Editor’s note: As I noted the other day when discussing some optimistic conservative support for a carbon tax, talk is cheap, but when it comes to doing anything to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, fossil fuel–funded Republican Congresspeople faces some serious soul searching in order to actually buck the trend and support a tax on pollution (even if the income is sent right back to individuals or businesses in a GOP-directed way). Here’s more along those lines, courtesy Stephen Lacey & Climate Progress:
Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist raised a lot of eyebrows on Monday when he told National Journal that a carbon tax might be on the table if it were swapped with a cut to the income tax.
“It’s possible you could structure something that wasn’t an increase and didn’t violate the pledge,” he reportedly said.
As president of Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist has convinced hundreds of members of Congress to sign a pledge that they will never raise taxes. While his influence appears to be waning in Washington, Norquist’s tax pledge is still considered gospel for many Republicans. That’s why his willingness to consider a tax on global warming pollution is a big deal in political circles.
But one day later, after being criticized by the American Energy Alliance, the advocacy arm of a Koch-supported energy think tank devoted to promoting fossil fuel development, Norquist has completely reversed his statement, saying there virtually “no conceivable way” he could support a tax on carbon.
“Grover, just butch it up and oppose this lousy idea directly. This word-smithing is giving us all headaches,” wrote AEA in its newsletter, while promoting a newly-published study labeling carbon taxes “political cronyism.”
Americans for Tax Reform issued this statement this morning:
Americans for Tax Reform opposes a carbon tax and will work tirelessly to ensure one does not become law.
Taxing American energy consumption not only opens up a new revenue stream for proponents of big government, but threatens to forever damage the American economy.
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist describes a carbon tax this way:
“The creation of any new tax such as a VAT or energy tax — even if originally passed with offsetting tax reductions elsewhere — would inevitably lead to higher taxes as two taxes would be at the disposal of politicians to increase taxes. Two smaller tapeworms are not an improvement over one big tapeworm. Tapeworms and taxes grow.
There is no conceivable way to add an energy or VAT tax to the burdens American taxpayers face that would not violate the pledge over time. If someone first passed and implemented a constitutional amendment with 2/3 of the House and Senate and 3/4 of the states concurring to forbid the restoration of the income tax, we might more safely consider passing a VAT or energy VAT. And then it would be foolish and economically destructive thing to do.”
Meanwhile, conservatives who understand the threat of climate change continue to discuss the prospects for pricing carbon in Obama’s second term, possibly as part of a grand bargain on a deficit deal. While some consider taxing carbon pollution a “pipe dream,” others believe it’s one of the only opportunities to get Congressional Republicans to support a carbon reduction policy. Norquist’s immediate reversal shows just how difficult it will be to bring enough Republicans around on the issue and get something done.
The Obama Administration said last week that it has no intentions to introduce a carbon tax proposal.
Stephen Lacey is a reporter/blogger for Climate Progress, where he writes on clean energy policy, technologies, and finance. Before joining CP, he was an editor/producer with RenewableEnergyWorld.com. He received his B.A. in journalism from Franklin Pierce University.