Data Acquisition

Most Americans Support Paying a Carbon Tax

13 September 2017

According to a survey from Yale University, most Americans would support taxing fossil fuels, but only on the condition that the money generated is invested in clean energy and infrastructure.

A team of researchers led by Professor Matthew Kotchen, published their findings in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

"The idea of a carbon tax is not new, and indeed has been advocated by some senior conservative leaders in the U.S., with a dividend being rebated to American households,” Kotchen said.

"What we aimed to find out, however, was whether there was support among the American public for a carbon tax to address climate change. Specifically, we also wanted to discover how much they were willing to pay, and how they would prefer the revenue from the tax to be used."

Surveying 1,226 Americans aged 18 years old and over, the researchers presented the participants with questions about supporting a carbon tax along with 10 different expenditure scenarios to approve or oppose.

"We found the greatest level of support—nearly 80 percent—was for the revenue to be used in the development of clean energy, and for improvements to U.S. infrastructure like roads and bridges,” Kotchen said. "With the average American household willing to pay a mean amount of around $177 a year in carbon tax on their energy bills, this equates to around $22 billion that could be spent on investments in clean energy and infrastructure, among other sectors as well.”

"Interestingly, our analysis indicates strong public support—more than 70 percent—for using some portion of the carbon-tax revenue to compensate coal miners whose jobs may be affected by a reduction in the use of fossil fuels," he added. "By our calculations—based on the number of workers carrying out coal extraction—there would be enough revenue from this tax to compensate all coal miners with nearly US$146,000 upon passage of the tax."

However, the amount Americans were comfortable paying for such a tax was lower than the carbon tax proposed in the popular February 2017 report "The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends," from the Climate Leadership Council.

Yet, according to Professor Kotchen, "It's worth keeping in mind that their proposal is for a wider-ranging carbon tax on all goods and services, with dividends paid back to households from the revenues raised, so a direct comparison is more difficult.vOur study asked specifically about a tax on energy bills, and the responses we received showed a minority of support for any form of dividend to be paid out. We believe that, with current interest about a carbon tax as a 'Republican climate jailbreak strategy', our findings may have significant policy implications."

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