Little support from conservative groups for a carbon tax

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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As carbon tax proposals make their way through Congress, conservative groups are standing their ground in opposition.

“Look, there are no conservatives that are for this,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told The Daily Caller News Foundation when asked about conservative support for a carbon tax.

“I do think it’s one of those things that will always be talked about because there’s always a fantasy in the minds of some Republicans that the Democrats will decide to be sane, and they could see the Democrats passing entitlement reform in return for them sort of tax increase,” he added.

Last year, it was reported that a few conservatives were advocating for a carbon tax to replace onerous environmental regulations and offset other taxes.

“We’ve got a ways to go [in terms of building support on the right] because elected officials typically follow, they don’t lead, so we have to go build support for the proposition — and sensing that support I believe conservatives will start to lead,” said former South Carolina Republican Rep. Bob Inglis, adding that he has witnessed growing right-wing support for a carbon tax coming from younger conservatives.

“Well I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses at College Republicans, Federalist Societies at law schools, energy clubs at business schools, and they all get it,” he said.

Inglis added that conservative academic support for a carbon tax comes from Mitt Romney’s former economic adviser Gregory Mankiw, economist Art Laffer, and Ronald Reagan’s former  Secretary of State George Shultz.

However, most conservative groups have banded together to voice their opposition to a carbon tax. The heads of conservative and free-market think tanks have joined the American Energy Alliance to oppose such a tax, which has been pushed by congressional Democrats.

“A carbon tax is a penalty on American families, however popular it might be among the so-called clean energy elites who labor in the cottage industry of bad ideas on both coasts. Some policymakers continue to flirt with the concept, but not even Barack Obama has the political capital to endorse it publicly,” said Ben Cole, communications director at the American Energy Alliance.

Earlier this year, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced legislation to put a gradually rising fee on carbon dioxide emissions to fund green-energy projects such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

Democrats in the House and Senate also came together and released draft legislation for a gradually increasing carbon tax to reduce the use of carbon-heavy energy sources, like coal.

However, it still seems unlikely a carbon tax could pass as congressional Republicans have taken a firm stand against it.

“It is not going to come from the Republicans,” said Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “We are going to do our very best to make sure that this is not a mole that pops up again.”

“There is little chance that this Congress (or even a future Congress in which Democrats control both chambers) will enact a carbon tax on straight up-or-down votes on the House and Senate floors,” Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and director of Freedom Action, told the DC News Foundation. Ebell has joined AEA in opposition to a carbon tax.

However, Ebell said that one potential way for a carbon tax to pass would be for it to be part of a larger bargain on the budget or taxes.

“The danger is that it could be included in a big budget or tax reform deal,” Ebell said. “Such deals are negotiated in secret. A carbon tax could be included as part of the package and never have an up-or-down floor vote.”

“Members could then explain that of course they were against the carbon tax provision, but didn’t have a chance to vote on it and had to accept it as part of the deal, Ebell concluded.”I think the fact that it is the only thing on the table that would raise a lot of revenue means that it will be a threat for the foreseeable future.”

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