The Instigator
Con (against)
The Contender
Pro (for)

Establishing a $15 per ton carbon tax that increases by 3.5% each year until capped at $80 per ton

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/19/2018 Category: Society
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 364 times Debate No: 108261
Debate Rounds (3)
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On May 11th, 2017, the director of National Intelligence testified to the U.S. House of Representatives about the greatest threat facing the United States. It wasn"t terrorism, it wasn"t nuclear weapons, and it wasn"t Russia. It was climate change. Something that poses a threat not only to the existence of our military bases worldwide but to the existence of humanity. And that is why we must address this key issue, but a carbon tax goes about it in exactly the wrong way.
First, the impact of establishing a carbon tax on global warming would be negligible. This is true because as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency has previously stated, U.S. action alone will have an inconsequential effect on world CO2 levels. Based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports, of the approximately 3 degrees Celsius of global warming that is being projected to occur between now and the end of the century as a result of carbon emissions, the U.S. contribution will only be 0.2 degrees Celsius, or about 7 percent of the total global warming. And this is assuming that no carbon tax is put in place. Carbon dioxide emissions from the rest of the world"primarily driven by rapid emissions growth in developing countries like China, Russia, and India"will be responsible for the other 93 percent of temperature rise. The whole idea of a carbon tax is to incentivize companies to lower their carbon emissions and therefore mitigate the effects of global warming; but in no way will we be able to do this if the best that any carbon tax in the United States could ever hope to achieve would not even make a dent in the amount of global warming on the planet. Furthermore, my opponent may try to argue that if the U.S. leads in reducing emissions, the rest of the world would follow suit. But this is clearly not the case. Despite actions taken by the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide, the developing world has massive expansions planned to increase coal consumption. According to a recent report from the World Resources Institute, there are plans to build nearly 1,200 coal-fired power plants in 59 different countries totaling over 1.4 million megawatts. Also, developing countries want access to cheap, reliable electricity, especially since many areas do not even have access to electricity, and have more pressing environmental needs. It is simply wishful thinking to assume that these countries would follow America's lead and curb economic growth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Second, implementing a carbon tax would hurt American-made products, and this is true because it decreases trade competition, while promoting businesses to move abroad to avoid paying the tax. According to the Citizens" Climate Lobby, for the first year that a $15 per metric ton of CO2 carbon tax is implemented, the cost of gasoline would increase by 16 cents per gallon, natural gas by 19 cents per therm, and electricity by 0.6 to 1.1 cents per kilowatt-hour. Without a dividend, this price increase, which would extend to goods and services, as well as individual energy needs, would generate adverse effects on the economy due to decreased spending and demand for American goods. Thus, a carbon tax would jeopardize the affordability of the most widely used and available energy sources, and the result would be a ripple effect across the economy that would decrease the competitiveness of America's global exports.
For these reasons, it is imperative that we stand against a carbon tax, in the interest of ourselves, our families, our communities, but most importantly, our future.


I affirm that establishing a carbon tax would be effective.

To define:
Effectiveness is defined as any consequence of the proposed legislation that would yield benefit to personal wellbeing, the economy, or world relations.

Addressing the opposing arguments:

Rebuttal 1: The Reduction of Climate Change Due to a Carbon Tax would be minimal

Based on the opponent's statistics, this may be true. However, they fail to realize that carbon emission will depend on SEVERAL factors. Their belief that the global temperature will rise by only 0.2 degrees Celsius seems to be made on the assumption that no innovation or creation of cost-effective technologies will drastically cut our carbon emission. And if these new methods prove to be cost-effective, what would stop other countries from adopting these innovations too? My opponent states that no country will follow the U.S.'s lead in cutting carbon emission. However, this will happen indirectly due to the fact that companies will be forced to innovate in order to reduce the penalties they pay due to the carbon tax. My opponent may believe this is purely hypothetical and based on speculation. According to the New York Times,

"...The levelized cost of onshore wind energy coming on stream in 2019 " a measure that includes everything from capital costs to operational outlays " could be as little as $71 per megawatt-hour measured in 2012 dollars, even without subsidies. This is $16 less than the lower cost projection four years ago for wind energy coming online in 2015.

Similarly, projections for the levelized cost of energy from photovoltaic solar cells have tumbled by more than 40 percent, much faster than the cost projections of energy from coal or natural gas."

Thus, these methods of renewable energy are ALREADY emerging as soon as next year. Thus we can extrapolate that efforts to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness will continue on a similar trend, possibly leveling out until we discover another radical change to the way energy is converted. The cost-effectiveness of these new technologies are definitely not to go unnoticed by large carbon emitters like India and China, who have also agreed to limit their carbon footprints. It should also be noted that the carbon footprint per capita in the United States is NINETEEN times that of India, according to a study done by The Guardian. While India produces a lot more carbon, it is more important for the United States to limit its carbon footprint first because its energy output relative to its size is drastically greater, although, as shown, the introduction of new technologies will be followed by its adoption by other countries.

