Thursday, August 05, 2010

Stiglitz: Carbon tax a no-brainer

Putting a price on carbon is ''a no brainer'' and should be the first priority of any government, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says.

''I'm an advocate of carbon tax, because the general principle is that it's better to tax bad things than good things,'' he told a capacity crowd at the Australian National University's Llewellyn Hall yesterday afternoon, drawing a loud burst of enthusiastic applause.

''We don't know exactly what the right price of carbon is some say around $US60 to $80 ($A66 to $A88) a tonne, but what we do know is that zero is the wrong price.''


Stiglitz thus joins what appears to be a majority of economists from all schools who advocate the carbon tax over 'carbon trading'.

In theory, 'carbon trading' would work, if the licenses were auctioned on an annual basis, but then if it is so like a carbon tax, why bother?

In my view, 'carbon trading' is designed to fail. It's designed to make money for Wall st traders and to allow corporate-dominated governments to giveaway 'permits to pollute' to the big polluters.

An obvious and inevitable line of attack against the carbon tax is the 'great big new tax' and 'raise the cost of standard of living' arguments. To counter this purely at the political level a carbon dividend should be proposed. Either 50% or even 100% of the revenue raised from a carbon tax should be returned to each citizen on a per capita basis as compensation for increased energy costs.

Or 50% of the revenue could be invested in the building out of the new clean energy infrastructure. This would be a genuine 'nation building' project, not the farcical and murderous wedding-bombing operation in Afghanistan.

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