House Republicans Vote To Ban Carbon Tax As Climate Solutions Caucus Twiddles Its Thumbs

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Carlos Curbelo is co-chair of the House Climate Solutions Caucus, a group that seeks to bring together representatives of both parties to support climate change legislation and policies. “If you want to join as a Democrat, you have to bring along a Republican,” says co-chair Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida. “It’s a Noah’s Ark sort of approach, which is appropriate given the subject matter. We don’t argue about the science. It’s all very respectful.”

Anti-Carbon Tax Legislation

Respectful it may be, but the model seems to have little practical effect. Last week, House Republicans reactionaries passed a bill that would outlaw any form of carbon taxation. Of the 43 alleged Republicans who say they are part of the Climate Solutions Caucus, 37 of them voted in favor of the legislation. Only Curbelo and 5 of his fellow Republicans opposed the measure, leading some to question whether the caucus is just a charade designed to give some members of Congress political cover while they continue sucking at the teat of the Koch Brothers and the oil industry.

The issue, of course, is the concept that economists call an “untaxed externality.” In effect, an untaxed externality is a cost that is foisted off on someone else to pay. It’s like running the outlet pipe from your septic system onto your neighbors’ lawn and expecting them to pay to clean up the mess.

Pumping millions of pounds of carbon emissions and other pollutants into the atmosphere every hour of every day is another untaxed externality. It’s a cost of doing business for fossil fuel companies that they can force others to bear. In other words, it’s a scam, pure and simple, and one the Republicans reactionaries are happy to make you pay just as long as their benefactors continue to pump mega-dollars into their re-election campaigns.

The measure proposed and passed by the Repugnicrats said a carbon tax would be “detrimental to the United States economy.” Well, yeah, it is. Just like forcing your neighbor to pay to dispose of his own sewage is detrimental to his economy. But it’s the right thing to do.

Where is it written that fossil fuel companies can pillage the Earth without any cost attaching to their nefarious activities? Under what twisted economic theory should any person or business be able to allowed to cause trillions of dollars worth of damage and get away with it ad infinitum? What sort of sick mind can construct a case for privatizing the profits of commercial activities while socializing the costs?

The Heartland Institute Leads The Fossil Fuel Cheering Section

The answer to that question is the whackadoodles at the Heartland Institute, the hogs how have been gorging themselves at the Koch Brothers trough for more than 30 years. “A tax on carbon dioxide is a horrible idea. It is a job killer. It is based on faulty, fake science promoted by Al Gore. And it would devastate the tremendous growth and prosperity generated by President Trump’s energy policies,” said its president, Tim Huelskamp in an email to CleanTechnica.

“Some economists foolishly accept unsubstantiated claims that the ‘science is settled’ regarding the causes and consequences of climate change and then lend their names and the credibility of their profession to proposals, like the carbon tax, that promise to efficiently reduce ‘carbon pollution.’ The science is not settled, and even more importantly, even the most efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions costs many times more than the value of any possible benefits that would come from a slightly cooler planet in the year 2100,” added Joseph Bast, one of its directors.

The group claims its mission is to “discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” By free market, they mean they should be allowed to piss in your pool and you shouldn’t have any say in the matter. Actually, piss in your pool would be a much smaller issue, since it would cause much less harm.

Elon Explodes “Free Market” Solutions

Just prior to the COP21 climate summit in Paris in 2015, Elon Musk made a presentation at the Sorbonne explaining the concept of untaxed externalities in detail. It is worth watching again.

A Dogged Pursuit Of Sanity

Despite getting slapped around by his Climate Solutions Caucus pals, Congressman Curbelo is refusing to let the issue die in the House. Even though it has as little chance of passage as a flea crawling up a dog’s leg intent on an amorous interlude, Curbelo has introduced a bill this week that would impose a tax on carbon emissions. He claims a carbon tax a carbon tax would avoid “saddling young Americans with a crushing environmental debt.” He tells The Guardian he believes “this bill or legislation similar to it” will become law one day.

“While there are still some deniers out there, most Americans today understand that climate change caused by human activity is a reality that must be addressed,” Curbelo says. “I remind my conservative colleagues who often decry our nation’s growing debt; saddling young Americans with a crushing environmental debt — meaning an unhealthy planet where life is less viable — is at least as immoral as leaving behind an unsustainable fiscal debt.”

An Analysis By Columbia University

Curbelo has every right to be concerned. He represents a district located at the southern tip of Florida — an area more susceptible to rising ocean levels than almost any other part of the United States mainland. His plan would impose a tax on industrial carbon dioxide emissions of $24 a ton beginning in 2020. It would also scrap federal excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuels and eliminate the Clean Power Plan.

An analysis of the plan by Columbia University (h/t The Guardian) says Curbelo’s plan would cut the US’s greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 33% by 2025, making it possible for the US to meet its commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. It would generate at least $57 billion tax dollars in 2020. That amount would grow to $63 billion by 2030 as the tax rate increases. “Curbelo wants to use this cash to upgrade infrastructure, particularly roads.”

Among other benefits, a carbon tax would immediately make renewable energy even more competitive with other energy sources than it already is and would accelerate the electric vehicle revolution. It would add critically needed jobs to the US economy as workers transition from old economy to new economy employment opportunities. Far from being a drag on economic activity, it would turbocharge the national economy in a way few other measures could.

A Breakthrough

“It’s a breakthrough to see a serious Republican proposal take aim at the central environmental threat of our time,” David Doniger, senior strategic director of the climate and clan energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Guardian. “But this carbon tax plan is only a conversation starter. It falls far short of what’s needed to protect our climate. We must deploy all available tools, not limit them as this bill does, to head off the worst damages from climate change.”

Rob Harmon, an advisor to LevelTen Energy, told CleanTechnica in an email, “The members of the House who passed this bill have the math backwards. The negative economic impacts of unchecked climate change dwarf the costs of any proposed carbon taxes. Smart state leaders will pass strong carbon taxes, well north of $50/ton and use the funds to invest in and expand their clean energy economies.” LevelTen specializes in bringing interested parties together in power purchase agreements that promote renewable energy.

There’s A Name For This

Harmon has it exactly correct. The dunderheads who are prattling on about climate taxes are putting all Americans at risk of shorter life spans and more health issues for the sake of a few shekels — while making health insurance for many Americans more expensive. Ultimately, by failing to do their jobs — failing to represent the best interests of the people who elected them rather than themselves — they are guaranteeing the cost of climate change will be exponentially higher in the future than it needs to be.

Clearly, the American people can expect no help from their elected officials to address the impacts of climate change. And so, we are left to our own devices, starting with voting these stooges out of office. Let the heavy lifting begin.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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