Bill floated to replace gas tax with carbon levy 

Source: Sean Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) is proposing to scrap existing federal gas and diesel taxes in favor of a levy tied to various fuels’ carbon emissions.

Under his bill introduced yesterday, U.S. EPA would develop life-cycle “well to wheel” assessments of the carbon footprints of gas, diesel, biofuels and any other fuel that the agency decides has garnered a large enough share of the surface transportation market to warrant inclusion, according to the legislation’s text and a news release from Huffman’s office.

The tax would initially be applied on the basis of $50 per metric ton of life-cycle CO2 emissions and then tied to inflation.

While his office did not furnish any supporting data, Huffman said the new levy would generate enough money to ensure the Highway Trust Fund’s solvency. The fund currently pumps more than $50 billion annually into road and transit programs. Although originally intended to be fully supported by fuel tax revenue, the fund has needed repeated bailouts of general Treasury revenue in recent years, including an almost $11 billion infusion approved by Congress last summer just in time to avoid roadbuilding cuts.

The federal gas tax is currently 18.4 cents per gallon; the diesel levy is 24.4 cents per gallon. Neither has been raised in more than two decades.

Besides reducing carbon pollution and spurring advances in clean energy technology, the new approach would “stabilize” the trust fund, Huffman said in the release.

“We cannot keep kicking the can down the road and relying on a transportation-funding mechanism that predates the construction of the Interstate Highway System,” he said. “It’s time for a new direction.”

The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee.