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The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, in Juliette, Ga. Photo: Branden Camp / AP

In the movie The Secret Life of Pets, there's a part where two dogs are in dire straits, running away from a pack of angry dogs and lost in New York City's sewage pipes. One dog says to the other, "We've got a problem." The other responds: "We have so many problems. Which one do you mean at this moment?"

That's how I see things with a carbon tax, despite many economists insisting it's the best, simplest way to combat climate change. There's four big problems, as I explained at the Brookings Institution Tuesday:

  1. Most Republicans elected officials don't publicly say climate change is a problem in need of solutions. It's harder to tax something you don't acknowledge is something that needs to be reduced.
  2. Regardless of party, taxes are toxic. Hillary Clinton didn't support a carbon tax either. With universal GOP support and a handful of Democrats, the House approved a resolution in June 2016 to oppose a carbon tax. While symbolic, the vote nonetheless shows how politically toxic this remains.
  3. Where to draw the line preempting existing carbon regulations: where ExxonMobil draws that line is vastly different from where any environmental group ever would.
  4. How to spend the revenue raised: Lower other taxes? Give rebates to consumers? Put it toward clean-energy sources? Fossil fuel companies? It's a sticking point that helped lead to the downfall of a carbon tax ballot initiative in Washington state last year.

For now, the biggest problems in this Washington are the first two. When I ask Republican and conservative sources whether they'd prefer a carbon tax or a border tax as a way to raise money in tax reform, they don't have an answer. And I think ultimately the answer will be neither (for now).

Go deeper: Environmental think tank Resources for the Future just launched a handy carbon tax calculator. For example, a $40 carbon tax would increase gasoline prices on average by 36 cents.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Updated 4 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Unpacking Joe Biden's decision to tap John Kerry as his climate envoy

Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is naming former Secretary of State John Kerry as a special presidential envoy for climate change.

Why it matters: The transition team's announcement sought to show that it will be an influential role, noting that Kerry — a former Massachusetts senator and the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee — will be on the National Security Council.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries

Waiting, in New Delhi. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

While the 95% efficacy rates for the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are great news for the U.S. and Europe, Monday's announcement from Oxford and AstraZeneca may be far more significant for the rest of the world.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca plan to distribute their vaccine at cost (around $3-4 per dose), and have already committed to providing over 1 billion doses to the developing world. The price tags are higher for the Pfizer ($20) and Moderna ($32-37) vaccines.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key information about the effective COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford University's 90%-effective vaccine.
  2. Health: U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations keep breaking recordsWhy we're numb to 250,000 coronavirus deaths — Americans line up for testing ahead of Thanksgiving.
  3. Travel: Air travel's COVID-created future — Over 1 million U.S. travelers flew on Friday, despite calls to avoid holiday travel.
  4. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. coronavirus hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
  5. Economy: The biggest pandemic labor market drags.
  6. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.