Emails: Treasury Dept. showed interest in carbon tax data, legislation

The Obama administration has repeatedly said it has no plans to propose a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, but emails from 2012 show that U.S. Treasury Department officials were very interested in learning more about such a tax.

“The administration has not proposed a carbon tax, nor is it planning to do so,” said then Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew in a written response to questions from Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch Feb. 25.

But emails released as part of a lawsuit by the Competitive Enterprise Institute show that Treasury officials were interested in learning more about past iterations of such policies.

According to the emails, officials looked for data concerning carbon trading legislation in South Korea, the European emissions trading system, and 2009 cap-and-trade bill that failed to clear Congress. They were also attending conferences on carbon emissions.

The released emails were Treasury’s second response to CEI, this time releasing 253 pages of documents, with records containing the word “carbon” from the Treasury Department’s offices of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Energy and the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.

“These documents represent thoughtful advice on how to mug the American taxpayer and coerce them out of unacceptable and anti-social behavior, diverting at least 10 percent of the spoils to overseas wealth transfers,” said CEI senior fellow Chris Horner, who launched the lawsuit for the emails. “The major focus is language, how to sell it to the poor saps not by noting the cost or that it is a tax but as, for example, the way to be the leader in something like solar technology.”

When asked about the emails, a spokesperson for the Treasury Department’s international affairs office reiterated to The Daily Caller News Foundation that the Obama administration has not proposed a carbon tax and has no plans to do so.

Some emails show that Treasury Department officials were interested in learning details on South Korea’s carbon trading system, which was passed by parliament last year.

“I hope you are well. My colleagues here at the US Treasury are interested to learn more about the carbon trading legislation that was recently passed by the Korean parliament. Do you have a summary of the bill (e.g., a fact sheet) or an English-language copy of the legislation that you could pass onto us?” reads a May 7, 2012, email from Treasury Department official Daniel Hall to a representative of the Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

The next month, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Energy Gilbert Metcalf inquired about the Korean carbon trading bill, which prompted Hall to ask again for information on the Korean legislation.

“I wanted to circle back and find out if there is an update with Korea’s carbon trading legislation. What is the most recent progress of the bill? Did your colleagues have an English-language summary (or copy of the legislation) they were able to pass on?” Hall asked the Korean representative again on June 8, 2012.

Last May, South Korean lawmakers passed a carbon trading program that will begin in 2015 and cap emissions from power plants, steel plants, ship makers and large universities.

Metcalf no longer works at the Treasury Department, and is now an economics professor at Tufts University. He did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment regarding the emails.

Other released emails show that officials were discussing and looking into data regarding the European Union cap-and-trade system.