Environmental Tax Policy in the United States: A 'Bit' of History

27 Pages Posted: 2 May 2013

See all articles by Mona L. Hymel

Mona L. Hymel

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

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Date Written: April 30, 2013


This Article discusses the history of U.S. environmental tax policy. Well, not really “environmental tax policy,” because only a few decades of “environmental tax policy” history exist. If environmental tax policy addresses the development of new energy sources — “environmentally friendly” energy — this Article analyzes the “non-environmental” tax history of our old energy sources, primarily oil and gas (not “environmentally friendly”). Through a historical analysis of federal tax incentives and subsidies used to build the existing energy industry, the Article demonstrates that the United States must provide significant investment incentives in renewable and alternative energy technology if we hope to achieve a sustainable society. This historical analysis chronicles not only the development of tax laws, but also corresponding changes in American lifestyles. Americans’ appetite for technology and mobility (highly dependent upon fuel energy) began long before the implementation of the federal tax laws. Yet substantial government support provided to the burgeoning fossil fuel industry complemented the dramatic changes in the American way of life.

American consumption shows no signs of slowing down — yet. But without a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels, the entire world may come to an abrupt halt. Just as the government invested in oil and gas, it must now invest in new energy sources. In a sense, Americans need history to repeat itself.

Keywords: environmental tax policy, tax incentivies, tax subsidies, renewable energy, alternative energy

Suggested Citation

Hymel, Mona L., Environmental Tax Policy in the United States: A 'Bit' of History (April 30, 2013). 3 Arizona Journal of Environmental Law & Policy 157 (2013), Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 13-26, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2258805

Mona L. Hymel (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

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