US Voters Support Carbon Tax to Reduce Deficit

The last-minute fiscal cliff deal offered short-term salvation for important clean energy tax incentives, but critical programs across-the-board still face "sequestered" cuts starting in March if US lawmakers can’t agree on where to trim the budget.

The Department of Energy alone faces an 8.2% cut if sequestration takes effect.

A new survey suggests that rather than just slashing social and clean energy programs to address the deficit, Congress should consider a carbon tax as a new source of revenue.

67% of Americans think taxing "carbon dioxide pollution from oil, gas and other companies" is a better way to reduce the US budget deficit than cutting social and environmental programs, according to a national survey commissioned by Friends of the Earth.

Just 15% of survey respondents favor cutting government spending as the best way to address US budget problems.

Voters support the carbon tax idea despite being presented with strongly worded arguments against it, including the contention that “with the economy in trouble and too many people struggling to find jobs, this is the wrong time to pass a new tax on every business and consumer in America.”

Support for a carbon tax is higher among Democrats (93%), but a strong majority of Republicans also favor it (66%).

Survey respondents don’t show a strong preference for how the carbon tax revenue would be used: 70% favor using it for existing budget shortfalls and 72% support the idea of using it both to fund the US budget and climate/ clean energy jobs programs.

"Despite the common-sense advantages that a carbon tax brings, conventional wisdom has long been that it is a "non-starter." In fact, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney  has declared the administration has "no intention of proposing a carbon tax," says Ben Schreiber of Friends of the Earth. "While we’re gratified that the Obama administration has now lifted its silence on climate change, we need our leaders to do more than just talk."

In the past two years, 67% of US counties have been impacted by at least one billion dollar weather event, he notes. We can refuse to act and pay the planet’s carbon tax  – costing more and more each year in both dollars and lives – or we can start taxing carbon, which would also help solve our budget problems.

How much would a carbon tax help?

Even a modest tax on carbon emissions, such as that proposed in 2011 by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), would generate substantial revenue – $80 billion in the first year, and $600 billion over 10 years, estimates FOE.

That’s about half the amount the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts (the sequester) would save over nine years.

British Columbia is having success with its four-year-old carbon tax, which is also lowering income taxes. Australia has a carbon tax and China is likely to implement it in the next few years.

Numerous people have come out in favor of a US carbon tax, including some Republicans, conservative think tanks and even Exxon.

Here’s a summary of the poll results:

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