Tom Friedman is chock full of advice on how to curb Putin and save America and the world. One key - a better energy policy for America. With that set-up, let me steal his punchline:
Obama should summon the congressional leadership to Camp David and put his own plan on the table: Offer the Republicans the Keystone XL pipeline, expanded oil drilling and fracking (but only at the highest environmental standards) and, in return, demand a revenue-neutral carbon tax, a national renewable portfolio standard that would require every utility in America to gradually introduce more renewable power, and a national California-level home building code for energy efficiency. I would also toss in incentives for expanding the share of nuclear power in our energy mix.
So Obama should give the Republicans today what they will be winning at the ballot box in this election cycle or the next, in exchange for ideas that are DOA. That would require leadership skill and political talent Obama has yet to demonstrate. That said, it would also require a level of Republican stupidity that is well within their range.
Let me add - respected Republicans such as Greg Mankiw have proposed a revenue-neutral carbon tax. I love the concept, but my suspicion is that "revenue neutral" is a phrase which masks a lot of heartache and complexity. Let me reach back to 2007 for this excerpt from Prof. Mankiw:
Yet this natural aversion to carbon taxes can be overcome if the revenue from the tax is used to reduce other taxes. By itself, a carbon tax would raise the tax burden on anyone who drives a car or uses electricity produced with fossil fuels, which means just about everybody. Some might fear this would be particularly hard on the poor and middle class.
But Gilbert Metcalf, a professor of economics at Tufts, has shown how revenue from a carbon tax could be used to reduce payroll taxes in a way that would leave the distribution of total tax burden approximately unchanged. He proposes a tax of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, together with a rebate of the federal payroll tax on the first $3,660 of earnings for each worker.
Retirees who drive or heat their homes will see their taxes go up but won't benefit from a cut in the payroll tax, so I suspect the AARP will look for a different type of revenue neutrality.
BONUS STRAY PUZZLE: I recall reading that the carbon footprint of Sunbelters running their air conditioners is much less that that of New Englanders and Northerners heating their homes. A carbon tax which increased that price differential would presumably prompt even more migration to the Sunbelt and the South. Would the transplants bring their Socialist views with them? Or would Blue Staters who truly fear guns and bitter-clingers stay North and leave it to the adventurous to migrate? Time will tell!