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Biden’s climate agenda and an ‘elephant in the room’

Josh Siegel of the Washington Examiner highlights a critical flaw in President Biden’s climate strategy.

There’s a looming problem with President Joe Biden’s climate agenda.

The administration is considering taxing imports of carbon-intensive goods, fulfilling a Biden campaign promise to punish China and other countries that are “failing to meet their climate and environmental obligations.”

But economists warn such a policy, known as a border carbon adjustment, would be unworkable unless the United States imposed a carbon tax or a similar pricing scheme on its own domestic goods.

Right now, Biden is not planning a carbon tax as part of his new goal to cut U.S. emissions in half by 2030 and has instead proposed for Congress to pass a clean electricity standard mandating utilities use more zero-carbon electricity.

At an event on Thursday hosted by the Niskanen Center, moderator Joseph Majkut, the group’s director of climate policy, referred to the infeasibility of the U.S. proceeding on a border adjustment without a domestic carbon tax as “the elephant in the room” threatening the Biden administration’s climate agenda.

“If the U.S. didn’t have a national carbon price, it just doesn’t make sense to have a border carbon adjustment,” Shuting Pomerleau, a Niskanen climate policy analyst, told the Washington Examiner in a subsequent interview. “You are not putting a price on carbon emissions domestically, so how do you justify a tax on imported goods?”

At least some officials in the Biden administration are aware of this potential hypocrisy.

Noah Kaufman, a senior economist in the White House Council of Economic Advisers, previously told the Washington Examiner before joining the administration that the U.S. could not tax other countries’ carbon-intensive products if it didn’t first penalize its own.

“In a world without a carbon tax, we would basically be saying we are applying this somewhat arbitrary tax to your goods even though we’re not applying it to our goods,” said Kaufman. …

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...