A carbon tax is a good idea — so long as it doesn't come with industry handouts

Exxon Mobil made a bit of a splash Tuesday when it announced a $1-million, two-year donation to the Republican-led Americans for Carbon Dividends, an organization pushing for a national tax to help curtail emissions of atmosphere-warming carbon.

A carbon tax is aimed at making the burning of fossil fuels — which releases carbon — more expensive, and thus directing consumer behavior away from carbon-spewing energy and driving investment toward carbon-free alternatives. It’s a sound approach, one this page endorsed more than a decade ago, and better than the related cap-and-trade plans, which California has used since 2012.

But the plan that Exxon Mobil is throwing its money at — pocket change, really, for a corporation that made nearly $20 billion last year — is less than it seems. Called the Baker-Schultz plan after two of its authors, former Republican secretaries of State James A. Baker III and George P. Schultz, the plan calls for gradually increasing the per-ton carbon tax to reduce the risk of market shock, and for returning the proceeds to consumers on a per-capita basis through the Social Security Administration. Everyone gets the same amount of cash, but those who use less carbon-emitting energy will pay less tax — giving them a powerful incentive to conserve. So far, all good. And a set rate helps companies better anticipate their costs; businesses like stability and predictability.

Read the entire article at LAtimes.com