California Democrat Fortney “Pete” Stark, the second-most senior member of the House Ways & Means Committee, today introduced legislation to take aim at global warming by taxing the carbon content of fossil fuels.
Rep. Stark, who has represented Fremont, Hayward and other East Bay communities since 1971, said the “Save Our Climate Act” would establish the United States as a global leader in environmental protection and encourage other nations to take similar action to reduce emissions.
The bill would impose a $10 per ton (of carbon) charge on coal, petroleum and natural gas when the fuel is either extracted or imported. The charge would increase by $10 every year until U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have dropped 80 percent from 1990 levels.
Click here for Rep. Stark’s statement. Click here for today’s story in E&E News, Rep. Stark tosses carbon tax proposal into global warming debate. Or read the full text of the story below.
Rep. Stark tosses carbon tax proposal into warming debate
Darren Samuelsohn, E&ENews PM senior reporter
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) introduced legislation today that aims to curb global warming by taxing the carbon content of fossil fuels.
Stark acknowledged in an interview he faces a tough slog, but he insisted it should be seen as an alternative to the more widely discussed cap-and-trade approach to reducing greenhouse gases.
“Its viability depends on industry’s concern that cap-and-trade becomes a bureaucratic gaming nightmare,” Stark said. “We’ve had some indication from people who are concerned that the cap-and-trade is just too complex and subject to some kind of politically staffed bureaucracy getting involved in it.”
Instead of cap-and-trade, Stark said an energy tax would be easier for government to administer and consumers to understand. It also would not set competition among different sectors of the U.S. economy that is expected if lawmakers move toward a cap-and-trade bill.
“It might very well become the the lesser of some evils,” Stark said.
Stark’s bill would tax coal, petroleum and natural gas at $10 per ton of carbon content when the fuel is either extracted or imported. The tax would increase $10 every year until the Energy Department and Internal Revenue Service determine U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have dropped 80 percent from 1990 levels — a threshold many scientists say could help to avert catastrophic changes to the Earth’s climate.
Endorsements for a carbon tax come from many notables in the energy policy debate, including former Vice President Al Gore, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Christopher Dodd (Conn.). To industry groups and several leading energy companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., a carbon tax also belongs in the debate over solutions to global warming.
“If your goal is to put a price on carbon for the goal of changing behavior, it’s a lot more transparent,” said Lou Hayden, a senior policy analyst at the American Petroleum Institute. In written comments to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, API said taxes should be considered along with voluntary efforts and cap-and-trade.
‘Right issue, wrong solution’
Stark and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), the bill’s other lead cosponsor, nonetheless face an uphill climb in winning support on Capitol Hill for their proposal.
“I don’t think there’s an interest in a tax, per se,” Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (D-Calif.) Barbara Boxer told reporters last week. “There’s more interest in letting the free market set a price on carbon through cap and trade.”
When asked about a carbon tax during a February interview, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said “everything was on the table.” But asked today about the Stark legislation, a Rangel spokesman declined comment.
Also declining comment: a spokesman for House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).
One top environmental group said it would not back the tax approach.
“Right issue, wrong solution,” said Steve Cochran, national climate campaign director at Environmental Defense. “Virtually no proposed tax has ever been simple, transparent nor predictable by the time it become law. ”
Stark said he has spoken with Rangel about the legislation but has won no pledge it will be taken up anytime soon. “There’s not a politician in Washington who likes to say tax out loud in mixed company,” Stark said.
Click here for API’s comments to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.