Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has pulled back his support for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions after just three days, and now says it’s an impractical theory.
“Look, I haven’t raised a penny of taxes in my political career and neither has Bill,” the former New Mexico governor said, referring to his running mate former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.
“We were looking at—I was looking at—what I heard was a carbon fee which from a free-market standpoint would actually address the issue and cost less,” Johnson told New Hampshire voters Thursday. “I have determined that, you know what, it’s a great theory but I don’t think it can work, and I’ve worked my way through that.”
Johnson reiterated his opposition to a carbon tax and skepticism of government climate policies in an interview with Reason magazine editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie.
Johnson said a carbon tax “sounds good in theory, but it wouldn’t work in practice.” Gillespie also asked Johnson what he thought about the U.S. acting alone and cutting carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming.
“In theory it sounds good, but the reality is that it’s really complex and it won’t really accomplish that,” Johnson said. “So, no support for a carbon fee. I never raised one penny of tax as governor of New Mexico, not one cent in any area. Taxes to me are like a death plague.”
“If there is any way we can address this issue without the loss of U.S. jobs, my ears are open,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s carbon tax reversal came just four days after he told the Juneau Empire he supported a “fee” on emissions as a “free market” approach to fighting global warming.
“I do believe that climate change is occurring,” Johnson said. “I do believe that it is man-caused” and “that there can be and is a free-market approach to climate change.”
But Johnson’s CO2 “fee” was interpreted by many to be code for a “tax” on emissions. Johnson was quickly attacked by conservative writers and pundits for backing a CO2 tax, even getting called a “left-wing candidate” by The Federalist’s Robert Tracinski.
“Johnson bills this as a ‘free market’ solution. Good to know he’s got our back on small government,” Tracinski wrote.
“A fee on carbon emissions is the centerpiece of progressive attempts to institute a cap and trade scheme on American industry,” wrote the Conservative Review’s Robert Eno.
“Progressives such as Johnson like to describe cap and trade as a ‘market-based’ approach to ‘solving’ what they perceive as man-made global warming,” Eno wrote. “Johnson has once again co-opted the language of the Left for one of his own policy positions.”
But the few conservatives who support taxing CO2, touted Johnson’s statements. The group RepublicEN, which endorses a carbon tax, celebrated Johnson’s carbon “fee.” RepublicEN has joined with environmentalists to promote a carbon tax as the best way to tackle global warming.
But most conservative groups see a carbon tax as a fool’s errand, and the Republican Party explicitly rejected a carbon tax in its 2016 platform.
“We oppose any carbon-tax,” reads the 2016 platform. “It would increase energy prices across the board, hitting hardest at the families who are already struggling to pay their bill in the Democrats’ no-growth economy.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told campaigners at the American Energy Alliance (AEA) in March he opposed a carbon tax.
“The Obama administration committed an overreach that punishes rather than helps Americans,” Trump answered in AEA’s survey. “Under my administration, all EPA rules will be reviewed. Any regulation that imposes undue costs on business enterprises will be eliminated.”
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