Biden should impose a carbon fee immediately

James Hansen and Daniel M. Galpern co-authored an opinion piece which was published in the Boston Globe, entitled “Biden should impose a carbon fee immediately.” According to the authors, under the Independent Offices Appropriations Act, the president retains authority to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to impose a fee on greenhouse gas emissions.

As they explain, the president retains authority to direct a relevant federal agency (here, the Environmental Protection Agency) to impose a fee on GHG emissions. The fee can be collected efficiently from the about 200 oil, gas, and coal companies that produce, refine, and distribute fossil fuels in the United States.

This is a crucial clarification to executive authority, because EPA has labored for decades under a presumption that it lacked authority to impose such fees. That assumption derived in part from an aside in a legal memorandum by then-EPA General Counsel E. Donald Elliott. Elliott had reviewed economic incentives available to the agency to restrict pollution but, by his own later admission, Elliott at that time was “woefully ignorant of the IOAA and related jurisprudence.” Writing in 2019, Elliott sought to “set the record straight that EPA does have existing authority to impose a reasonable user fee on releases of carbon dioxide and other GHGs . . . any time that it has the political will to do so.”

Economists agree that a rising carbon price covering all fossil fuel uses is essential for rapid phasedown of emissions. More than 3,500 economists — including 28 Nobel Prize laureates, all four living former chairs of the Federal Reserve, and 15 former chairs of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers — issued a statement endorsing a carbon fee and dividend. More than 400 student body presidents, representing more than 4 million college students across all 50 states, support a carbon fee and dividend as well.

See The Boston Globe oped “Biden should impose a carbon fee immediately.” by James Hansen and Daniel M. Galpern, June 1, 2021.