Gore warns of ‘climate cliff,’ pushes carbon tax in ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

Former Vice President Al Gore called for a carbon tax to be part of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations in the lame-duck session of Congress.

Gore, a longtime supporter of the tax, said the extra revenue could be used to lower tax rates.

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"It will be difficult for sure but we can back away from the fiscal cliff and the climate cliff at the same time," Gore said in an interview with The Guardian. "One way is with a carbon tax.”

Carbon tax proposals have gained increased attention in recent weeks as a way to battle climate change and, depending on how it's structured, help curb the deficit. The idea remains a political longshot, but the buzz heightened this week when anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, told National Journal a carbon tax would not violate his pledge if it were offset with other rate reductions.

Norquist made a firm stand against a carbon tax on Tuesday, saying it would lead to unacceptable tax increases in the long run, regardless of how it's structured.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Gore’s idea of a carbon tax is aimed at climate change rather than reducing the debt. Gore proposed that the carbon tax could be paired with reductions in income tax.

"The most direct policy solution to the climate crisis is a carbon tax, offset by reductions in taxes on wages," Gore said. "By including the carbon tax in the solution to the fiscal cliff we can [get] away from the climate cliff."

Gore said President Obama’s reelection gave the president a mandate to enact his agenda. Obama won the Electoral College 332 to 206 over Mitt Romney, and Obama referenced climate change in his victory speech last week.

"I think all who look at these circumstances should agree that President Obama does have a mandate, should he choose to use it, to act boldly to solve the climate crisis, to begin solving it," Gore said.

Gore also said it would be “insane” to open the Keystone XL oil pipeline and called tar sands the dirtiest source of liquid fuel.

He said his focus is on the broad “climate crisis.”

“It's not that complicated ultimately. We have to put a price on carbon,” he said.

— This story was updated at 3:12 p.m.