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Confluence of events in 2013 may drive idea of carbon tax: Waxman

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March 20, 2012

A congressional leader on climate policy said Monday that in 2013 “a confluence of events” will challenge the federal budget — including the expiration of the Bush administration tax cuts and raising the debt ceiling — and may drive lawmakers to consider a tax on carbon dioxide.

“The thinking we’re trying to encourage is how to resolve the problem after the election when all these other issues come to a head and we have got to adopt a budget in reality,” California Democrat Henry Waxman said in an interview after discussing the idea of a carbon tax at the Center for American Progress.

Waxman said he does not expect serious conversations among his colleagues or the administration about a carbon tax option until after the election in a lame-duck session of Congress or more likely in 2013 when the Bush tax breaks expire, the debt ceiling must be addressed, $110 billion in federal spending will be sequestered and reimbursements to Medicare providers will be cut.

“A price on carbon can bring in a substantial amount of money to deal with our fiscal problems,” said Waxman, who in 2009 successfully shepherded through the House of Representatives a comprehensive carbon cap-and-trade bill only to see it stall in the US Senate.

Waxman said a $20 per ton tax on carbon emissions would raise $1.2 trillion a year. An economy-wide approach would avoid market distortions, he told the gathering at the center, but added that he is not setting out a specific carbon tax plan.

“We’re setting out an idea for conversation. We’re open to alternative ways for doing it,” he said. The essential factors, however, would be that it raise a lot of money and reduce carbon emissions.

At the moment, Waxman said he is focusing on educating his colleagues and the public on the benefits of pricing carbon emissions from industry as a means to address an environmental problem and to address the federal deficit. Most members see the options only in terms of raising taxes or cutting entitlement programs, he said. He said he wants people to start thinking about a carbon price as an alternative.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

“A lot of people who are facing big tax increases might think this sounds like a pretty good idea,” Waxman said. “I think people who care about Medicare and Medicaid might — especially when they see the [House Budget Committee Chairman Paul] Ryan proposal — might think this is a better idea rather then turning our back on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid by trying to get huge sums of money out of those programs, which I think will undercut the promise we made for a safety net for the American people.”

Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, is expected to release his budget proposal Tuesday.

The budget proposal by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to pass this year, Waxman said.

“I don’t think we’re going to pass a budget this year,” he said. The Republican leadership is “posturing on a budget.”

Waxman said he hoped climate policy would emerge as an issue in the presidential campaign as it did in 2008, but added, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

This article was posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 4:16 am

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