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Comparing the Clean Air Act and a Carbon Price

June 2014

Citation: ELR 10472

Author: Nathan Richardson and Arthur G. Fraas

Over the last half-decade, a variety of federal legislative proposals for limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been put forward, most of which would set a price on carbon. As of early 2013, the one politically plausible policy appears to be a carbon tax, passed as part of a larger fiscal reform package. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun regulating GHG emissions from a variety of sources using its authority under the Clean Air Act. It may be necessary to choose between these two policies, however. The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that failed in 2009 would have preempted much of this authority, and it appears likely that a carbon tax law would do the same. But how can one make this choice?

Nathan Richardson and Arthur G. Fraas are a resident scholar and visiting scholar, respectively, at Resources for the Future.

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