French Demonstrations Doom Fuel Tax Climate Strategy

We’ve been told for years that an essential part of the solution to global warming is to put a tax on carbon dioxide.  Gradually but substantially increase it and then the free market would take care of things.  People will gradually turn away from things that use fossil fuel energy.   Climate scientist turned activist James Hansen reacting to peoples’ distrust of government and hatred of taxes came up with a plan he calls “fee and dividend”.  The money raised from the ever-increasing carbon dioxide “fee” would be swiftly be returned to the people.  The government wouldn’t keep any of it.

Easy, peasy.  Problem solved.

The problem is people aren’t going for it.   In Australia the Labour-Green government in 2012 passed a carbon tax that added $500 to a typical tax bill.  By 2014 Labour was ousted and the law gone.   In Washington state last month voters turned down a carbon tax overwhelmingly.   Now we have France where its President Macron’s government levied $39 billion in taxes.  About a quarter of it is supposedly to go to measures for poorer people to transition to transport and heating actions less dependent on fossil fuels.  France exploded.

Drivers took out the yellow vests (required for safety for motorists in case of auto emergencies) and started demonstrations.  Police tried beating them up, gassing them and arresting them, but a strange thing happened.  People turned out in massive numbers, streets were disrupted and some of the violence went the other way.  The carbon tax has been postponed.

To be fair the anger in France is not just about the carbon tax, but against a government that has for decades has been seen as a tool of the rich.  Still the street did not want this tax.

An Alternative

Now here is a awesome article in New Politics by Richard Smith who says that while we do need emergency measures to deal with climate, carbon taxes are NOT the way to go.  He agrees with those who say such a program will wreck our (capitalist) economies.  However, he doesn’t call for weak even more gradual measures or “clever” tinkering ala the New York Times.  On the contrary he calls for much bolder, even drastic action.  He suggests a radical Green New Deal that would:

Ban all new extraction, ration gasoline and diesel, ban production of new fossil-fuel vehicles. Nationalize the fossil fuel industry to phase it out. We do not call for expropriation. We propose a government buyout at fair value (fair to both owners and society). Nationalization will need to extend beyond fossil fuel producers to dozens or hundreds of industrial fossil-fuel dependent industries from pipelines, refineries, distribution networks to power generation, autos, aviation, petrochemicals, some manufacturing, tourism and others whose business is irreversibly based on fossil fuels and who without a government buyout would be bankrupted.

The piece is called “An Eco-socialist An Ecosocialist Path to Limiting Global Temperature Rise to 1.5°C.   Read it.

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