I should preface by saying that I am a fan of Peter Barnes. He’s an emeritus board member of Redefining Progress. He’s a smart and thoughtful guy. But I’m not a fan of his cap and dividend idea, mostly from an economic perspective.
First, the idea that a price on carbon would be transformative, and that we should do that first and then come in with other complementary policies later, is dangerously wrong. Transportation and building heating/electricity are the two largest contributors to carbon emissions, accounting for well over half the total. The price elasticity on transportation fuels is very low, as we’ve seen. With gas prices up $2 per gallon in the last three years, we’re now finally seeing small reductions in driving, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4%. $2 per gallon of gas is roughly the equivalent of $200 per ton of carbon, a price impact that the failed Lieberman Warner bill wouldn’t have brought until beyond 2040, if then.
Home energy use is not only terribly price inelastic (people light and heat their homes out of habit and necessity, not on the basis of price), so that we’d need very high ... Read more