Australian election won’t deter U.S. carbon tax supporters

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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American carbon tax supporters are undeterred by Australian election results that were widely interpreted as a repudiation of the tax.

“We would say the Australian experiment shows precisely the wrong way to implement a carbon tax,” Ray Lehmann, spokesman for the R Street Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Simply laying a new tax on top of citizens’ existing burdens is never going to be either popular or economically productive.”

Conservatives contend that the Australian election should serve as a warning to U.S. policymakers who seek to impose such a tax on the carbon dioxide emissions at home.

“Australia is a great example of how not to do [a carbon tax]: not revenue-neutral, not coupled with regulatory and tax reform, and using a bad structure in cap-and-trade,” R Street’s Andrew Moylan said.

R Street bills itself as a group which supports “free markets; limited, effective government; and responsible environmental stewardship.” The group has been trying to muster up support for a $20 per ton carbon tax among conservatives, and contends that a carbon tax could be beneficial if coupled with regulatory and tax reform.

“I myself would certainly vote to repeal it were I an Australian MP or senator and would have voted Liberal0National were I a voter,” R Street’s president Eli Lehrer told TheDCNF.

Even liberal Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is not backing down from his support of a carbon tax in the aftermath of the Australian election.

“Even though fossil fuels are the most expensive fuels on earth, the fossil fuel industry for too long has shifted these enormous costs onto the public, walking away with billions in profits while the American people have to bear the real costs of rising seas, more monster storms, devastating droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather,” Sanders said.

Australia’s Labor government suffered a crushing defeat partly as the result of a year-old carbon tax that was imposed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Tony Abbott led the Liberal-National coalition that promised to repeal the unpopular tax.

Abbott’s new conservative government will push economic reforms, including repealing the vastly unpopular tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

“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,” said Benjamin Cole, spokesman for the American Energy Alliance, which opposes a carbon tax.

Though carbon tax legislation has not been heavily debated on Capitol Hill, some lawmakers are already feeling the sting of speaking out favorable towards it.

AEA has recently targeted Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan for supposedly supporting a carbon tax. The group said that Begich and Hagan both voted in March on measures attached to a nonbinding Senate Democratic budget which amounted to support for a carbon tax.

Meanwhile, Begich and Hagan both voted against an amendment by Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt that would have blocked a carbon tax, and Begich voted in favor of an amendment by Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse that called for a “fee on carbon pollution.”

Begich and Hagan, who both face reelection in 2014, have called the ads misleading.

“Misleading ads like this one are just another reason Alaskans don’t like Outsiders telling them what to do,” Susanne Fleek, Begich’s campaign manager, told the Hill newspaper.

“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 said.

Yet R Street and other carbon tax supporters remain adamant that putting a price on carbon emissions would help alleviate global warming and pay down the budget deficit.

“As we transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, we must finally begin pricing carbon pollution emissions so that polluters themselves begin carrying the costs instead of passing them on to our children and our grandchildren,” Sanders said.

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