The Public Choice Behind Carbon Taxes
Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center, who co-authored an excellent piece, “Energy,” in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, has a post titled “Oil and Gas Industry Opinions about Climate Change.”
My colleague Sarah Hunt pointed out yesterday that public opinion is more supportive of government action against greenhouse gas emissions than conservatives might like to believe. While one might put that in the basket of “Things I Already Know,” another opinion survey from last spring is a bit more interesting. To wit, even oil and gas insiders have been persuaded of the seriousness of climate change risks and the need for government to act.
I admit that I did find it surprising. But then I looked at Question 6. Then I got a lot less surprised.
Half of the surveyed people who work in the oil and gas industries want to restrict coal, one of their main competitors. That’s public choice 101.
What is Jerry Taylor’s conclusion? He writes:
The important take-away, from my perspective, is that the industry that is among those most effected [sic] by government policy to address climate change is populated by actors who believe that climate change is real, industrial emissions are an important driver, the risks are significant, and the best means of addressing those risks is with a carbon tax. Given that they have no obvious reason to want to believe any of those things, motivated cognition is an unlikely explanation for those beliefs.
But they do have an “obvious reason” to want to hobble their competitors.
HT to Phil Magness.