By Marianne Lavelle
Not long ago, a carbon tax was the untouchable third rail of climate politics.
“We have done extensive polling on carbon tax. It all sucks,” John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, wrote to another adviser in a memorable January 2015 email from the Wikileaks stash.
But four years later, amid the political upheaval wrought by President Donald Trump, several carbon tax proposals are getting a serious look on Capitol Hill. Ironically, the president’s rejection of climate science and his fossil fuel-focused agenda may have helped usher in an era when carbon taxation is politically thinkable.
One carbon fee-and-dividend plan has already been introduced in Congress and more are expected. Editorial pages and conservative pundits are talking about carbon taxes as a pragmatic way to achieve the goals of the Green New Deal. And the opinion polls look a lot different than the ones that caused Podesta to recoil.
A plurality of Americans—44 percent—say they support a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taxing carbon-based fuels, according to a poll conducted last November by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and the Associated Press. (Only 29 percent said they were opposed, while 25 percent were neutral.) A survey of registered voters by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University found that 58 percent said they would favor a Republican-proposed carbon tax that would return all revenue to households in the form of monthly rebate checks.
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