Rebuttal 2: Implementing a Carbon Tax would hurt American-made products

First, I ask that my opponent provide statistics regarding his claim of the carbon tax on the economy as a whole (not just the change in gasoline prices). Then I would like to refute this argument on the basis of globalism.

When analyzing this argument theoretically, we see, according to economics, that, yes, companies WILL move out of the United States to avoid the tax, as it is their economic nature to seek the profit-maximizing method of production. Then we view two cases when the companies move:

1. They move back as smaller businesses find cost-effective methods of converting energy. As shown before, this is a very real possibility.

2. They remain in a developing country. Assuming our government takes a globalist stance (Disregarding the current administration), the CONSUMER benefits greatly from this increase in globalization. Unless high tariffs are placed on imports, the consumer is enjoying a good or service that has come at a lower cost due to the price of labor in that country. Thus, under the definition of effectiveness, this move out of the United States is beneficial to the consumer. The domestic producers are disadvantaged but, on a global level, total utility has increased with the reduction of labor cost, the reduction of price, and the movement of jobs to a developing country like India with a large working population and little job availability. Not to mention, the companies that are unable to move are FORCED to find a new way to utilize energy. It can be reasoned that companies will slowly trickle back as innovation grows OR they will bring this innovation to the country in which they operate and thus allow countries like India and China to reduce their huge carbon footprints.

I thank my opponent for engaging in my first debate and I look forward to his answer.
Debate Round No. 1


Let's talk about your first point, that carbon emissions will depend on several factors, and new cost-effective technologies may cut our carbon emissions. However, I am confused on why you are asserting this, as it is a point that favors my argument. If companies are already creating cost-effective innovations and switching to renewable energies, such as wind or photovoltaic, then why is there the need for a carbon tax? As time goes on, the United States will emit a smaller and smaller share of the world"s total greenhouse gas emissions, which makes unilateral efforts" such as a domestic carbon tax"an ineffective way to influence climate. If the United States were to completely cease using fossil fuels, the increase from the rest of the world would replace U.S. emissions in less than eight years. If we reduced the carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector to zero, the rest of the world would replace those emissions in less than two years. Increases in worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are driven by developing economies, not the United States.

In fact, a carbon tax would lead to lower energy use and lower economic output because low-carbon replacement technologies simply do not exist. Carbon taxes effectively increase the cost of fossil fuels in an effort to make non-fossil fuels more economically attractive. But contrary to what my opponent stated, the technologies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are decades away and extremely costly. Instead, the only real way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short run is to reduce energy use and economic output. Consider automobile use and gas prices. People have begun to transition toward fuel-efficient cars, but the real impact of high gasoline prices in 2008 was to reduce vehicle miles traveled. Just as higher fuel prices led to less driving, higher energy prices will lead to reduced energy consumption. That will lead to a corresponding drop in our ability to make economic choices.

My opponent also chose to ignore the plethora of repercussions that establishing a carbon tax would generate. While he is correct when he says that it will force U.S. companies to find new ways to utilize energy, what he completely disregarded is that a carbon tax disproportionately targets the low-income in our communities. This is because low-income communities rely on cheap fossil fuels, to heat their homes, power their cars, and live their lives. But when we establish a carbon tax, what we do is we pass that on to the consumers, and that directly increases the amount of money that low-income families have to spend on energy. According to U.C. S. B. Malin Milinger, "reforms to discourage climate pollution hurt low-income Americans." And that is exactly what we saw in Ireland when it passed a carbon tax. In fact, gas and heating bills went up 5 to 10 percent, and it directly affected the poor in Ireland. According to a study done by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, households in the lowest income group pay as a percent of income more than twice what households in the 10% distribution pay. Hence, these low-income families who are already struggling to pay for cheap energy will be hit the hardest and left in the dust from a carbon tax. However, there is an alternative, and that alternative is dividends, where the money is recycled back into the government. But that is something that is not addressed in this tax.

Second, I would like to explain again why outsourcing hurts the U.S. Now, you argued in your second rebuttal that if a large company were to remain in a country without a carbon tax, it would greatly benefit the consumers in these countries. But you fail to recognize that while this consumer in another country is reaping cheaper goods and services, our economy, as well as millions of jobs, would suffer and be lost. This is true because when fossil fuel companies have to pay higher taxes, they end up letting go many workers. While the clean energy industry creates many jobs, this is offset by the amount of unemployment that would be created during the transition to renewable energy sources. Stanford professor Mark Jacobson wrote a recent study that found of the 2.5 million jobs added by using 100% renewables, 3.9 million were lost. Clearly, while a new workforce would emerge, it would greatly impact current jobs in the United States. The business that can move to renewable energy will move to renewable energy, like you said, but will take years to build up to levels where they can hire thousands of people for new positions. Additionally, the economy would plummet due to the loss of jobs and the decreased competitiveness of America's global exports. Because a carbon tax leads to increases in prices for energy goods and services, it reduces demand, thus stultifying the economy. You requested some type of statistic to display how the economy would be affected, but a statistic is not necessary here when knowing that a carbon tax would reduce American jobs and decrease global competitiveness because that is going to smash our economy.
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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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