Could Massachusetts become the first state to impose a carbon tax?

Could Massachusetts become the first state to impose a carbon tax?


How ’bout paying a little bit more for that gas?

If a group of climate activists gets its way, Bay Staters will vote next year on whether to establish a statewide carbon tax.

From The Boston Globe:

A group of environmentalists plans to ask voters to make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to adopt a so-called carbon tax by imposing new levies on gasoline, heating oil, and other fossil fuels based on the amount of carbon dioxide they produce.

The group, which has registered with the state as a political committee, is launching a campaign to place the issue on the ballot for the 2014 state elections. If approved, such a tax would add several cents to the price per gallon of gas and could generate as much as $2.5 billion in revenue a year, according to an economic analysis that was done for the group, the Committee for a Green Economy. …

“There is grass-roots support for taking this kind of action,” said Gary Rucinski, of Newton, a cofounder and chairman of the group.

This quest to impose a carbon tax will not be easy. First activists will have to gather tens of thousands of signatures to place the proposal on the ballot. Then they will need to overcome opposition from conservatives and fossil fuel industries. Again from The Globe:

[T]he effort will almost certainly attract opposition from antitax groups and businesses not eager to contend with higher taxes and energy costs. Some note that Massachusetts already participates in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program among Northeastern states to cut carbon dioxide emissions by requiring power plants to pay an allowance for every ton they produce. …

Skeptics say a carbon tax would make it harder for Massachusetts businesses to compete with companies in other states where no such tax exists. Even some environmentalists, preferring federal to state-by-state approaches, wonder if it would have much impact on lowering overall greenhouse gas levels.

“We are strongly in favor of having a price on carbon and having a market signal that greenhouse gases need to come down over time,” said Peter Rothstein, president of the New England Clean Energy Council, but “is doing a carbon tax at a single state level going to be most beneficial to the state and to dealing with climate change?”

If the campaigners succeed, they will do so where like-minded lawmakers have so far failed. State Rep. Thomas Conroy (D) and state Sen. Michael Barrett (D) introduced carbon-tax legislation in January, but the bill has not yet received a committee hearing.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Could Massachusetts become the first state to impose a carbon tax?

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