Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Public Prefers More Economic Pain

Of course they don't see it this way. A large majority of the US public support regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. Fewer support a cap and trade scheme and I'm sure even less support a carbon tax. A carbon tax with few exceptions and recycling of revenue by cutting existing distorting taxes is under the uncertainty of the real world the most economically efficient way to reduce carbon emissions (and with support for innovation in energy efficiency and carbon sequestration research maybe even better). Regulation is the worst. Yes, a real world carbon tax will probably have as many holes in it as Waxman-Markey or the Australian CPRS...

But a carbon tax is the most in your face and regulation the least regarding the costs. People prefer the nasties they don't see. Of course, there's nothing novel in this "political acceptability" is accepted as a key factor in explaining existing environmental policies and designing new ones.

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