The blue-collar climate plan

February 9, 2017
By John D. Sutter

The idea is simple, popular and effective: Make a bad thing – polluting the atmosphere – more expensive; and therefore make it cheaper for people and businesses to live cleaner.

Yes, the concept is called a “carbon tax.”

But try to get past the T-word for a second.

Because proponents see this as a blue-collar climate policy – one for the Trump era.

“This is a pro-growth policy. It is a pro-competitiveness policy,” said Ted Halstead, founder and CEO of the Climate Leadership Council, which released a white paper this week advocating for a carbon tax. “It would rebalance trade, it would promote jobs – and, most of all, it would help working class Americans.”

The plan –outlined in a paper called “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends” – has the backing of a list of influential GOP old-timers that includes James Baker and George Shultz, former secretaries of state in Republican administrations; Gregory Mankiw, a conservative Harvard economist; Henry Paulson, the former treasury secretary under President George W. Bush; and Rob Walton, the former head of Wal-Mart. They’re trying to pitch the plan to the White House – and the public.

This could be a historic moment.