Expand chart
Data: Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey conducted Nov. 14 to Nov. 19, 2018; margin of error ±3.9; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

As much as 67% of Americans might support a carbon tax, according to a new poll from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Why it matters: 98% of economists believe that the least expensive way to slow climate change is to put a price on carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade system or tax. Although economists also suggest using revenues from carbon pricing to reduce income taxes — taxing a “bad” (carbon emissions) to reduce taxes on a “good” (income) — these poll results suggest voters prefer pairing carbon taxes with environmental spending.

Reality check: The politics of carbon pricing are challenging. Progressive Washington State has twice rejected referendums to put a price on carbon, at least partially because of aggressive advertising campaigns by fossil fuel companies and questions about how the money would be spent. Further, the American Clean Energy and Security Act failed to get a vote in the Senate in 2010, and the House of Representatives even passed a resolution last summer denouncing the idea of a carbon tax.

Yes, but: New polling released this week shows that 44% of Americans support a carbon tax. More importantly, that support varies when they are told what policies might accompany it.

  • Of all the possible uses polled, the largest portion of Americans support a carbon tax whose revenue would be used for environmental restoration (67%) and renewable energy R&D (59%).
  • A more modest 49% would support a tax whose revenue would be used as a tax rebate — recently advocated by a group of economists as a political sweetener — while 45% support a tax whose revenue would reduce the deficit.
  • Support for a carbon tax is actually lower (34%) when respondents are told the tax policy would be accompanied by eased climate regulations.

What to watch: Pricing carbon is the most efficient way to recruit the private sector to identify and develop the cheapest emissions reductions. The American public is catching up to the consensus among scientists and economists, but whether the political establishment will remains an open question.

Michael Greenstone is the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, the College and the Harris School of Public Policy and director of its Energy Policy Institute.

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Data: Coders Against COVID; Note: Rhode Island and Puerto Rico did not meet minimum testing thresholds for analysis. Values may not add to 100% due to rounding; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!