Price Carbon, Not Just Gasoline

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I think it’s great that Thomas Friedman is on the right side of the great climate debate, but this sentence is unduly fuzzy: “At this stage, I’d settle for any carbon price mechanism — cap and trade, fee-bates, carbon tax and/or gasoline tax — as long as it real and provides consumers and investors a long-term incentive to shift to clean cars, appliances and buildings.”

I agree with the spirit of what he’s saying here; it’s perverse to waste time quibbling about the details of caps versus taxes and precise levels of rebates and offsets when the important thing is to get policy that’s in the right ballpark. But even though a higher gasoline tax is something I would strongly support, one really has to see that such a tax is by no means equivalent to a comprehensive approach to regulating climate pollution. That would, among other things, leave coal-fired power plants completely untouched. And that would make serious progress on controlling climate change totally impossible.