Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Applebaum signs up

In today's Washington Post, columnist Anne Applebaum joins the Pigou Club:

Any lasting solutions [to global warming] will have to be extremely simple, and -- because of the cost implicit in reducing the use and emissions of fossil fuels -- will also have to benefit those countries that impose them in other ways. Fortunately, there is such a solution, one that is grippingly unoriginal, requires no special knowledge of economics and is easy for any country to implement. It's called a carbon tax, and it should be applied across the board to every industry that uses fossil fuels, every home or building with a heating system, every motorist, and every public transportation system. Immediately, it would produce a wealth of innovations to save fuel, as well as new incentives to conserve. More to the point, it would produce a big chunk of money that could be used for other things. Anyone for balancing the budget? Fixing Social Security for future generations? As a foreign policy side benefit, users of the tax would suddenly find themselves less dependent on Persian Gulf oil or Russian natural gas, too.

Most of all, though, the successful use of carbon taxes does not require "American leadership," or a U.N. committee, or a complicated international effort of any kind. It can be done country by country: If the British environment minister or the German chancellor wants to go ahead with it tomorrow, nothing is preventing them. If a future American president wants to rally the nation around a patriotic and noble cause, then he or she has the perfect opportunity.