US public backs carbon tax, and spending revenue on renewables

The majority of the US public is in favour of a tax on fossil fuels, provided the money goes into clean energy and infrastructure, according to a new study.

The Yale University study surveyed Americans' willingness to pay a tax, and their preferences on how any should be spent. The results were published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Lead researcher Professor Matthew J Kotchen said: "The idea of a carbon tax is not new, and indeed has been advocated by some senior conservative leaders in the US, with a dividend being rebated to American households.

"What we aimed to find out, however, was whether there was support among the American public for a carbon tax to address climate change. Specifically, we also wanted to discover how much they were willing to pay, and how they would prefer the revenue from the tax to be used."

The researchers carried out a nationally-representative survey of 1,226 American adults, aged 18 and over. The survey introduced the idea of a carbon tax to combat , and then asked respondents how they would like to see the revenue used if such a tax were implemented. Respondents were given 10 different expenditure categories and asked to indicate whether they would support or oppose each one.

Professor Kotchen said: "We found the greatest level of support - nearly 80 per cent - was for the revenue to be used in the development of , and for improvements to US infrastructure like roads and bridges.

"With the average American household willing to pay a mean amount of around $177 a year in carbon tax on their energy bills, this equates to around $22 billion that could be spent on investments in clean energy and infrastructure, among other sectors as well.

"Interestingly, our analysis indicates strong public support - more than 70 per cent - for using some portion of the carbon-tax revenue to compensate coal miners whose jobs may be affected by a reduction in the use of . By our calculations - based on the number of workers carrying out coal extraction - there would be enough revenue from this tax to compensate all coal miners with nearly US$146,000 upon passage of the tax."

The research found that the 'willingness to pay' of Americans was actually less than the proposed carbon tax price described in the influential "The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends" report from the Climate Leadership Council's report in Feb 2017.

But Professor Kotchen said: "It's worth keeping in mind that their proposal is for a wider-ranging carbon tax on all goods and services, with dividends paid back to households from the revenues raised, so a direct comparison is more difficult.

"Our study asked specifically about a tax on bills, and the responses we received showed a minority of support for any form of dividend to be paid out. We believe that, with current interest about a as a 'Republican climate jailbreak strategy', our findings may have significant policy implications."

Explore further

Support for carbon tax grows when revenue fuels renewable energy

More information: 'Public Willingness to Pay for a U.S. Carbon Tax and Preferences for Spending the Revenue' 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 094012 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa822a
Journal information: Environmental Research Letters

Citation: US public backs carbon tax, and spending revenue on renewables (2017, September 12) retrieved 19 October 2019 from
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Sep 13, 2017
A whole 1226 people huh? I wonder where the people were at that were surveyed. I don't know anyone that would want their electric or gas bills to go up. They are already expensive now. I personally do not want a carbon tax. It's as big a scam as the lottery with their " we will spend the profits on the schools" bs they always use to get one started. Very little of it compared to what is spent on it with it ever gets to the schools and I doubt very seriously if more than very little money from a carbon tax would go where they say it's supposed to go either.

Sep 13, 2017
compensate all coal miners with nearly US$146,000 upon passage of the tax

That'd be a pretty sweet payout. Depending on where they work it ranges from 2.5 to 4 years' salary.

Sep 13, 2017
The proceedings of a carbon tax should be spent on research of renewable energy, not the implementation of it (subsidies) because the latter will cause the development of renewable energy to lag behind.

It's kinda like Parkinson's law which states that work expands to fill the amount of time scheduled for it. Costs expand to the amount of money budgeted for a task. The reason is that those who spend some of their gains to find ways to reduce cost (development) will see slower returns of interest and attract less investment in the near term - so those who simply sell what they already have and return all the profit to the investors will dominate the market.

That said, the investment in development should be carefully controlled, so you don't invest in pipe dreams and promising forever projects.

That said, a carbon tax will increase energy prices, which will induce poverty and social problems, which requires one to spend the money on social programs instead of development.

Sep 13, 2017
And, when has the government ever spend the tax they collect on the projects they promise? Any time the government collects a tax, the representatives start to argue to use parts of it for their own pet issues and pretty soon the whole lot is ripped to pieces and sent ever-which way.

Especially when the state is up to the ears in debt anyways.

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