US Senators Propose Carbon Tax

Republicans don’t want taxes at all, whereas Democrats want to tax everything. It might be an oversimple explanation but it’s definitely going to be right more than it’s wrong. It’s also a good indicator of your allegiance when you hear that US Senators Barbara Boxer and Bernie Sanders have proposed a tax on carbon emissions.

US Senators Propose US Carbon Tax
US Senator Bernie Sanders

The Climate Protection Act proposal comes just two days after President Obama delivered his fourth State of the Union in his first year of re-election and was, unsurprisingly, met with staunch opposition from across the partisan aisle.

President Obama’s State of the Union was viewed by many as ‘aggressively liberal’ and the public face of the Republican party has time and again condemned much of the speech. Obama was stridently clear in his desire to move against climate change;

And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Source: Time Swampland

Needless to say, it appears that Boxer and Sanders have taken the lead in attempting to stem the growth of carbon emissions.

“We are looking at the danger of a planetary crisis,” said Sanders. “When scientists tell us that the temperature of this Earth may go up at least eight degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 Celsius) by the end of this century, that means cataclysmic changes to the planet. We have go to act.”

The carbon tax proposed would affect less than 3,000 entities across the US but cover 85% of US greenhouse gas emissions (statistics based on the Congressional Research Service). The legislation would end fossil fuel subsidies, protect communities by requiring that fracking operations comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act as well as require the operations to disclose the chemicals they use.

The senators noted that 60% of the generated revenue from the carbon tax would be sent back to every US resident in a monthly rebate, while a majority of the remaining funds would go towards improving energy efficiency at homes and promoting renewable energy options.

Overall, citing the Congressional Budget Office, the carbon fee would generate $1.2 trillion over 10 years, with approximately $300 billion being diverted to reduce US debt.

The full text of the proposal can be viewed (PDF) here, as well as Bernie Sanders’ statement (PDF) on introducing the Climate Protection Act.

Senator David Vitter, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee which will work on the bill, immediately came out and attacked the proposal. “It’s not just energy prices that would skyrocket from a carbon tax, the cost of nearly everything built in America would go up,” he said.

Vitter has subsequently sent a letter asking the US Treasury Department for their involvement in proposing a carbon tax, while government watchdog organization, Competitive Enterprise Institute has requested a release of Treasury’s emails under the Freedom of Information Act.

But Senator Vitter’s response is minimal, and refuses to address any of the benefits of such a tax. One off-handed swipe at the current administration and a reference to 2009s cap and trade is the extent of what Vitter and his team can come up with against the proposal.

With a Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House, the movement of this proposal will be interesting, as will be peer pressure from other countries — like Australia — who have already implemented carbon taxes. The US has proved distressingly recalcitrant in the face of international pressure on environmental issues, but the Obama administration has been making strides that may prove to their benefit in passing this latest piece of legislation.

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