Policy Studies Governance

A carbon bargain for conservatives

Policies to restrict the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases already are a clear and present reality. Many conservatives might not agree with those ideas, but they’ve recently and repeatedly seen the hazards of waiting for political solutions or for the courts to shape public policy.

The response needs to be more than just to express disappointment with the growing number of regulations, subsidies and miscellaneous policies intended to 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. Free markets, not Uncle Sam, provide the surest path to prosperity.

The status quo is deeply unsatisfying. There’s a better way forward.

It’s time for carbon policy that ignites, rather than restrains, the power of markets. History shows human creativity is an unparalleled problem solver and the market is the best arbiter of progress toward a healthier, richer future. Market price signals are the key to address our pollution problems, and carbon dioxide is no exception.

A well-designed carbon policy can reduce pollution while building a future of wealth and abundance. Rather than the redundant, intrusive policies coming from the White House, this approach would create more predictability and flexibility for the market, ignite the nation’s collective imagination and marginalize the big-government impetus that dominates environmental policy.

The current command-and-control approach to pollution is past its prime. There are better ways to protect the environment and mobilize creative entrepreneurs to move in a new direction. A tax swap is the best option, but only if designed to keep government small and mobilize the market to find big solutions. That’s possible if policymakers stick to seven conservative principles. Any well-designed carbon tax must:

Photo by Bacho / Shutterstock.com

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