Best debates are the ones that feature Ephs on both sides. The latest proposal for a carbon tax cum dividend is an example. In favor, we have Trustee Mark Tercek ’79:

The plan has four pillars: tax the carbon in fossil fuels at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide for the emissions they will produce; rebate all of the revenue to American households in quarterly dividend payments; repeal federal regulations that will no longer be needed because carbon prices produce greater and more efficient investments in emissions reductions; and assure that the program does not damage U.S. trade by adjusting its impact on exports and imports that are energy intensive.

Against, Oren Cass ’05:

This week, a self-described “who’s-who of conservative elder statesmen” launched a new organization, the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), to make their “Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.” Lest one be confused, the proposal is yet another carbon tax. Lest one be optimistic, it manages only to weaken an already flawed policy.

None of these objections or challenges is new. Yet, in the marketplace of ideas, the carbon tax behaves increasingly like a government-run utility. It doesn’t care about competition. It ignores complaint with impunity. Its business model depends on the strength of its political connections, not the quality of its product. Elder statesmen often sit on the boards of such entities. Rarely do they achieve positive change.

My take: The politics of this proposal don’t work, not least because of environmentalist who hate it, as you can see from all the progressive’s attacking Tercek from the left. A better plan needs to be more extreme, in order to bring along the right. I recommend a constitutional amendment that would repeal the federal income tax while simultaneously granting Congress the right to tax carbon. Conservatives would go for this because they hate the income tax. The Government’s need to spend would force a carbon tax higher than any other possible plan.

Let’s arrange for a debate at Williams between Tercek and Cass, ideally each paired with a student. Bring back the Williams College Debate Union!

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