Last month, environmentalists cheered as California launched a cap-and-trade program, but talks of a federal carbon tax raised concerns about double taxation.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that while the chances of a federal tax on carbon emissions being adopted are still remote, California state officials are worried enough to have started discussing the prospect.
"We are aware that it is a possibility, and we have been considering it as of late," said California Air Resources Board spokesman Stanley Young. "We want to make sure that California companies continue to transition into the program without any sort of disadvantage."
One potential solution would be for Congress to exempt California companies that already participate in the state cap-and-trade program from a carbon tax. California officials have also indicated they could tweak their system to harmonize it with the possible federal tax.
"You either have one or the other — you don't have them both," said climate economist Jasmin Ansar with the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group. "You'd have the danger of, in effect, double taxation."
According to the Brookings Institution, a $20 per ton carbon tax that rises 4 percent annually would raise $150 billion per year over ten years and reduce carbon emissions 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2050.
However, a study from the Institute for Energy Research's Robert Murphy found that a carbon tax would make the tax code more convoluted and hinder economic growth.