Carbon Tax Chatter

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After Obama’s re-election there appeared to be a significant amount of talk of a US carbon tax, and very little about cap and trade. As a supporter of a carbon tax over cap and trade (see the book The Case For A Carbon Tax for a good outline of the reasons for choosing one over the other) I suspected my Twitter feed may be slightly biased on the issue. So, I decided to do a little data mining of what has gone down on Twitter since the election (using the R package “twitteR” for anyone with those inclinations.)

So, are people now talking more about carbon taxes than cap and trade?

Seeing how many people are tweeting purely about carbon taxes or cap and trade is not good place to start, as there are more than enough Australians complaining about carbon taxes to skew the results, so something more specific is needed. Let’s start with tweets containing the words “Obama carbon tax” and “Obama cap trade.” Plotting total carbon tax tweets in black and cap and trade tweets in red for each day since the election indicates that a carbon tax is dominating the conversation.

It becomes even more clear if you look at the ratio between the two:

Trying other combinations, e.g. “US carbon tax” and “US cap trade” provide more evidence that carbon taxes are dominating the post-election discussion.

Within this are hints of a paradigm shift away from viewing cap and trade is the key policy instrument to deal with climate change towards viewing carbon taxes as the key policy.

Already some have rained on the carbon tax parade. There are good reasons for thinking neither carbon taxes or cap and trade will fly in the short term. However, if it continues the shift towards carbon tax thinking is a cause for optimism for effective long term US action on climate change.

The above approach is, I grant, a little rough and ready. I’ll smooth its edges, and then re-run the analysis every month or so to see if the volume of carbon tax talk keeps being high.

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