Carbon Dioxide Restrictions Bill Introduced in Congress

Published February 26, 2018

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) introduced companion bills to force limitations on carbon dioxide emissions from major sources such as crude oil refineries, petroleum importers, coal mines, coal importers, and natural gas suppliers and processors, under a national cap and tax system.

Capping Carbon Dioxide Emissions

The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act would cap the carbon dioxide emissions of covered industries beginning in 2019. By 2020, the covered industries would have to reduce emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels; by 2030, emissions would be limited to 60 percent of 2005 levels; and by 2050, allowable emissions would be capped at 80 percent below 2005 levels.

The U.S. Treasury Department would auction permits each year to companies restricted under the law, with 100 percent of the revenues to be returned to taxpayers by the IRS through a quarterly dividend check, the legislation states.

The bill would also require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate all other anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gas emissions, including transportation, housing, construction, and commercial real estate, within 10 years of the bill’s passage. Only emissions from farm animals and human respiration would be exempt from EPA regulation.

A Tax by Any Other Name …

Tim Huelskamp, president of The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, says both the timing and foreseeable effects of the bill are bad.

“Raising taxes any time is a bad idea, but it is especially harmful just after President Trump and Congress reduced income taxes for most Americans,” Huelskamp said. “A carbon tax will put Americans out of work, jack up our utility bills, and harm America’s competitive place in the world.”

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says politicians have been searching for a euphemism capable of deceiving voters into supporting carbon-dioxide restrictions and taxes.

“One clue that a public policy proposal is a bad idea is when its proponents keep changing its name,” said Norquist. “Big-government advocates keep inventing new names for the same old taxes. A gas tax. Too unpopular. How about a BTU tax or carbon tax?

“Can we fool you by calling a carbon tax a carbon cap, one that requires you to pay [taxes] for carbon credits? Better?” Norquist said.

Norquist says a carbon tax would lead to even more taxes.

“A carbon tax or cap is simply a Value Added Tax on training wheels,” said Norquist. “First tax energy, and then, in the name of fairness, everything else. Then we are Europe.”

Calls Bill Irresponsible, Unnecessary

Robert Bradley Jr., CEO and founder of the Institute for Energy Research, says the proposed cap and tax system would be irresponsible in both fiscal and scientific terms.

“Approving a new qualitative tax for government is akin to promoting responsible drinking at AA meetings,” said Bradley. “Government needs a new revenue source like an alcoholic needs another bottle.

“Pricing carbon dioxide by one means or another remains the great last hope for the energy Malthusians who insist carbon dioxide is a pollutant that government intervention can and should address,” Bradley said. “With continuing evidence of global ‘lukewarming,’ meaning climate change is unlikely to be dangerous, not to mention the global boom in coal-fired electricity, the intellectual and practical case for climate policy has crumbled.”

Political Repercussions Indicated

Van Hollen introduced similar legislation in 2014 and 2015 when he served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill never made it out of committee.

Van Hollen’s current bill has 22 Democrat cosponsors, the most cosponsors for this bill ever. No Republicans have signed on as cosponsors.

Pat Michaels, director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, says Van Hollen, Beyer, and the other Democrat cosponsors of the bill may be forgetting how much previous efforts to limit carbon dioxide emissions have cost them in public support.

“Democrats seem to have forgotten that their 2009 cap-and-trade bill cost them control of the House,” Michaels said. “Of the 64 seats they lost, many were in close races where their candidate had voted for the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

“Conversely, there were six close races in the Senate, and they were all won by a Democrat,” said Michaels. “While both houses of Congress voted for Obamacare, only the House voted for cap-and-trade.

Michaels says Republicans could pay a similar price if they support restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions.

 “Who can forget that Bob Inglis, a Republican from South Carolina, took up the cause of global warming and lost his primary by a whopping 70-29 margin, the largest primary defeat of an unindicted congressman in American history?” Michaels said.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.