Conservatives take aim at carbon tax

Conservatives including anti-tax activist Grover Norquist are trying to ensure that a carbon tax doesn’t gain any political momentum.

Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), said a carbon tax or a consumption tax would violate the ATR pledge against tax increases that a majority of Republicans have signed.

“There is no conceivable way to add an energy or [value-added tax] to the burdens American taxpayers face that would not violate the pledge over time,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

Norquist appeared to be backing off comments he made to National Journal in a story published Nov. 12. He told the publication that he opposes a carbon tax, but said that coupled with income tax cuts it could be structured in a way that didn’t violate the pledge.

But Norquist, who has a seen a drop in the number of lawmakers who have signed the ATR pledge, on Tuesday said that a carbon tax with offsetting reductions would, over time, inevitably lead to overall tax increases.

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“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.

Beyond ATR, other conservative groups including the industry-backed Institute for Energy Research — which circulated a study Tuesday bashing carbon taxes — are also trying to ensure the idea of a carbon tax coupled with other rate reductions doesn’t gain steam.

Taxing fossil fuels like oil and coal to help address climate change faces long political odds, but the idea is gaining fresh attention, particularly as a way to raise new revenue and close the deficit.

The concept will be the subject of a daylong conference Tuesday co-sponsored by the International Monetary Fund and several think tanks: the conservative American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution and Resources For the Future.

Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), who is heading a new energy initiative at George Mason University, has called for taxing carbon emissions while reducing other rates. In 2009 he co-sponsored a bill that would levy a carbon tax paired with a reduction in payroll taxes.