Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

How Should We Tax Climate Change Permits?

Now that the House has decided to give away, rather than auction, most CO2 emission permits, I’ve been wondering how Treasury is going to tax this windfall. There is a huge amount of money at stake–by some estimates more than $100 billion-a-year in emissions permits.
Remember, how they would work: Congress would turn the right to emit CO2 into a valuable, saleable asset. Into, one might say, money. The companies that receive these permits—mostly big producers or generators of fossil fuels such as oil refiners or utilities—could either use them for the right to pollute or sell them.

Will Obama Regret the House’s Cap and Trade Give-Away?

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain profoundly disagreed on many issues, among them climate change legislation and the tax treatment of health care. Now, President Obama seems to be bowing to one of McCain’s poor ideas while resisting one of his better proposals.
It is funny how the politics of these issues is playing out. Many economists agree that McCain had the right idea on health care—the Arizona senator proposed replacing the current exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance with a generous tax credit. Yet, Obama continues to resist (though with increasingly less vigor) any change in the tax treatment of insurance.

Ethanol Subsidies: It's Not Easy Being Green

It seems TPC has gone green. Len Burman has told us what he thinks of the bike subsidy (not much) and Rosanne Altshuler has struggled to figure out what tax breaks she can get for installing energy efficient windows.
Not to be outdone, here is my own contribution: Big tax subsidies to encourage production of ethanol have helped yield two results: They have contributed to an increase of as much as 15 percent in the cost of food, and they have produced no measurable reduction in auto-related greenhouse gas emissions. Oops.

Re-cycling stupid tax tricks

As a bike freak and a tax geek, you’d think that I’d be thrilled about the new tax break for qualified bicycle-commuting reimbursement. I’ve been riding my bike to work for 30 years, so this new tax expenditure has my name written all over it. The biker in me wants to cry out, “It’s about time!” But the tax geek just groans.

What’s a Green Consumer to Do?

It’s never too early to plan for next year’s taxes. Let’s say you’re thinking about doing some energy-saving home improvements soon and want to know what federal tax credits are available and how they work. How would you find out?
You might try the IRS website. I did but, unfortunately, couldn’t find any information about energy credits for 2009.

Energy Taxes and the Detroit Bailout

If there are any ranches in Detroit, President Obama has just bet one on his yet-unborn plan to cap greenhouse gasses. Obama has effectively ordered GM and Chrysler to build more fuel-efficient cars in return for billions more in federal bailout money. But will enough people buy those cars with gas at $2-a-gallon to make this a successful strategy?

Breaking News: Higher Energy Prices Will Cut Demand

Nice to see Tom Friedman on the energy tax bandwagon. As he wrote in his Dec. 27 New York Times column, “I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of ways to retool America around clean-power technologies without a price signal—i.e., a tax—and there are no effective ones.”
Friedman needs to give his cranium a holiday break. Policymakers have been searching for this magic bullet for years, without success. They’ve tried government-mandated (CAFE) auto mileage standards, tax credits for the use of everything from hybrid cars to low-E windows, massive government subsidies for production of alternative fuels and sincere pep-talks from sweater-clad Presidents. Nothing has worked. Take a look at this chart from the Energy Information Agency:

The Wrong Time for Tax Credits

Just as demand for both alternative energy and low-income housing is growing, is the market drying up for the tax credits that drive much of the investment in both?
Evidence is that the answer is “yes.” The culprits: the crumbling economy, paralyzed bond markets, and the government itself. This may be yet another example of the always-deadly law of unintended consequences.

Bailing Out Detroit: Just Say No

Note to President-Elect Obama: Don't do it.
I understand the politics. I even get the symbolism—iconic industry and all that. But the economics is really bad.
Here are five reasons why:

Brother, Can You Spare a Tax Credit?

Let it be written: If the Senate-passed financial services bailout bill turns out to save us from the next Great Depression, we will owe a deep debt of gratitude to… chicken poop. If not, we can simply say the entire proposition turned out to be little more than, well, you know.