Last weekend, The Washington Post lamented in an editorial that too many miles were being driven on our nation’s roads. Individuals are not being held accountable for their actions, the Post complained, adding that there needs to be a way to stop people from driving, turning on light switches – or even buying clothes.
Their solution? A steadily rising carbon tax that offsets the amount of gasoline being used across the country. In turn, it seeks to limit energy use by discouraging consumers from using their vehicles or home appliances, or indeed “doing anything else that involves fossil fuels.”
The editorial paints a very rosy picture of life with a carbon tax, but a vital part of this picture is left firmly outside the frame: cost. There is no mention of the economic penalties a carbon tax will create for consumers – especially the most vulnerable in our society.
Imposing a carbon tax will only lead to higher fuel costs, with the largest burden falling on lower-income households that have less room in their budgets to account for higher energy and fuel bills. It will also unfairly affect rural areas, where taking public transport and cutting out longer journeys are often out of the question.
These higher costs also threaten our manufacturing sector – the engine of our economy after the 2008 recession – and will put millions of direct and indirect jobs at risk as a result.
It’s not just the Washington Post either. The National Academy of Sciences released a report recommending the same tax (although they refer to it as a “pollution tax”) which they believe will make clean energy more competitive. It will do exactly that – but only by making existing forms of energy more expensive.
The net effect of a carbon tax is that we pay more for our fuel, gas and electricity, and we collectively end up poorer as a result, instead of reaping the benefits from affordable and reliable energy. If we are looking to improve our standard of living, a regressive carbon tax does the exact opposite.