Carbon tax funds should go toward energy innovation — nowhere else
There is an incredible amount of emotion and concern regarding the United States’ intentions toward the worldwide Paris Agreement on greenhouse gas emission mitigation. Should the U.S. stay in or get out?  
What would be the net result, in terms of real carbon dioxide reduction, and how it would be accomplished? One of the most talked about mechanisms is that of a carbon tax (a tax on CO2 emissions). It is a most-worthy topic that can only be understood and evaluated through the transparency of data and facts. 
In the United States today, CO2 emissions and taxes are being considered at a time when politicians are aspiring to simultaneously raise government funding levels and slash taxes — it is an impossible task. Many fundraising suggestions have been tabled, but the one that requires the most transparency is the proposed tax on CO2 emissions.
ExxonMobil, Shell, Exelon and number of other major energy companies support such a tax. Why? Because the science and facts support the fact that man-made CO2 emissions are largely responsible for climate change, and we have a responsibility as a society to act.
That responsibility is — and should be — the primary driver of change, should we all choose to tax ourselves and make our energy costs increase. Should we generate carbon tax monies to fund bloated government spending that we cannot afford? I think not! Alternatively, we should use these tax revenues to fund progressive transformative technology to make our energy more reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible.
Let us consider the two markets most responsible for CO2 emissions — transportation emissions from gasoline and diesel and electric power generation. We as consumers of transportation fuel are the largest contributors to these emissions, and we can choose to pay a carbon tax to affect change.  
It seems to make sense to the major oil and gas companies, as the cost is passed directly to the consumers and there is no competitive advantage or disadvantage to the industries in this space. It is sound logic only if the taxes that will affect consumer behaviors are collected and go toward transformative efficiency improvements in fuel economy, engine designs and alternatively-fueled vehicles.  

If revenues go toward programs not associated with energy, we simply pay more and have no way as taxpayers to see the results of those funds.
Electric power is more complicated. It is and always has been an industry with a mission to deliver a public service through the delivery of reliable and affordable electricity that we depend upon more and more every day. Plans for carbon taxes seem to center on the costs being incurred by the generators of the electricity and not the consumers.  
The theory is that electricity generators will be forced to move away from fossil-fueled generation (coal and natural gas), but in the time between now and the utopia of a carbon-free society, we need to invest in technology!
Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study on electricity reliability and resiliency. Bloomberg categorized it as simply a “way to boost coal," but that is a shortsighted perspective. The concerns we all should have are the unintended consequences of forcing out conventional generation, while forcing in new renewable generation into a supply grid not currently prepared or enabled to accept such sources.  
Costs, reliability, affordability for citizens and competitiveness for our manufacturing globally — these are critical, first-order issues that cannot simply be ignored with a singular tunnel vision of carbon dioxide emission reductions.
But could a carbon tax work? Yes, but only if the tax dollars were retained in the states that generate the electricity or produce the gasoline that fuel our country. We must strive to transform electricity storage, systems and grid upgrades necessary to creating energy in the future.  
A federal tax on carbon that would route such funds to all states that simply take electricity and fuel from other “maker” states is counter to the objective and only provides excess tax revenues to spend on everything besides energy and environmental technology.
Let’s remember that our goal is to lower CO2 emissions and impact climate change. Our goal is not to raise revenues for federal entitlement programs that we cannot afford. Moreover, our goal should not be to eliminate coal or natural gas as fuels, but to eliminate the CO2 emissions.  
Let’s spend the precious dollars we could create from a carbon tax on the technology research needed to transform our infrastructure so that it can meet the needs of the future we envision. 
Charles McConnell is the executive director for the Energy and Environment Initiative at Rice University.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.