By Daniel Sperling
DANIEL SPERLING, professor and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, is co-leader of the University of California study of the proposed low-carbon fuel standard.
PROMINENT VOICES are calling for national carbon taxes as a way to fight global warming. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, the Los Angeles Times' editorial board and economists on the left and the right all support a carbon tax as the cure for our greenhouse gas pains. It isn't, at least for transportation. As the California Air Resources Board votes today in Los Angeles on adopting new carbon standards, we should understand that global warming can't be solved by a single policy or solution.
Carbon taxes — taxes on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide (CO2) — aren't a bad idea. But they only work in some situations. Specifically, they do not work in the transportation sector, the source of a whopping 40% of California's greenhouse gas emissions (and a third of U.S. emissions).
From the Los Angeles Times
It’s been clear for awhile that carbon taxes won’t make a huge dent in carbon emissions from gasoline — relative to their impact on the biggest source of U.S. carbon dioxide: coal-fired electricity generation. There are three reasons:
- Gasoline has less carbon per btu than coal.
- Engines make better use of their btu’s than do power plants.
- Americans are less behaviorally sensitive to higher prices for gas than for electricity