Hank Paulson, former Bush Treasury Secretary, advocates for a carbon tax as a precaution against climate catastrophe. He is writing in the NY Times and preaching to the choir; any possible resonance with the Republican base is shattered by this passage:
Farseeing business leaders are already involved in this issue. It’s time for more to weigh in. To add reliable financial data to the science, I’ve joined with the former mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, and the retired hedge fund manager Tom Steyer on an economic analysis of the costs of inaction across key regions and economic sectors.
Steyer and Bloomberg? Smart guys, sure, but not exactly conservative icons, or even conservatives.
As to the merits of his proposal, put me down as a strong "Definitely Maybe". Carbon emissions are currently unregulated, unpriced and unowned, which means that IF (I say IF) they are dangerous then we are facing a Tragedy of the Commons problem. A higher price on carbon emissions would encourage conservation and reduce usage in transportation. It would also prompt energy-intensive manufacturers to locate their production abroad in more sympathetic regimes, which might be a bit of a job killer here (as if Obama worries about that...). That could be addressed (if the WTO rules and international relations allow it) with a Carbon Intensity tariff on imported manufactured goods designed to equalize the burden between our country and the country of manufacture. That sounds nightmarishly complex to me, but it probably sounds like a marvelous bureaucratic expansion to progressives.
Greg Mankiw has called for a revenue-neutral carbon tax (offset by a cut in ther Social Security payroll tax). I like that even better, although figuring out which taxes to cut to protect groups such as retirees is tricky.
MORE: Tyler Cowen has more.