. If you want assistance for the poor, the raise the level below wich income is not taxed.

          2. Right now no one is doing anything except considering more regulations on everything that has anything to do with energy.

            Tax policy can do all that an more and be much more insulated from litigation.

  10. Unlike acid rain, carbon emissions are truly global in scope. Hence a merely "national" policy which only affects the US is ultimately counterproductive.

    The real issue is China. China is the number 1 emitter of CO2 in the world. And it's not even close. With almost 2 times the level of US carbon emissions.

    A Carbon tax on US industries just encourages further "offshoring" of carbon-intensive industries to China. Carbon intensive industries powered by coal power plants, which use more fossil fuels to ship the products to the US. A carbon tax on US industries is ultimately counter productive, and ultimately results in MORE global carbon emissions...not less.

    What you want, realistically, is a carbon tax on FOREIGN products. A big honking massive tariff based on carbon emissions from foreign countries. This will work to drive down foreign emissions, which are critical.

    1. "is ultimately counterproductive. "
      That is a claim with absolutely NO evidence. If you have it produce citations in respected energy policy journals.

      You make one point I will agree with. We can impose a tax (that is called a tariff on foreign goods from countries without their own carbon tax at the source. The tax should be a function of the energy to produce the product. That answers your objection. But it does not obviate the desirability for a CO2 tax at the energy source.

      1. There's plenty of evidence. And in fact, a large amount of carbon emissions are "imported" today from China, as seen below. Instituting a major carbon tax would simply increase the economic advantage for offshoring carbon emissions.

        1. Your evidence has NOTHING to do with your claim of "counterproductive.
          Yes, everyone who ever looks knows that China is the larges net contributor to CO2 emissions. Moreover, China has a strong "all of the above" approach to energy production. Wind and nuclear power as well as photovoltaics are broadly supported in China as are coal plants for the time being.

          1. But you are tiptoeing around the issue, the purpose of the carbon tax is to reduce consumption, squeezing the consumption balloon to China does nothing except export jobs.

            Not only that despite your lauding China's efforts to add other energy sources, US industry is less carbon intensive than China's industrial base. China uses less energy per capita, but that's because of a lower standard of living, not more efficient industry.

            1. I have not squeezed any consumption balloon. China's exports are taxed. If the US does it maybe the EU follows suit maybe not.
              In either case we do not put US producers at a disadvantage with respect to China.

              I am not lauding anything about China. I am stating a fact that China is not expecting to remain dependent on coal indefinitely. Your use of "lauding" is merely trying to twist the argument with value-laden terms.

              Now let's hear your approach and your rationale for the US.
              a) regulation, b) do nothing, c) tax credits, d) cap and trade

              1. "China’s exports are taxed"
                Not at the level that would be appropriate for any type of carbon taxing. And any such taxes would then run afoul of WTO or other rules.

                All you do is outsource the emissions.

                1. AL,
                  We set tariffs as we will just as Mr Trump did.
                  All you are doing is arguing for inaction.
                  Fine. But be honest and say so.

      2. But since you asked for a "respected energy jounal"

        Here's PNAS.

        1. All your reference shows is that the growth of trade has increased the amount of energy consumed and therefore the amount of CO2 emissions.
          It does NOT make a case that a CO2 tax on production at the source would be "counterproductive."

          Your dog just won't hunt.

          1. But of course it does. If you tax something heavily in one area, it shifts production to a different area.

            Let's give you a different example. Denmark instituted a carbon tax. But "biomass" is for some reason considered neutral. So what happens?

            North Carolina forests are chopped up (at an energy cost), shipped to Denmark (using fossil fuels), burned in Danish power plants (Releasing up to 3 times MORE carbon emissions than coal), but counted as "zero" for carbon emissions.....despite really accounting for 33% of Danish carbon emissions. All a result of carbon taxes. Which ends up being WORSE in the medium term for the environment.

            Now, you want to do this on scale?

            1. 1) Where is the citation for your example of trees to Denmark?
              That shift might happen because the US does not impose a tax on the CO2 burden imposed by North Carolina. But in fact the EU already imposes taxes on CO2. SO a US + EU effort imposing tariffs on products untaxed at the source could push China to tax its own use and shift production to non-carbon based energy.
              Again you are only arguing to do nothing.

