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Tax “Bads,” Not “Goods!”

Special to The Green Register by Kyle Crider, Manager – Environmental Operations, Ecotech Institute

“Tax bads, not goods!” ~Herman E. Daly

Sometimes I wonder if anyone running our country paid any attention in Econ 101. If you tax something, people tend to buy or use less of it, if they can. So why do we tax jobs (income)? Even if most of us can’t do without them, it would seem that taxing them less might encourage us to make more of them.

On the other hand, most of us are well aware of the dangers of burning carbon (in the form of oil, coal, and natural gas). A recent study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service tells us that a $20 per metric ton carbon tax could more than halve the U.S. deficit from its projected $2.3tr in 2020 to $1.1tr. Hmmm… less burning of carbon could result in less debt. Less “bads”… isn’t that a good thing?

Sustainability guru Amory B. Lovins puts it this way: “Ecological tax reform... shifts taxation from what we want more of (jobs and income) to what we want less of (depletion and pollution).”

This is not just in America. The European advocacy group Ex’Tax (“tax resources, not labour”) states it succinctly this way on their web site, “High taxes on labour make businesses minimize their number of employees. Resources, however, remain untaxed; they are used unrestrained. This system causes unemployment and scarcity of resources.”

Tax carbon, not jobs. Less pollution, more jobs. Isn’t that win/win? Why is this so hard? Is anyone listening?

Of course, when you realize just how much money fossil fuel interests spend to influence elections and politicians, the reason no one is talking about a tax on carbon becomes quite evident...

“The nation should have a tax system that looks like someone designed it on purpose.”  ~William Simon

“We must care for each other more, and tax each other less.” ~Bill Archer

Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at