International Monetary Fund

Post image for IMF Pushes Carbon Tax as Energy Subsidy “Reform”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently published a report urging the world’s governments to “reform” energy subsidies estimated at $1.9 trillion in 2011. Eliminating government policies designed to rig markets in favor of particular energy companies or industries is a worthy goal. Unfortunately, that’s not the agenda the IMF is pushing.

The IMF seeks to shame U.S. policymakers into enacting carbon and coal taxes by redefining the absence of such taxes as energy subsidies. The IMF’s rationale goes like this. Market prices do not reflect the harms (“negative externalities”) fossil fuels do to public health and the environment. Consequently, fossil fuels are under-priced and society consumes too much of them. Policymakers should enact corrective (“Pigou”) taxes to “internalize the externalities” (make polluters pay) and reduce consumption to “efficient” levels.

The IMF estimates that, by not imposing corrective taxes, the U.S. subsidizes fossil fuels to the tune of $502 billion annually, making America the world’s biggest energy subsdizer!

This is blackboard economics (the pretense of perfect information and flawless policy design and implementation) in the service of a partisan agenda.

Carbon taxers disclaim any intent to pick energy-market winners and losers, but that is in fact the core function of a carbon tax. As with cap-and-trade, the policy objective is to handicap fossil energy and, thereby, “finally make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America,” as President Obama put it.

Predictably, the IMF says not a word about the policy privileges widely bestowed on renewable energy (renewable electricity mandates, renewable fuel mandates, targeted tax breaks, feed-in tariffs, preferential loans, direct cash grants) or about the negative externalities associated with such subsidies (avian mortality, air and water pollution, food price inflation). 

This week at MasterResource.Org, I offer skeptical commentary on the “IMF’s Carbon Tax Shenanigans.” Here is a summary of key points (including two shrewd comments posted by Heritage Foundation economist David Kreutzer). [click to continue…]

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