Policy Studies Energy and Environment

A carbon bargain for conservatives


Catrina Rorke
Former Associate Fellow


The debate over the science of anthropogenic climate change may rage on in political circles, but one thing is certain: policies to restrict the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases already are on the books. Small-government interests balk at the growing number of regulations, subsidies and miscellaneous policies that check carbon emissions, including automotive Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards; energy-efficiency standards for appliances; oil-and-gas drilling regulations; fuel-emissions requirements; loan guarantees; tax breaks; and the Obama administration’s highly ambitious Clean Power Plan.

This is the status quo and it’s a highly unsatisfying one. There’s a better way forward.

It’s time for carbon policy that ignites, rather than restrains, the power of markets. This paper seeks to address key design principles for a carbon policy that would do just that. Rather than the redundant, intrusive policies coming from the White House, this approach would do better to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and provide more predictability and flexibility for the market. Most importantly, a properly designed revenue-neutral price on carbon would create the impetus to shrink the size of government at a time when it has been growing perpetually.

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