Energy

Carbon Tax Fight Erupts On Capitol Hill

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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House lawmakers passed a resolution opposing a carbon dioxide emissions tax and another opposing a tax on barrels of oil, once again setting off a battle on Capitol Hill over global warming.

Lawmakers passed an anti-carbon tax resolution introduced by Louisiana Rep. [crscore]Steve Scalise[/crscore] in a 237-163 vote Friday to make it harder for a future president to cajole Congress into taxing emissions to fight global warming.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers passed legislation Thursday delaying federal ozone standards from taking effect. In that bill was a resolution by Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany opposing President Barack Obama’s proposal for a $10 tax on barrels of oil — many conservatives see this move as essentially a carbon tax.

“No matter how much the Big Government and Big Business types want to pass a carbon tax off as an ‘elegant’ or ‘efficient’ alternative to existing taxes and regulation, thinking conservatives know it is neither,” Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the free market Institute for Energy Research (IER), told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“It’s the same old wine in new bottles,” he said.

Republicans have been increasingly concerned about attempts to get a carbon tax through Congress in recent years. The GOP seems even more concerned a few vocal voices on the right are trying to get more conservatives to sign a carbon tax.

“The more you vote on something, the harder it is to vote the other way,” Republican strategist Mike McKenna told Bloomberg Thursday.

For a while, a few conservative carbon tax supporters floated the idea of using tax reform to push a carbon tax. The idea is to impose a CO2 tax and “offset” it by reducing taxes and regulatory burdens elsewhere.

“But there’s also a right way to do it,” Catrina Rorke with the R Street Institute, a right-leaning think tank pushing a carbon tax, wrote in The Daily Caller.

“R Street supports a revenue-neutral price on carbon that cuts or outright eliminates other taxes on capital and income; that can be adjusted at the border for imports and exports; and that’s accompanied by preempting existing EPA, Interior and DOE carbon regulations,” she wrote.

Sounds nice, but the idea hasn’t caught on.

“In the end, they want to screw the consumers, jack up the price of energy, and feed the thirst in Washington for more money to buy votes and more power for the control freaks.  Charging a fee for the right to live is off the table,” Kish said. “Period. We won’t get fooled again, to quote The Who.”

Republicans have so far been unmoved by calls from the right and left to tax carbon dioxide. The Republican National Committee adopted a resolution opposing a carbon tax in February, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has also come out against a CO2 tax.

IER has been a major force pushing against a carbon tax. IER economist Robert Murphy has repeatedly written about the major pitfalls of imposing a carbon tax, ranging from the negligible environmental impacts to the likely political machinations.

“To repeat, we don’t have to be ‘deniers’ to see that the official case for aggressive climate policy doesn’t add up; all we have to do is critically examine the commentary from the proponents themselves,” Murphy wrote in a recent blog post.

Indeed, a 2015 study by the libertarian Cato Institute found that even if America stopped emitting CO2 altogether by 2050, only about 0.1 degree Celsius of projected global warming would be averted by 2100.

“At this point we are dealing with computer simulations of what will happen to not only the physical climate, but also the technological state of energy production, in the year 2100,” he wrote. “In this absurd context, the ‘skeptics’ are quite right to ask questions.”

Despite these arguments, Democratic politicians have put forward numerous bills calling for a carbon tax.

Rhode Island Democratic Sen. [crscore]Sheldon Whitehouse[/crscore] introduced a carbon tax bill last year, which he said would raise $2 trillion over 10 years and reduce emissions 40 percent. Whitehouse has also called on the Department of Justice to prosecute those who disagree with him on global warming.

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