Over 74 percent of respondents “support reducing consumption and believe doing so would improve societal and individual well-being” but only 38 percent support a luxury tax on houses bigger than 2,500 square feet or costing more than $300,000. To authors Ezra Markowitz and Tom Bowerman this is something of a disconnect between belief and personal action. In reality, even survey respondents in a progressive state like Oregon recognize that more taxes is not the way to achieve environmental goals - unless it is only for the rich, and $300,000 is a middle-class house. For the rich, Oregonians were 61 percent happy to tax yachts, airplanes, and motor homes but really that is just sticking it to people who have been more successful and not about doing the most good for the environment. Yachts cause nowhere near the total environmental damage of Prius drivers.
But more taxes are a standard fall-back position - every week some new study is published saying more taxes on X decrease consumption, X usually being the thing the researchers have an agenda against, like alcohol, smoking, voting Republican, etc. Naturally taxes decrease consumption because they primarily impact the middle class and the poor and there are a lot more of those. In progressive California, state taxes are among the highest in the country, as are sales and gasoline taxes, and Democrats who run the show can't alienate their voting base in the University of California or Cal State systems so a disproportionate burden is placed on community colleges to close deficits created by huge funding increases to U.C. employee unions, prison guard unions, etc. in the last decade. High taxes impact the poor most unless we ghetto-ize the rich and force them to go to special gas pumps that have huge taxes on them.
Are more taxes and outreach programs really even necessary? Writing in Reason, Ronald Bailey cites a 2008 PNAS study showing that the free market has already efficiently led to 'dematerialization' - less input needed for better output - in farming. Farmers worldwide increased crop yields 57 percent from 1980 to 2005, which would have required additional land equivalent to six times current U.S. cropland if efficiencies had not been created that had nothing at all to do with mitigation, taxes or taxpayer-funded awareness programs. Instead, farmers boosted productivity to produce the same amount of crops with only 60 percent of the land used in 1980.
CO2 emissions were certainly higher in 2005 than 1980, but almost 30 percent less than if the production curve from 1980 had continued using its same efficiency. If you are a fan of cap-and-trade pretend money, the value of that carbon is nearly $400 billion dollars per year.
Clearly farmers know something environmental activists do not; so-called 'organic' farming requires farm more input - consumption - than efficient farming practices, and if solar or wind power are added, the consumption for the same output is catastrophic.
Here's the money fact Bailey notes:
if the average productivity of the world’s farmers were raised to the current level of productivity of a corn farmer in Iowa, a world of 10 billion people could be fed an American diet on about half the farmland being used now. This means that an area the size of Amazonia could revert to nature.Oregon survey respondents were onto something balking at the old Keynesian notion that the government works best when it is controlling input and output via taxes. The role models for future consumption with less strain on the environment are right there in front of us. They're tilling soil in Iowa, not lobbying or passing legislation in Washington, D.C.