Lawmakers to take up GOP carbon, oil tax resolutions

Source: Amanda Reilly and Ariel Wittenberg, E&E reporters • Posted: Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The House this week will take up two resolutions aimed at potential climate change policies that GOP critics have argued would drive up energy prices and hurt consumers.

One of the resolutions would express a sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be “detrimental” to the U.S. economy. Another opposes President Obama’s budget proposal to add a tax on barrels of oil.

“We must send a clear message to the American public that we stand opposed to policies that will senselessly drive up energy prices for American families and businesses, harm our economy, and drive American jobs overseas,” a group of 55 Republican lawmakers said of the two resolutions in an April letter to House GOP leaders.

The House Rules Committee tomorrow is scheduled to hold a meeting on both resolutions and a separate measure aimed at stymying the Obama administration’s new standard for ground-level ozone (see related story).

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) introduced the carbon tax resolution, H. Con. Res. 89, in October.

The three-page resolution states that a tax on carbon dioxide emissions would disproportionately affect the poor, as well as send jobs and businesses overseas.

As of Friday, the resolution had 82 Republican co-sponsors. Among the group are several of the most conservative members of the House and members of the House Freedom Caucus (E&E Daily, April 20).

The resolution counts among its supporters the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, the American Energy Alliance, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, the Heartland Institute and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) introduced a similar resolution in the Senate last month.

While the United States does not have a carbon tax, Obama has said a price on carbon is a better way of addressing climate change than regulations. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is in favor of a carbon tax, but her advisers have acknowledged it would be difficult to get through Congress (E&E Daily, May 9).

Economists also generally view a carbon tax as an effective means of reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. A tax on carbon has the potential to raise government revenue that could help reduce other types of personal and business taxes.

Some Republican climate change activists, including former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis, have endorsed a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

The libertarian group Niskanen Center has also been pushing conservatives to embrace a carbon tax, arguing that Republicans should support it in exchange for an easing of regulatory restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions.

Also on the House agenda is a resolution slamming Obama’s proposed $10-per-barrel oil tax.

The tax was included in the president’s fiscal 2017 budget request and would fund a “21st Century Clean Transportation System” to simultaneously improve the nation’s infrastructure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

Republican lawmakers decried the proposal as “dead on arrival” this winter, something that Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) now wants on the congressional record (E&E Daily, Feb. 5).

His resolution outlines the contributions the oil industry makes to the nation’s economy, as well as its current financial struggles, before resolving that “any new tax placed on the struggling oil and gas industry will further prevent growth and development throughout the sector and encourage additional layoffs.”

“It is the sense of Congress that a new tax should not be placed on oil, and in considering future policy, Congress should carefully review the detrimental impacts of placing any new taxes on any industry that has seen a slash in jobs, revenue and production,” concludes the measure, H. Con. Res. 112.

The resolution comes as appropriators in both chambers of Congress have been ignoring Obama’s oil tax proposal. Neither the transportation spending bill that passed the Senate at the end of May nor the House version that recently passed the Appropriations Committee mentions the oil tax.

The White House has threatened to veto the Senate spending bill, in part because it does not include any funding for the clean transportation system (E&ENews PM, May 16).

Schedule: The Rules meeting is Tuesday, June 7, at 5 p.m. in H-313 Capitol.