Activist Groups Continue Uphill Battle to Impose Carbon Tax

Published January 7, 2013

Environmental activist groups are ramping up efforts to recruit liberal Republicans to promote a national carbon tax. Although activists say the tax is necessary to stave off global warming, Republicans so far are not buying such claims.

Meetings Discuss Strategy

Resources for the Future, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Clean Air Cool Planet, and Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project have held closed-door meetings to strategize about picking off liberal Republicans. In November, the coalition moved forward with its first public event, focusing on the domestic and international economics of a carbon tax. 

Punishing the Economy

Economists, however, point out a carbon tax would punish the economy and reduce living standards.”A carbon tax disproportionately hurts Americans hit hardest by Obama’s floundering economy—the poor,” said Chris Prandoni, federal affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform. “With a higher percentage of poor and middle-class income dedicated to energy costs, a carbon tax quickly eats away at Americans’ disposable income.”

Little Temperature Impact

The economic pain would bring little to no environmental gain. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are already in decline without the carbon tax, while China accounts for most of the rise in global carbon dioxide emissions.

Trade for EPA Preemption?

Some Republicans appear willing to discuss a carbon tax if legislation creating the tax explicitly preempted EPA from regulating carbon dioxide. Without such preemption, a carbon tax would merely add to, rather than replace, costly and controversial EPA regulations already in the pipeline.

In light of such talk, some legislative aides are taking no chances and are criticizing the American Enterprise Institute for hosting the November public event.

“It’s infuriating that moderate Republicans would even consider discussing with environmentalists a carbon tax without EPA preemption,” said Todd Johnston, a senior GOP aide on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “By not linking the two, AEI and the other groups are ignoring the war against coal that the Obama Administration has been pursuing.” 

Environmental activist groups admit they want to impose a carbon tax without giving up EPA carbon dioxide regulations. A Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney told the press he would “absolutely not” support trading EPA preemption for a carbon tax.

As a result, “all of this talk is really a waste of time,” Johnston said. “AEI’s funders must have money to burn.”

Dave Banks ([email protected]) is director of D.C. operations for the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions.