Australian conservatives run successfully against carbon tax

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Australian Labor Party’s support for a carbon tax contributed to its crushing defeat at the ballot box, a possible warning shot to tax-supporters in the United States.

“The results of the election should be an instructive lesson for U.S. lawmakers who have yet to understand the economic consequences of a carbon tax,” Benjamin Cole, spokesman for the American Energy Alliance, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Australia’s new conservative government will push new reforms to help the country’s economy, including repealing the vastly unpopular tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

The conservative Liberal-National coalition ousted the liberal Labor government last week, assembling the biggest ruling coalition since 2004. The new Prime Minister Tony Abbott has pledged to lower taxes, in particularly on the mining sector; lower subsidies and welfare programs; and scrap the country’s year-old carbon tax, which is by some measures the most expensive in the world.

“I declare the government is under new management,” Abbott said in a victory speech on Saturday. “Australia is once more open for business.”

Australia’s carbon tax was imposed by the Labor government last year and was widely unpopular. Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd attempted to win over voters by moving away from a carbon tax to a cap and trade system with a floating price, but this strategy may have been too little too late.

American conservatives argue that the election should serve as a warning to lawmakers — if you support a carbon tax, it could cost you your job.

The American Energy Alliance (AEA) and other conservative groups have banded together to oppose a carbon tax in the U.S., backing efforts by House Republicans to block attempts by the Obama administration to regulate carbon dioxide.

“Given the results of Aussies’ election, U.S. policymakers who want to replicate the failed Australian experiment on the U.S. economy will do so at their own peril,” Cole added.

The Institute for Energy Research, AEA’s policy arm, released a study which found that Australia’s carbon tax hurt the economy by increasing unemployment and raising energy prices — all while having a minimal impact on global warming.

“It is no secret that Australia’s controversial carbon tax isn’t delivering the promised improvements,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. “One obvious misstep in Australia was that there was no full cost-benefit analysis conducted before implementation. And as a result, electricity prices increased, unemployment rose significantly, and there hasn’t even been any reduction in the level of domestically-produced CO2 emissions.”

The specter of voter backlash has not deterred all lawmakers, some of whom have gone ahead and introduced legislation to impose a carbon tax.

California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation earlier this year that would slap a gradually rising tax on carbon emissions, raising $1.2 trillion in the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and 60 percent of that revenue would be used to offset higher energy bills.

“Carbon could cost us the planet,” Boxer said. “The least we could do is put a little charge on it so people move to clean energy.”

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