Policy Documents

14 Think Tanks and Advocacy Groups Urge Congress to Oppose Carbon Taxes

December 12, 2012

UPDATE: On March 13, 2013, The Heartland Institute was among 16 conservative think tanks and advocacy groups that signed a letter urging a sense of the Congress resolution opposing a carbon tax. You can read that letter here.

On December 12, 2012, 14 conservative think tanks and advocacy groups joined forces to urge Congress to oppose carbon taxes. The open letter, which was released and delivered to members of Congress appears below. For more information about this letter, contact John Nothdurft, Director of Government Relations at 312/377-4000 or jnothdurft@heartland.org.

Visit Heartland's Carbon Tax page for links to extensive research on the issue.

December 12, 2012

Dear United States Senators and Representatives:

Recently, several current and former elected officials have called for adoption of a “revenue neutral carbon tax” or a “carbon tax swap.” Under this proposal, a new tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels would be imposed, presumably to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and protect the world’s climate. The revenue raised by the new tax would be offset by reductions in other taxes or simply returned to taxpayers and consumers.

On behalf of the members represented by our organizations, we urge you to oppose efforts to impose a carbon tax, whether “revenue neutral” or otherwise. Enacting a carbon tax, with or without promises to offset the tax burden by reducing other taxes, is a bad idea for the following reasons:

Carbon taxes are job killers. Energy cost is tightly correlated with economic growth, and any increase in the price of energy has negative impacts on job creation, per-capita income, and growth in GDP. Since 80 percent of energy consumed in America comes from fossil fuels, a carbon tax would raise energy costs across the board, hurting every industry and every consumer.

Promises of revenue neutrality will be broken. Reductions in other taxes or programs to rebate to consumers the revenue generated by a carbon tax will almost certainly be temporary, while the new tax rate will rise over time. Promises to cut taxes are rarely kept and are never binding on future legislatures. Accordingly, a newly imposed carbon tax will be revenue neutral only for a short time, and then become a source of rapidly rising tax revenues.

Carbon is already taxed high enough. Americans in every state except Alaska already pay a combined federal and state gasoline tax that is higher than a carbon tax would need to be set at to pay for the negative effects of carbon dioxide produced by their cars and trucks. Opinion polls show the American public are adamantly opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of battling “global warming.” (Diesel and gasoline account for about 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.)

Higher carbon taxes cause environmental harm. Carbon taxes force the substitution of wind and solar power for fossil fuels, but these alternative energy sources cause real and substantial environmental damage. Wind turbines, while providing merely 2 percent of U.S. electricity, kill at least 440,000 birds each year, including many endangered species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wind power kills a similar number of bats and requires the development of vast areas of pristine land. Solar thermal power is similarly land-intensive and utilizes substantially more water than coal and natural gas power.

Reducing carbon dioxide concentrations in the air causes environmental harm. Plant growth is limited by the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, and the modest increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide during the past century helped make possible record crop production and the expansion of plant life throughout the planet. Reductions in atmospheric carbon dioxide would cause a reduction in crop production, plant growth, and biosphere richness.

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is unnecessary for three reasons:

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions already are declining. U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are lower than they were at the turn of the century. This decline is accelerating as low-cost natural gas, made possible by the shale gas revolution, induces utilities to replace high-carbon coal power with lower-carbon natural gas power. Other market factors also are inducing a long-term decline in carbon intensity, and no new taxes are necessary to continue this trend.

Reducing U.S. emissions won’t stop or delay climate change. While U.S. carbon dioxide emissions already are falling, emissions in India, China, and other developing countries are rising rapidly, causing global emissions to rise regardless of what we do in the U.S. In fact, increasing energy costs in the U.S. would simply drive manufacturing (and jobs) to India and China, where energy costs are lower and carbon dioxide emissions per-unit of output are higher.

Global warming fears are overstated. Real-world temperatures continue to rise much more slowly than predicted by global warming advocates, and real-world weather and climate data reflect few if any of the predicted negative consequences of global warming.

For these reasons, we the undersigned urge you to oppose efforts to impose so-called “revenue neutral carbon taxes” on American consumers.

Sincerely,

Joseph Bast
President
The Heartland Institute

Al Cardenas
Chairman
The American Conservative Union  

William Wilson
President
Americans for Limited Government 

Barrett E. Kidner
Chairman & CEO
Caesar Rodney Institute 

Roy Cordato, Ph.D.
VP for Research and Resident Scholar
John Locke Foundation 

Tina M. Pisenti
Executive Vice President & COO
Cascade Policy Institute 

Ben Cunningham
Tennessee Tax Revolt
Nashville Tea Party 

Dee Hodges
President
Maryland Taxpayers Association

Donald Ferguson
Executive Director
American Tradition Partnership  

Myron Ebell
Director
Freedom Action
Competitive Enterprise Institute  

Larry Kaufmann
Exeutive Director
The Liberty21 Institute

Conrad Quagliarli 
The Cherokee Tea Party Patriots