    2. Armchair, that is clever. A carbon tax on foreign products, to be paid right here in America, by Americans, whenever they buy the foreign products, or American-made products which compete with them. Quick question, are you one of those right-wingers who lectures people on the internet about economic ignorance?

      1. The consumer always pays all corporate taxes, or don't you know anything about economics?

        1. Kazinski,
          You just repeat the obvious.
          The consumer pays all costs up the entire value chain leading to the product.
          What else is new?

          1. Explain that to Lathrop, not me.

            1. Kazinski, what's your point? Are you suggesting that a US-imposed tariff is innocuous for US consumers who have to pay it, because they also have to pay for every other cost? Something else?

      2. It's always amusing to see the "liberals" jump in to defend China, and argue how it's really Americans who are "paying the tariffs" tariffs are a horrible idea.

        Meanwhile they propose slapping massive carbon taxes on America's own industries.

        Here's the thing. It's inaccurate to say "Americans pay the tariffs". Because what happens is:
        1) The foreign companies soak up some of the price increase to stay competitive. OR
        2) Foreign companies increase prices to compensate, and THEN they're less competitive, so American products are bought instead. Which means American jobs are created, making up for any tax increase.

        Now, couple that with the fact that all those products need to be shipped into the US (which costs lots of carbon) and are typically produced inefficiently, and using coal power....The logical solution is to tariff these foreign carbon-intensive industries to reduce CO2 emissions.

        But if you love China...then that's a horrible idea. All those blue color jobs in the US...bah.

        1. AL,
          I have not seen anyone defend China. Is China a villain in many respects? Yes. Is it hegemonist to the disadvantage of the US? Yes. But a CO2 tax equivalent tarrif on Chinese goods would not be defending China. Hopefully the Present Administration will come to understand that.

          Your politics are blinding you from seeing what is good for America.

          1. You think they'll actually tax Chinese goods at that rate? Have any OTHER countries with a carbon tax, taxed all Chinese goods at the appropriate rate? Do you have any evidence for this?

            Or are you evidence free on that front?

            1. AL,
              You argue by making up ideas and then question me about them.
              I did not claim that any countries are presently imposing carbon based tariffs on China.
              I did say that the US should do so unless China imposes carbon reducing economic measures on itself.
              Then you try to make your point into an ad hominem.
              "Or are you evidence free on that front?"

              Nice try but no cigar councilor.

              Now tell us what is YOUR solution. You have not ventured one yet. I suspect that is because you believe in doing nothing.

  11. No. Such regulations harm OUR economy, while not changing the premiere polluters of the world (China, India) one damned bit. The net change caused by the US' efforts equate to 0.01% of global climate changes.

    1. "such regulations harm OUR economy, while not changing the premiere polluters of the world"
      Here we see another contrarian claim without a shred of evidence.

      1. We spend whatever amount of money to reduce greenhouse gasses, and the Chinese open a new coal fired energy plant a week.

        But sure, whatever gets you through the night

        1. And they are building reactors and large scale solar thermal plants and large wind farms.

          But your answer is to throw stones and do nothing.

      2. Again Don, you're ignoring the emissions transfer effects...

        1. AL,
          Again you got the sign wrong.
          I did not advocate lowing tariff barriers as discussed by this paper. I advocated imposing a tariff which is the CO2 tax-equivalent that would be paid were this product produced in the US.

          Obviously that would have to be figured on an average basis for classes of products.

  12. At the same time, a phalanx of economic and ideological interests stands ready to challenge every climate policy initiative. A potentially hostile judiciary will further complicate efforts to make federal regulation a central component of carbon control.

    If the People's sovereign power has sunk so low that its own judiciary is become a threat, then everything else must wait while that gets taken care of. The People must put the judiciary in order first, then pass laws needed to make the right climate policy. Whether or not that occasions harmful delays, there is no alternative.

    The government's power must be equal to the task before it, or delays will stretch yet longer. There is no reason at all to suppose public enemies so powerful would not balk alike at Adler's preferred alternative. If they enjoy power sufficient to thumb their noses at the sovereign, then they will do as they please until that power can be taken from them.

    1. I don't think there is much doubt if congress passes a carbon tax and the president implements it as written then it would be upheld.

