Heartland Institute, 13 Others Sign Letter Urging Congress to Oppose Carbon Taxes

Published December 12, 2012

Fourteen conservative think tanks and advocacy groups have joined forces to urge Congress to oppose carbon taxes. The open letter, written by The Heartland Institute, was released and delivered to members of Congress today and appears below.

The letter was signed by representatives of the following organizations:

  • The Heartland Institute
  • The American Conservative Union
  • Americans for Limited Government
  • Caesar Rodney Institute
  • John Locke Foundation
  • Cascade Policy Institute
  • Tennessee Tax Revolt
  • Nashville Tea Party
  • Maryland Taxpayers Association
  • American Tradition Partnership
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Freedom Action
  • The Liberty 21 Institute
  • The Cherokee Tea Party Patriots

The following statement from John Nothdurft, director of government relations at The Heartland Institute, may be used for attribution.

“Creating a new tax on carbon will do nothing to fix the debt crisis we are facing. Don’t be fooled. The brunt of a carbon tax will hit the pocketbooks of consumers and workers by driving up the cost of energy and other necessary goods as well as pushing manufacturing jobs overseas.

“These 14 think tanks and advocacy groups want Congress to know that a carbon tax will not save us from the fiscal cliff. The focus in Washington should not be what new taxes we can come up with, but rather how can we grow the economy and curb long-term entitlement spending.”

To speak with Mr. Nothdurft or other carbon tax experts at The Heartland Institute, please contact Tammy Nash at [email protected] and 312/377-4000. After regular business hours, contact Jim Lakely at [email protected] and 312/731-9364.

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.


Joseph Bast
The Heartland Institute

Al Cardenas
The American Conservative Union

William Wilson
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
Maryland Taxpayers Association

Donald Ferguson
Executive Director
American Tradition Partnership

Myron Ebell
Freedom Action
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Larry Kaufmann
Executive Director
The Liberty21 Institute

Jim Rust
The Cherokee Tea Party Patriots

The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.