Gas Taxes and Climate Change

| Wed Jan. 28, 2009 10:46 AM EST

GAS TAXES AND CLIMATE CHANGE....The Washington Post editorializes today about Barack Obama's recent actions to increase fuel economy standards. They appreciate the sentiment, but:

Unfortunately, the regulatory action that Mr. Obama set in motion is not the best, or even the second-best, approach to curbing climate change. It risks creating conflicting standards across the country and further stressing the domestic auto industry while accomplishing less than could be achieved with a simple tax increase on gasoline.

This is just flatly ignorant. The environmental policy community almost unanimously supports carbon pricing, including measures like increasing the gasoline tax, but I don't think you'd find a serious analyst in the country who thinks that a price increase at the pump is more effective at reducing gasoline use and GHG emissions than an increase in mileage standards. It would probably take a tax of three or four dollars a gallon to have the same effect on emissions as an increase in CAFE standards to 35 mpg, and we all know that's not going to happen anytime soon.

The Post editorial page needs to think before they write. Carbon pricing is an important backbone for any climate change policy, but there are lots and lots of places where ordinary regulation is cheaper, faster, and far more effective than a tax, and increasing auto mileage standards is one of them. We need them both, and Obama did the right thing here.