Project Report:
State-level carbon taxes as an alternative to EPA regulation
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


The R Street Institute will work with the federal executive branch, state governments, conservative non-profits and others to develop and promote the idea that states willing to impose a carbon tax at a certain minimum level should be able to opt out of EPA greenhouse gas regulations. We'll also work in particular states to determine what other taxes might be eliminated as part of a carbon tax swap.


R Street has begun its work on the project with its participation in a Brookings Institution Forum. We've also been working with a variety of other conservative groups and publications to build support for the idea of a carbon tax. On June 3rd, R Street staff participated in a carbon tax forum at the Brookings Institution. On July 10th, National Review Online published an R Street written article on a conservative climate change agenda. On July 9th, R Street participated in a forum on Capitol Hill on severe weather preparedness in light of climate change. We continue to move forward on additional magazine projects and recruiting more organizations to support a state-level carbon tax. 
On August 8th, R Street staffer Lori Sanders met with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality along with other allies from the Brookings Institution, Friends of the Earth, Stanford University, and other organizations to discuss the possibility of a state-level carbon tax as an alternative opt-out for EPA regulation. Our comments were positively received and R Street plans to continue working with Virginia's DEQ to investigate ways to mitigate the burdens of EPA regulation on the state.
On September 10th, R Street staffer Lori Sanders met via teleconference with the Oregon Department of environmental quality to discuss state-level carbon tax efforts there. While R Street disagrees with some of the goals that Oregon has in mind for a carbon tax (particularly continuing certain "green" energy subsidies) we found the state officials receptive and believe that there is a prospect for forward motion in Oregon. Following the conversation, we believe that Oregon officials may submit comments calling for a revenue neutral carbon tax or something similar.
On October 31st, Eli Lehrer published this article in the Weekly Standard's print edition, outlining the way that a carbon tax acceptable to conservatives could be achieved.
On December 1, 2014, Virginia submitted comments to the EPA based in part on recommendations made during our conversations. We wrote about these comments for the Weekly Standard with this article for the Weekly Standard which appeared in the issue dated December 8, 2014.
On October 6th, Ian Adams published this op-ed in the Oregonian (Oregon's largest newspaper) calling for a carbon tax and support from conservaties.
On November 24th, David Banks published this piece looking at the EPA's Clean Power plan
On January 12, 2015, Ian Adams published this op-ed in the Register-Guard (the newspaper of Oregon's capital) focusing on conservative support for a carbon tax.
In January and February of 2015, Cameron Smith and Eli Lehrer, working with allies, began speaking with state-organizations around the country concerning carbon tax strategy.
In March of 2015, Ian Adams spoke to Citizens Climate Lobby's Oregon lobbyists about the possibility of a state-level carbon tax.
In April, we hired Catrina Rorke to head our energy policy project and spearhead our work on the carbon tax.
Also in April, Josiah Neeley spoke about state-based carbon taxes and other topics at Earth Day Texas. Clips are avalible here:
In May, Catrina replied to Rep. John Delany's plan to "tax pollution not profits." Overall, we tink that Delany's plan is a step in the right direction but certainly not the true revenue neutral carbon tax that is desirable as public policy.
As a rebuttal to efforts to make a moral case for fossil fuels, Josiah Neeley published this op-ed in Climate Change National Forum:
In April, May and June of 2015, we met with a variety of top level Obama administration entities including OMB, CEQ and others to discuss options for a carbon fee. While we remained clear in our opposition to the CPP as written, we suggested that it might be improved by the addition of an explicit carbon tax option. (We undertook these meetings with people from the Brookings Institution.) When the Clean Power Plan was announced, we had word that it would include the carbon fee option. We consider this a major victory on our part. Overall, however, we consider the plan an disapointment and wrote about it here: Catrina Rorke published our overall assessment of it here:
In the days following the plan's introduction, we published widely on it in places like the Federalist: and The Daily Caller: ...both well known conservative websites. We expressed significant criticism for the administration plan while simultaneously forwarding the case for a conservative solution: a revenue neutral carbon tax.
On August 18th, 2015 we published a new study outlining the way that states could use a carbon fee to offset state taxes. The study, which is found here, brought together new data and recieved significant media coverage
This research plays a key role in working to figure out which taxes can reasonably be eliminated in each state.
Some R Street work through the fall also focused on specific things that states should (and shouldn't) do with regard to climate policy. For example, Western Region Director Ian Adams wrote this piece in California on September 28th:
In the fall, R Street also continued meeting with state environmental officials to discuss carbon tax options.


Our grant proposal below meets three of the Walker Foundation's grant guidelines.
• It will investigate economic imbalances. In particular, it will investigate the ways current energy policy and proposed greenhouse gas regulations from the EPA create sub-optimal economic outcomes.
• It will explore and develop market-based solutions to climate change, by forwarding the idea of an opt-in state-level carbon tax as an alternative to EPA regulations.
• It will help illustrate that environmental degradation and poorly conceived public policies, including the proposed EPA regulations, could damage the free-market system.


This project has a national scope although many of the efforts will focus on particular states.

Information Dissemination

The project report above describes many of the articles we have published. As well as white papers and presentations we have made.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$26,500.00 on 6/10/2014 (Check sent: 7/10/2014)

Carbon Tax R Street

Carbon Tax R Street

1050 17th Street, NW
Suite 1150
Washington, DC 20036

(202) 525-5719
(202) 525-5717


Eli Lehrer
President, R Street Institute

Posted 4/10/2014 6:26 PM
Updated   10/24/2015 12:16 AM

  • Nonprofit

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