Project Report:
R Street Carbon Tax and State Level Work
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


R Street will continue work with the federal executive branch, Congress, 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. In particular, we’ll build on progress we have made in forwarding the idea of state-level carbon taxes in places like Oregon, Washington and Virginia. We will also work with members of Congress and executive branch policymakers to encourage an alternative to burdensome EPA regulations.


R Street got off to a very strong start on its effort to forward state-level carbon taxes. Specifically, the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan, issued on August 3, 2015, although generally not a plan we would consider ideal, included a provision that allows for state level carbon taxes. This was a proposal that we had forwarded in meetings with Obama administration officials at CEQ and OMB. We commented on that proposal here:

In addition, we wrote several op-eds mentioning the idea of state-level and national carbon taxes that appeared in right-of-center publications:

They ran in places like the Daily Caller:
(By Cameron Smith)

...and the Federalist:

(By Josiah Neeley)

Additional op-eds are on our web page.

On August 14th, Eli Lehrer visited New Hampshire to speak to Republican activists and presidential campaign staff about the possibility of a carbon tax in that state.

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 around the country.
In October of 2015, R Street's Cameron Smith spoke on a panel at an event attended by a variety of activists making the conservative case for state-level carbon taxes.
Also in October, Eli Lehrer spoke at the George Washington University about climate change taxes. He gave a version of this talk:
During the fall of 2015, furthermore, R Street's work began to attract increasing media attention, among other things, the New York Times quoted Lehrer on conservative views on climate change on October 13, 2015. The piece can be found here:
In November, Texas director Josiah Neeley published a paper (available here) looking at how Texas could use a carbon tax as part of a tax cut agenda.
Josiah built on this outlining--in climate change national forum--out states could use a carbon tax to cut other taxes:
In December, Cameron Smith, in his statewide Alabama column, also running in November, drew attention to the pitfalls of "Just saying no" to EPA rules.
When the Paris climate talks went forward, Catrina Rorke wrote this piece for The American Conservative arguing for a truly conservative answer to climate change.
In DecemberR Street hosted a small dinner at ALEC relating to climate change issues that brought together leading conservatives in energy, utilities and environmental communities to discuss climate change.
As the year moved towards January R Street remained active on the climate change issue both participating in planning for events (including several state-level dinners). We also were harshly critical of decisions that upheld the EPA carbon rules including this press release (issued only about an hour after the decision) and two op-eds that ran the following day in national and state-level outlets:
They included this piece by Josiah: (which ran in Real Clear Policy)
And this one, by Cameron Smith, that ran state-wide in Alabama.

February started off with a bang when the Supreme Court delayed the start of the Clean Power plan. Catrina Rorke, director of energy policy, stated that:

“While it’s unclear how the legal challenge will pan out, the Supreme Court should be commended for ensuring that states aren’t forced to spend money, time and manpower to comply with a rule that ultimately may be found illegal. Both state and federal officials should use this time to craft more effective and efficient legislative responses to address climate change, as merely delaying action will not solve the problem. The CPP is a dramatic

overreach by an activist administration and it deserves thorough legal examination.”

We published several Op-eds discussing the move by SCOTUS, which can be read here:

(by Cameron Smith)

(By Josiah Neeley)


(By Catrina Rorke)

In addition, we wrote a blog post talking about the overreach of the EPA:

(By Catrina Rorke)

We also published a blog post about the political entanglements threatening the ability of the environmental community in Washington state to achieve its own goals.

(By Ian Adams)


• It will investigate economic imbalances. In particular, it will investigate the ways current energy policy and proposed greenhouse gas regulations from the EPA create suboptimal 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 is national in scope and will focus its efforts on a select group of states.

Information Dissemination

We have posted work on our web page and it has appeared in several national publications. We have also attracted increasing attention from the national media.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$26,500.00 on 6/5/2015 (Check sent: 7/13/2015)

Power Plants

Power Plants

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

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


Eli Lehrer
President, R Street Institute

Posted 3/19/2015 1:04 PM
Updated   3/12/2016 1:47 PM

  • Nonprofit

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