Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Carbon Tax: Pragmatic Suicide

Pragmatism claims another victim. Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, has conceded that a carbon tax may be the best among bad alternatives.
"A carbon tax is also the most efficient means of reflecting the cost of carbon in all economic decisions — from investments made by companies to fuel their requirements, to the product choices made by consumers," Tillerson said in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington.
Yes, it might be that, dollar-for-dollar, taxing industrial output based on the amount of carbon produced (as if that could actually be measured with any accuracy) is less costly in the short run. But the precedent established is among the worst ever in a very competitive field.

Tragically, what pragmatists invariably fail to realize is that what is expedient today is suicidal within a few years. The proposed carbon tax schemes are a prime example.

It concedes the validity of the AGW hypothesis, just as it's crumbling. Worse, it accepts that governments have a right to tax industrial success. Worst of all, it gives a major victory to the most vicious species of Anti in history: the Greens, people who are in principle opposed to humans using the resources of the Earth for their benefit.

(Ironically, they're not celebrating, since they think it's a trick. I grant them one thing: Tillerson may actually believe he's acting in Exxon's best interests, given the constraints. That, it's no surprise, infuriates the Earth Firsters. Heaven forbid these 'climate criminals' should try to make a profit by selling a commodity millions want, one that powers much of modern civilization.)

Given the option between accepting some form of cap-and-trade regulations and a carbon tax, the proper choice is not to acquiesce to the latter. It is to stand up even more loudly for your property rights and declare, "Give me liberty, or you'll get death!" It may be no more than a heroic gesture, but better to be killed by the enemy while resisting valiantly than fall of your own volition on a Green sword.

And resistance need not be futile. If anyone can afford it, it's Exxon-Mobil. They've been doing it for years, and could keep on doing it with impunity. Certainly, they're not losing sales because of a refusal to drink the green Kool-Aid.

There is no way to know what has caused Tillerson to reverse his stand. He may see the graffiti on the political wall and want to move the conversation in a less disastrous direction. He may be worried about his job, after years of arguing with the Rockefeller family, who are determined Greens. He may be, and probably is, getting the kind of threats behind closed doors that the bankers got when Paulson told them to sign or else be 'audited'.

We also have to keep in mind that no major news outlet gives the actual speech, just the money quote. It might be that Tillerson isn't advocating what the papers say he is. Deliberate distortion by reporters in environmental-related stories has become commonplace. Nevertheless, I can find no quote from the Exxon CEO saying that the Greenies are loonies and that a carbon tax is immoral and impractical.

Now that would be news.

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