Former Obama adviser calls for tax on carbon emissions

A former top economic adviser to President Obama said the historically low oil prices of recent months make a compelling case for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

Larry Summers, now a Harvard University professor and its past president, said declining prices of oil and other energy sources mean the case for a carbon tax “has become overwhelming.” He was also secretary of the treasury from 1999 to the end of the Clinton administration.


Summers made his arguments in opinion pieces Sunday in the Washington Post and other publications.

“The core of the case for taxation is the recognition that those who use carbon-based fuels or products do not bear all the costs of their actions,” he said. “Carbon emissions exacerbate global climate change.”

Summers added that the use of fossil fuels can harm human health, while importing and extracting them can be bad as well.

“Advocating a carbon tax is not some kind of argument for government planning; it is the logic of the market: That which is not paid for is overused,” he wrote.

Additionally, lower prices can cause more consumption and overuse, Summers argued.

Summers has called for a carbon tax before, at least as early as 2012.

But with oil prices at their lowest points in more than five years, he believes he has a new argument in his favor.