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Environmentalists cheer on another carbon tax push

Environmental groups have rallied behind a new effort by congressional Democrats to put a tax on carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to reduce the budget deficit and tackle climate change.

On Tuesday, Democrats in the House and Senate released draft legislation to establish a price on carbon emissions that would gradually increase over time to reduce the use of carbon-heavy energy sources, like coal.

“It rightly sets aggressive goals and builds on the progress already underway to clean up pollution from our cars, trucks and new power plants,” said Franz Matzner, associate director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Confronting climate change, though, will require the use of current authority to cut emissions, in addition to complementary measures such as those in the draft bill.

“Environmental Defense Fund salutes the leadership of these senators and members who understand that we continue to need bold action from Congress, the White House and states to protect ourselves, and future generations, from the dangers of climate change,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp. “We urge more of our lawmakers to join the effort to pass meaningful climate legislation.”

In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama threatened to use his executive authority if Congress did not pass legislation to address climate change.

“But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said. “I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

Responding to the call to action, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced legislation to put a fee on carbon dioxide emissions to help green-energy projects such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

New draft legislation was released by California Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz — all Democrats.

“Putting a price on carbon could help solve two of the nation’s biggest challenges at once: preventing climate change and reducing the budget deficit,” Waxman said. “There have been carbon tax proposals made by others. We are seeking to craft a system in which each agency does what they are good at and that minimizes compliance burdens and administrative costs.”

However, a study by the Institute for Energy Research (IER) argued that a revenue-neutral carbon tax could be a “cure worse than the disease.”

“The dismal record of the U.S. government in implementing efficient climate change policies is hardly evidence in favor of a massive new carbon tax (or cap-and-trade program),” said the study’s author, IER senior economist Robert Murphy. “[S]uch a new program will be abused in the political process, and will not be tailored to the recommendations of climate scientists and environmental economists.”

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