President Nicolas Sarcozy of France revealed his plans for working to reduce his country’s carbon dioxide emissions. For each taxpayer’s metric ton of carbon dioxide emission due to use of oil, gas, or coal, the government will charge that taxpayer a fee of €17 (roughly $25). This rate would rise over time. Other energy use, like electricity which comes mostly from nuclear plans, and alternative fuels, will not be taxed in order to encourage cleaner energy habits.
The President has also called for the taxes collected through this plan to be returned to taxpayers. To help those who don’t have the means to explore alternative energy, are poor, or live in rural areas without access to public transportation may actually see an overall refund due to the plan. From the sound of this, there appears to be a level of redistribution of wealth; those paying the most in this new tax may be subsidizing those who pay the least.
According to the most recent statistics I could find, France produces about 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission per person, amounting to a yearly tax of about $150. If the United States implemented such a plan, which it might if this plan proves to be successful, a tax at the same rate would amount to about $475 per person.
This is an interesting plan, but is the tax strong enough to truly change people’s behavior? It seems like it would be a nuisance that people will eventually live with rather than work hard to seek alternatives and to avoid paying the tax. I’m not convinced that it will have a large enough effect on carbon emissions, and consequently, no great effect on climate change or on the dependence on oil-based economies. For other countries to adopt a similar practice, they might look to France’s level of success.
What do you think of President Sarcozy’s plan to tax carbon emissions? Would this plan work in the United States?
Updated January 16, 2010 and originally published December 11, 2009.