Carbon Tax

Published on November 15th, 2012 | by Stephen Lacey


Grover Norquist Pulls A U-Turn On Carbon Tax After Koch-Backed Group’s Pressure

November 15th, 2012 by  

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.

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About the Author

is an editor at Greentech Media. Formerly, he was a reporter/blogger for Climate Progress, where he wrote about clean energy policy, technologies, and finance. Before joining CP, he was an editor/producer with He received his B.A. in journalism from Franklin Pierce University.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Here’s the question from the NYTimes White House reporter…

    “Mr. President. In his endorsement of you a few weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg said he was motivated by the belief that you would do more to confront the threat of climate change than your opponent. Tomorrow you’re going up to New York City, where you’re going to, I assume, see people who are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy, which many people say is further evidence of how a warming globe is changing our weather. What specifically do you plan to do in a second term to tackle the issue of climate change? And do you think the political will exists in Washington to pass legislation that could include some kind of a tax on carbon?”

    The president did not shy away from the question, saying, “I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions.”

    “You know, as you know, Mark, we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily — there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe.”

    “And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”

    President Obama then talks about what was done in his first term to help curb carbon emissions, such as the new CAFE standards on cars and trucks, as well as clean energy productions.

    “Now, in my first term, we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That will have an impact. That will a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere. We doubled the production of clean energy, which promises to reduce the utilization of fossil fuels for power generation. And we continue to invest in potential breakthrough technologies that could further remove carbon from our atmosphere.”

    “But we haven’t done as much as we need to. So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, next several months, is having a conversation, a wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers and elected officials to find out what can — what more can we do to make short-term progress in reducing carbons, and then working through an education process that I think is necessary, a discussion, the conversation across the country about, you know, what realistically can we do long term to make sure that this is not something we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.”

    President Obama said he did not know “what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point because it is a “partisan” issue today, unlike the past when there was “bipartisan support.”

    “So you know, you can expect that you’ll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this — moves this agenda forward.”

    • Bob, thanks for that! Good information to have.

  • Bob_Wallace

    “The Obama Administration said last week that it has no intentions to introduce a carbon tax proposal.”

    So, Stephen, do you think it a wise decision to use precious time and energy to push for a carbon tax when there is zero chance of one passing the Republican House?

    We’ve got a president who is working to minimize climate change. If you want him to do more then put some energy into returning control of the House to people who care. Attacking people on your own side is stupid foot-shooting.

  • Like the dirty fuels funding the Koch brothers, Norquist is finally waking up to the realization that his cause is not sustainable. By using strong-arm tactics that keep politicians from doing the right thing, like paying for 2 wars or blocking more tax breaks to those who fund his insane concepts, Norquist has done more harm to the GOP then any person in history. (that includes Sarah Palin)
    Keep talking and doing what you do Grover, when the history books are written, your name will appear in the footnotes as one of the crazy Tea Party idiots who’s own actions brought an end to the republican party.

  • Now we know who works for whom. When the Kochs rise, Norquist softens. Little surprise there. @damspahn

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