US should oppose European emissions scheme

Jeff Landry Attorney General of Louisiana
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Next month millions of visitors from around the globe will flock to London for the 30th Olympic Games. These games are meant to foster international cooperation and mutual understanding. However, under a European Union (EU) law, athletes and spectators flying on U.S. airlines to these games will be taxed for their planes’ emissions.

This carbon tax, called the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), is expected to cost non-EU airlines $1 billion this year. All of this revenue will go to the EU countries where the flights land, making the increased air travel associated with the Olympics a windfall for the United Kingdom.

Now, the EU is not the first entity to try to balance its budget on the backs of tourists. This summer, American beach communities will inevitably hit beachgoers with high sales taxes. However, never in these communities’ wildest dreams did they consider taxing the visitors before they arrived at the beach.

Yet that is exactly what the EU ETS does; it assesses a carbon tax on the entire flight, even if the plane barely enters EU airspace. The appropriately named scheme also counts the time the plane sits on the tarmac as part of the flight! So a flight from San Francisco to London for the Olympics will be taxed for the entire 11 hours and 30 minutes from when it pushes back at San Francisco International until its engines shut down at Heathrow International, despite only being in the EU for 62 minutes and six seconds.

The EU has enacted this carbon tax because it feels international airlines are not taking global warming seriously. However, the facts tell a much different story. Since 2000, carbon emissions from U.S. aircraft have decreased 15% while carbon emissions from European flights have increased 15%. Moreover, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen airspace optimization plan will decrease U.S. air traffic emissions by another 12% by 2035. Yet, we’re the ones being taxed.

One would think that such a horrible tax on U.S. companies would be heavily opposed by President Obama, but that’s not the case. While administration officials have said the right things on the EU ETS in Capitol Hill hearings, they have done little to stop the EU from taxing U.S. airlines. Alternatively, China has threatened to impound EU aircraft if the law is not rewritten to exclude Chinese aircraft. China has also instructed airlines to not provide any emissions data to the EU.

Why is our president not doing the same thing? Why is he not threatening retaliation against EU aircraft? Why is he not supporting a U.S. airline lawsuit against the EU?

I don’t know the answers for certain, but maybe it’s because he supports a “cap and tax” plan. Maybe it’s because he believes (to use his words) “in America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world.” Or maybe it’s just another instance of “leading from behind.”

Regardless of the president’s position, I hope you will join me in opposing this tax on U.S. airlines.

Rep. Jeff Landry, a Republican, represents Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District.