The reactions were rolling in before the plan had been officially released. One of them, from the free-market think tank R Street Institute, made an interesting suggestion: The conservative alternative to the president’s call for much tighter standards on power plants, especially coal-fired plants, is a carbon tax. (R-Street is a breakaway organization from the conservative Heartland Institute; unlike the latter, R Street recognizes that global warming is real and that human activity is a major contributor to it.)
Yes, a carbon tax is a great idea. Unlike out-and-out limits on carbon emissions, which the president proposes, a tax could both quickly nudge industry into cleaner energy while minimizing the short-term impact on consumers. That’s because, although energy prices would rise, the taxes would increase federal revenue and that would allow (under some proposals) for lower personal taxes.
There’s one big problem: Been there, didn’t do that.