Felix Salmon

The realistic and the optimal ways to overhaul energy taxes

February 4, 2014

Back in December, Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, came out with a pretty bold proposal to simplify America’s energy taxes, and to focus them on a simple goal: that the US should emit less carbon. That should be a pretty easy thing to do, in theory: you just raise taxes on the more carbon-intensive energy sources, while not raising them, or even cutting them, on sustainable energy sources. Except that’s not the way the US tax code works. America, it turns out, doesn’t really tax energy at all: instead, it subsidizes energy. And the amounts of money involved are very large:

Can Bloomberg change the planet?

November 1, 2012


Bloomberg — the man, the mayor, the corporation — has come out hard today on the subject of climate change. There’s the striking cover of this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek, with its no-nonsense message, along with an accompanying tweet from the editor, puckishly saying that it “may generate controversy, but only among the stupid”.

Why fuel-economy standards make sense

September 12, 2012

Eduardo Porter has a very good explanation, today, of why it makes much more sense, from an economic perspective, to simply start raising gasoline taxes than it does to implement ever-tougher fuel-efficiency standards. But before we get to the meat of his argument, it’s worth correcting his numbers. Here’s his conclusion:

The depressing politics of climate change

May 3, 2011

Why has the Obama administration failed utterly to get anything at all done with respect to climate change? The issue was a major part of Obama’s 2008 platform, but it seemed to disappear as soon as he got elected, and the consensus on the climate change panel today was that there’s essentially zero chance that a cap-and-trade bill will become law in the foreseeable future.

The Climate Desk launches

April 19, 2010

The Climate Desk has launched! It’s an exciting collaboration, and I’m pleased to be a part of it. My piece is one of two complementary articles; the other comes from Clive Thompson, and explores a lot of the ways that companies are looking to profit from climate change. I, on the other hand, look at corporate attempts to mitigate the downside of climate change — and find them few and far between.

How to compensate consumers under carbon pricing

September 28, 2009

Greg Mankiw, when it comes to cap-and-trade, is more or less on the side of the angels: he’s quite right that permits should be auctioned rather than given away to polluters. But is the tax code really the best way to compensate consumers for the higher energy prices they’re going to end up paying? Mankiw writes:

Dimmable LED bulbs!

September 17, 2009

Many thanks to Andrew Leonard and Alok Jha, who have discovered the Philips Econic. Here’s the relevant bit of their flyer (warning: 9.9MB PDF):

Thomas Crocker’s weird arguments against cap-and-trade

August 13, 2009

There’s something rather odd about Thomas Crocker’s opposition to cap-and-trade and his support of a carbon tax instead: all of his arguments why a carbon tax is preferable to cap-and-trade are exactly the same as my arguments why cap-and-trade is better than a carbon tax!

Hummer: Too dirty even for the Chinese

June 26, 2009

China is likely to block the acquisition of Hummer by Sichuan Tengzhong:

Hummer, as an expensive, gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle, would not fit in with the government’s policy of encouraging energy-efficient vehicles, the radio said.