A lignite-fired power station. Photo: Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images.

The nonprofit World Resources Institute has a new paper out today arguing that a carbon tax should include provisions that enable policy adjustments if it's not proving effective enough.

Why this matters: Carbon taxes have no political traction in Congress right now. But work by WRI highlights various efforts to inform or influence policymakers if — and that's a big if! — a window opens down the line.

  • And while the timing is coincidental, the paper arrives just after the rollout of a major new bipartisan lobbying group called Americans for Carbon Dividends that's seeking to build political momentum.

On the wonk side: Others working on CO2 tax policy design include Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy, which launched a policy research initiative this year, and the Brookings Institution, which has long worked on the topic.

One level deeper: Under the WRI proposal, if emissions-cutting "benchmarks" are not being hit, triggered changes could include...

  • An upward adjustment in the tax that kicks in.
  • Using higher revenues, which would come from higher than desired emissions, on other programs that cut CO2.
  • Implementing "backstop" regulations to further drive down emissions.

The intrigue: Americans for Carbon Dividends is pushing a plancrafted by the affiliated Climate Leadership Council — whose leaders include James Baker and George Schultz — that phases out EPA rules alongside a tax that begins at $40 per ton and rises.

  • But a number of environmental groups, while they may embrace carbon taxes, will push back against the idea of scuttling regulatory authorities in return, due to concerns that taxes don't ensure emissions cuts.

Thought bubble: Given the massive headwinds facing U.S. carbon taxes, debating their design kind of feels like debating what to have for lunch after we colonize Saturn.

  • But if a political window is somehow pried open in the future, backers will need their plans well defined or could miss out. Look what happened to Republicans who missed their chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act last year.

Go deeper

McEnany spars with reporters over whether Trump condemned white supremacy

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany clashed repeatedly with members of the media on Thursday over whether or not President Trump has forcefully condemned white supremacy, at one pointing accusing CNN's Kaitlan Collins of asking a "partisan attack question."

Why it matters: It was one of the most confrontational press conferences yet by a White House press secretary brought in for the express purpose of sparring with a Washington press corps that the president has attacked as "the enemy of the people."

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Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech CEOs

Photo: Graeme Jennings/Pool via Getty Images

The Senate Commerce Committee has voted to authorize subpoenas compelling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to testify before the panel.

Why it matters: The tech giants are yet again facing a potential grilling on Capitol Hill sometime before the end of the year, at a time when tech is being used as a punching bag from both the left and right.

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