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Why Conservatives Should Support a Carbon Tax

7 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2012 Last revised: 20 Dec 2012

Shi-Ling Hsu

Florida State University - College of Law

Yoram Bauman

Sightline Institute

Date Written: December 12, 2012


Why should conservatives support a carbon tax? Current conservative orthodoxy is that no tax is a good tax. But some are taxes less bad than others. If a carbon tax can be used to reduce other taxes, or if a carbon tax is a new source of revenues for deficit reduction instead of raising other taxes, the net economic benefits of such a swap are likely to be positive even if one believes there are no environmental benefits. Second, the alternative to a carbon tax is less efficient: federal command-and-control regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court has held that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, and this requirement will not be legislatively repealed unless it is replaced by something comprehensive, like a carbon tax. In short, a carbon tax is the simplest, cheapest, and least intrusive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and if substituted for other taxes, can provide economic benefits to boot. A carbon tax would not only be consistent with conservative, small-government principles, but can help advance them.

Keywords: carbon tax, climate change, Clean Air Act, global warming

Suggested Citation

Hsu, Shi-Ling and Bauman, Yoram, Why Conservatives Should Support a Carbon Tax (December 12, 2012). Environmental Law Forum, Forthcoming; FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 621; FSU College of Law, Law, Business & Economics Paper No. 12-14. Available at SSRN:

Shi-Ling Hsu (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States


Yoram Bauman

Sightline Institute ( email )

1402 Third Avenue, Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98101
United States


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