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The Environmental Indifference Point

Ezra Klein has an interesting catch on the new Washington Post poll, which asked people which asked people whether they’d be willing to pay a certain amount each month in additional electricity costs if it supported a cap-and-trade program that “significant lowered greenhouse gases”.

When the monthly cost is $10, 56 percent supported cap-and-trade and 42 percent opposed it; when the cost is $25 per month, sentiment shifts to 44 percent in favor and 54 percent against.

Ezra drew a graph on this but let me draw my own, even wonkier one:

The indifference point works out to $18.75 per month, or $225 per year; that’s when as many Americans apparently oppose cap-and-trade as support it. Meanwhile, the CBO recently estimated that the Waxman-Markey bill under consideration by the House would raise the average household’s electricity bill by $175/year or $14.58/month as of 2020. That would qualify it as popular, although only barely so, with about 52 percent supporting and 45 percent opposed.

Obviously this is a highly speculative exercise for any number of reasons — the margin of error in the polling, the margin of error in the CBO estimates (which the same conservatives who loved what the CBO had to say about health care suddenly find ample reason to doubt — although truth be told, the economics of climate change tend to be pretty fuzzy), and so forth. But the sticker shock on this particular bill doesn’t seem too bad, even if Americans aren’t willing to dig too deeply into their pockets to tackle climate change overall.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.