Senator: Obama climate rules a ‘game-changer’ for carbon tax proposal

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said President Obama’s upcoming plan to impose new greenhouse gas regulations could create traction for carbon tax proposals that currently lack political support in Congress.

“There is no chance right now, but that chance can change dramatically if the president takes strong action,” Whitehouse said in an interview that aired Sunday on Platts Energy Week TV.

{mosads}The liberal Democrat, in the interview taped last week, said Obama’s plan “could be a political game-changer to open the door to a more comprehensive solution.”

Obama will roll out his second-term climate agenda Tuesday, a series of executive actions expected to include regulating emissions from existing power plants, among other provisions.

Whitehouse has championed carbon taxes or fees that, unlike Obama’s planned actions, would require congressional approval. The concept has nowhere close to enough support in either chamber right now (click here and here for more about that).

He called legislation to put a price on carbon the best way to tackle greenhouse gases – and said in the Platts interview that the alternative prospect of new executive regulations will change the political landscape.

“The polluters have the best of both worlds now. The executive [branch] isn’t taking it seriously and they are not taking any action, and they control Congress enough that they know we can’t get anything done. So they are happy with the status quo,” Whitehouse said.

“When the president changes the executive side of the status quo and puts in strong regulations, they now have the predicament that they have to comply and the cost of their compliance comes entirely out of their pocket, whereas if they run over to Congress and work with their friends, they can solve the problem another way that frees up revenues that can help them with their cost of compliance,” he added.

Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) have floated draft legislation that would impose fees on emissions from industrial pollution sources like power plants and refineries.

He applauded Obama’s plan to move ahead with new regulations, calling regulation of carbon emissions from new and existing power plants a vital step.

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