Why the rush to condemn a carbon tax?

This week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on an anti-carbon tax resolution introduced by Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and backed by a dogged set of corporate climate hoaxers. This language is nothing new; the same non-binding measure passed in 2016. But still, the effort leaves many on the EcoRight scratching heads.

Why the rush to condemn policy that hasn’t been thoroughly debated beyond the pages of editorial boards and boardrooms of those hoping for an unlikely coal renaissance?

{mosads}After all, even with the support of elder statesmen and scores of young conservatives calling for some form of carbon tax or carbon dividend, even with Exxon Mobil leaving the American Legislative Exchange Council over disagreements on climate policy, the House of Representatives is far from likely to bring up a carbon bill anytime soon. Even in our optimistic, scrappy community of conservatives advocating for free market climate action, none of us actually believes congressional debate of a carbon tax is imminent.


So why the rush? The carbon tax/dividend community recognizes we’re still pushing Sisyphus’s rock up Capitol Hill. Does Scalise think we’re about to crest?

Of course, a carbon tax isn’t coming to the House or Senate floor anytime soon, but it’s high time for Republican leadership to get off the denial bus and bring solutions to the table steeped in conservative principles. Though he remains beholden to party talking points, my ardent hope is that behind closed doors, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) understands a carbon tax is the most viable path forward. And Scalise should get it too, coming from Louisiana, a state which would fare well under a carbon tax according to modeling done by the conservative-led Alliance for Market Solutions.  

Providing further cover: former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) would not have teamed up with former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to launch Americans for Carbon Dividends if such a policy would harm the Bayou state. A carbon tax, the preferred compliance mechanism of conservatives and economists, is the right (no pun intended) solution for solving climate change. 

With no pressure coming from EcoRight carbon tax allies and no discernable benefits to the state of Louisiana, one can only conclude Scalise is motivated by drive to be Speaker. If that’s his motivation, he and his staff should review the facts.

A majority of Republican voters say “climate change is happening,” increasing by 16 percent in the past two years, from 40 percent to 56 percent today. Nearly seven of every 10 Republican voters say the government should take action to address climate change. And support for a carbon tax among Republican voters grows from 35 percent to 51 percent after respondents hear strong arguments both for and against the concept.

Scalise should drop this pointless resolution and instead use his position to argue for free market climate solutions. Isn’t it time to have the carbon tax debate out in the open rather than hide behind a powerless resolution that reflects the desperate reach of the fossil fuel industry more than it represents the people whom the House of Representatives serve?

How refreshing it would be in the hot and humid days of D.C. summer to see leadership acting with courage instead of being distracted by outdated messaging. Scalise should shift his attention away from anti-carbon tax rhetoric and to recent modeling that shows a carbon tax will reduce emissions and benefit the economy — and then take a bold step toward meaningful instead of non-binding action. 

Chelsea Henderson is the director of Editorial Content for republicEN.org. She previously worked as a former U.S. Senate staffer on the Environment and Public Works Committee and as senior climate advisor to Sen. John Warner (R-Va.).

Tags Carbon tax Chelsea Henderson climate Environment Paul Ryan Steve Scalise

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