A plan by former Republican officials to tax carbon dioxide emissions is similar to one considered by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before she launched her presidential bid.
Old-Guard Republicans — including former Secretary of State James Baker, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former cabinet official George Shultz — met with White House officials to pitch a carbon tax-and-dividend plan to President Donald Trump.
The Republicans’ plan would reduce environmental regulations in exchange for a gradually increasing carbon tax, the revenues of which would be given back to Americans to offset higher costs of living and build support for fighting global warming.
Their plan is similar to one considered by the Clinton campaign in 2015 of imposing a greenhouse gas emissions “fee,” or carbon tax. The campaign opted not to support a carbon tax after polling showed it would be “lethal in the general” election.
A March 2015 Clinton campaign memo looked at a gradually rising $42 per ton carbon tax-and-dividend plan where revenues are handed out to American families in the form of rebates. Families would have to pay, on average, an extra $1,300 in energy costs a year, but would get a $15,73 rebate.
The proposal by former GOP officials writing on behalf of the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) calls for a $40 per ton carbon tax that gives families up to $2,000 in rebates of offset higher energy costs.
The big difference between the two carbon tax proposals is that CLC wants to pair it with regulatory reform. CLC argued “[m]uch of the EPA’s regulatory authority over carbon dioxide emissions would be phased out, including an outright repeal of the Clean Power Plan.”
Clinton, on the other hand, wanted to keep the Clean Power Plan in place, but her campaign memo suggests “using some share of the revenue for corporate income tax reform, and/or link it to a lifting of the crude oil export ban or approval of new oil and gas infrastructure” to build GOP support.
But while CLC Republicans push a carbon tax, Clinton never did because of how poorly it polled.
“We have done extensive polling on a carbon tax. It all sucks,” Clinton campaign chair John Podesta wrote in a 2015 email to campaign aides.
It’s not surprising carbon taxes poll so poorly. Even the Clinton campaign found it would drastically raise energy costs.
Clinton’s tax would have raised gasoline prices 40 cents per gallon and electricity prices 21 percent on top of costs from environmental regulations already put in place by the Obama administration, according to the 2015 memo published online by Wikileaks.
The memo, put together by Center for American Progress senior fellow Pete Ogden, notes that “with the increase in energy costs, the increase in the cost of non-energy goods and services would disproportionately impact low-income households.”
“Higher energy costs for government and for energy-intensive investment materials (e.g. steel, cement) would also likely be passed on to households,” reads Ogden’s memo.
Only a handful of Republicans support a carbon tax. The Republican Party platform for 2016 opposed a carbon tax because 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.”
Trump came out against a carbon tax on the campaign trail. Trump wrote in a survey by the American Energy Alliance that he opposed a carbon tax and the Obama administration’s “social cost of carbon” estimate.
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