Elon Musk pleads for a "revenue-neutral carbon tax" during speech in Paris

Elon Musk Paris Speech
Screen capture Université Sorbonne

Elon Musk was in Paris, France, yesterday. He gave a speech to students at the Université Sorbonne, making a new plea for a carbon tax, which he sees as the best - and possibly only - solution to the challenge of rapidly transitioning to sustainable sources of energy. He thinks the implementation of the tax should be "revenue-neutral", meaning that government shouldn't make more money from it, but should rather shift taxes from other areas; for example, labor might be taxed less while carbon is taxed more so that the former is encourage and the latter discouraged. This is already happening, for example, with cigarettes and alcohol being taxed more heavily than food staples.

On the other side, subsidies to the fossil fuel industry should be removed (hidden subsidies of about $5.3 trillion annually, according to the IMF).

Musk seems to think support for a carbon tax must come from the grassroots, because the oil industry can't be beat on lobbyists: "You definitely can’t beat the oil and gas (industry) on lobbyists; that would be a losing battle. Exxon makes more profit in a year than the value of the entire solar industry in the U.S. There’s no way you can win on money, it’s impossible."

Check out his speech, it's quite interesting, and he answers questions from the audience on various topics (including nuclear fusion and carbon sequestration):

A member of the audience asks a very good question (I'm paraphrasing): Does Musk think that financial incentives are the only way to solve our problems, or is it possible for people to do the right thing just because they want to help?

Musk makes a good point with his reply. Monetary incentives and taxes are not the only reason why people will do the right things. Most people want to help. The problem is that the current system favors the bad outcomes (favoring fossil fuels, inertia in favor of incumbent technologies, taxing good things but subsidizing polluting ones, etc), so it's an uphill battle and everything is slower. Humanity is still moving in the right direction on many fronts despite these hurdles, but things would progress much faster if the system was actually designed to make the good choices easier to achieve (ie. taxing carbon would shift tremendous resources toward clean energy and rapidly make prices drop).

The government sets the rules, so if we want to change the system, it's hard to do without some government intervention. It's not like the current system that favors fossil fuels is a law of nature; a long time ago, politicians actually made decisions. There's nothing wrong with making different decisions now.

Or as Musk says: "It's crazy to have rules of the game that favor a bad outcome."

I encourage you to watch the whole video and decide what you think of Musk's arguments and solutions to our climate crisis.

Via Université Sorbonne

Elon Musk pleads for a "revenue-neutral carbon tax" during speech in Paris
Only a carbon tax can do the job of massively accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels.

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