      But regulations with out express congressional authorization are hardly an exercise of the people's sovereign power.

      1. Who said anything about no congress? I said, "pass laws."

        1. You described the judiciary as a threat to the people for requiring that Congress "pass laws" rather than just letting regulators do it.

    2. The reason the action is in the regulatory rather than legislative arena is exactly to put it beyond the easy reach of the people. If the legislature enacted this stuff, the people could punish them at the next election. If the regulators do it, we have no direct way to stop them.

      And the people advocating these policies are under no illusions about them being popular.

      The judiciary here are not a threat to the people, they are a threat to the government's attempt to place policy beyond the people's reach to undo.

  13. meaningful climate policy


    1. Since you have conceded defeat, why don't you bow out of the conversation.

  14. The primary issue with all of this is that there are no controls for CO2.

    All regulations for emissions have focused on controls. You have to have incinerators for hydrocarbons, you have to remove so much SO2 via the Claus process, you need to have special burners for reducing NOx, and you need filters and scrubbers for particulate. You need to properly manage all of these control devices and monitor for leaks or failures.

    However, CO2 is the desired end goal. Everything else is worse. You can't absorb it and bury it. We've tried that, and the energy usage in sequestration is relatively close to the amount that you got from burning fuel in the first place. This ends up greatly increasing pollution as you almost double the fuel consumed in order to bury your gas.

    Thus, almost everything focuses on electrical generation or transportation, but these have hard limits like people above have mentioned. Renewable generation (outside of hydro) is unreliable and not viable without storage capacity, which doesn't exist and existing forms cannot physically expand to the needed capacity.

    1. "You can’t absorb it and bury it."
      Of course you can.
      The earth ocean system absorbs between 1 to 1.5 ppm/yr of CO2;

      1. By the way that is more than 10 Gigatonnes of CO2 per year.

      2. Don, the mass balance for an emission permit ends when it leaves your control. In the same way that propane emissions don't stay forever, CO2 doesn't either. Details get complicated. However, I'm talking environmental regulations.

        1. Regulations are complicated. I grant that. That is why taxing energy production at the source is much simpler.

  15. Unless the EPA can regulate emissions from China, India, and most of the Third World, they're not going to accomplish much. Based on current trends, if the U.S. stopped emitting carbon tomorrow, China alone would make up for the decrease in global emissions in 10 years. Not to mention the coal plants they're building in Africa and other places.

    1. Jerry,
      And your answer is to bury your head in the sand?

      1. What's wrong with acknowledging reality?

        Why should we do something that hurts people and accomplishes little or nothing? Because otherwise someone will say the phrase "bury your head in the sand"? How about we don't hurt people for vanity?

        1. Nothing is wrong with recognizing reality. But if we want to drive behavior in the US, then we need a mechanism that will do so without transferring jobs overseas.

          Biden, Pelosi and Schummer will give us some kind of action, likely tight regulation with economic consequences. I'm picking my poison as being more effective at driving behavior. The level of the tax allows for tuning

          1. You’re pretending like you get to choose.

  16. We spend whatever amount of money to reduce greenhouse gasses, and the Chinese open a new coal fired energy plant a week.

    But sure, whatever gets you through the night.

    Want meaningful GHG reductions? Lets start opening a 1000MW nuclear plant a week

  17. "Lets start opening a 1000MW nuclear plant a week"
    Not happening until the capital cost of nuclear plants is drastically reduced.
    Small Modular Reactors may offer a path forward and almost 30 variants are in various stages of design and test. But the economies of scale will demand the first ractor factories to be build and the first SMRs to be run succesfully.

  18. 'We can't do anything because the Chinese' is the new talking point, I see, as if we were in a race and whoever pumps out the most CO2 wins.

    1. It's not, in any way, new.

      You're like a kid demanding nighttime sunlight and then declaring the sun only shines in the day time is a "talking point".

      1. He isn't, Ben. Read AL's screed about China above.

          1. We disagree Ben. Your criticism seems rather exaggerated.

      2. I'm a kid of the Cold War era and reckon we should have learned from those mistakes in terms of dealing with large totalitarian states.

    2. Here, Nige, I will agree with you. By calling out a boogyman, we argue that we need do nothing.

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