President Obama’s Energy secretary nominee regards a carbon  tax as one of the simplest ways to move the energy industry towards clean technologies, though he notes that government would have to come up with a plan to mitigate the burden this tax places on poor people, who would pay the most.

“Ultimately, it has to be cheaper to capture and store it than to release it and pay a price,” MIT professor and Energy nominee Ernest Moniz told the Switch Energy Project in an interview last year. “If we start really squeezing down on carbon dioxide over the next few decades, well, that could double; it could eventually triple. I think inevitably if we squeeze down on carbon, we squeeze up on the cost, it brings along with it a push toward efficiency; it brings along with it a push towards clean technologies in a conventional pollution sense; it brings along with it a push towards security. Because after all, the security issues revolve around carbon bearing fuels.”

Moniz position is not far from that of Energy Secretary Steven Chu before he took a job in the Obama administration. “We have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” Chu said in 2008. Last year, gas hit $9 a gallon in Greece.

But Chu renounced that goal in 2012. “I no longer share that view,” Chu told Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.  “When I became Secretary of Energy, I represented the United States government, and I think right now in this economic, very slow, return  — these prices could very well affect the comeback of our economy,” he added.

Moniz acknowledged that such a cost-raising mechanism is not very progressive. “I think it’s very important that any funds associated with that be recycled efficiently to productive uses and to address distributional questions, because some — the poor — may get hit harder than others,” he added. “So, it’s a lot of work to do there. But I think, in the end, if you take one simple thing, that’s the direction that I think we should go in.”