Why Congress should reject new energy taxes

This letter originally appeared in The Hill’s Congress Blog.

As early as this week, Members of the House of Representatives will face a very simple choice: support a tax that will make everyday life harder for their constituents, or take a stand for the American people and reject any new energy taxes.

That’s the choice offered by a resolution from Majority Whip Steve Scalise, which opposes any carbon tax proposals and expresses the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy.

There should be no doubt a carbon tax would be devastating for American families and businesses.

A carbon tax is essentially a tax on the use of natural gas, oil, and coal, which make up over 80 percent of the energy we use here in America. These energy sources power our homes and factories, keep our cars and public transportation moving, and provide Americans with countless products that make modern life possible. But a carbon tax would make using these resources much more expensive.

First, a carbon tax would saddle Americans with higher utility bills and higher gasoline prices at the pump. While this will hurt all Americans, it will have the harshest impact on the poor and those on fixed incomes. That’s because the poor spend a higher percentage of their income on energy costs.

study by the Heritage Foundation shows that a  $25 per ton carbon tax would cost the average American family of four $1,400 dollars per year through the year 2035. For families saving for retirement, their children’s college funds, or even just trying to make ends meet, $1,400 per year would make a huge difference.

But the consequences of a carbon tax aren’t just limited to rising energy costs. Energy is an integral part to every aspect of our lives, so when the price of energy goes up, the ramifications are felt everywhere.

For example, when a manufacturer has to pay more for the electricity to keep their factories up and running, that means they’re forced into either laying off employees or increasing the cost of their product, or both. And while natural gas, oil, and coal are typically only thought of as energy sources, they’re also key components to many of the products we use every day. Whether it’s petroleum-based plastics used to make life-saving devices for hospitals, or coal used for steel to build our nation’s infrastructure, these resources are essential to modern life.

The standard retort from carbon tax advocates is that the costs of such a tax are necessary to combat the threat of global warming. But even if we take them at their word on the issue of global warming, nearly every carbon tax proposal out there would have virtually no impact on global temperatures.

Don’t just take my word for it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) models, even if the U.S. were to stop emitting carbon dioxide altogether by the year 2050, it would reduce global temperature rise by just 0.1 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

In fact, as a recent article in The Wall Street Journal shows, it would take a carbon tax of $425 per ton of carbon dioxide to achieve the Obama administration’s previously stated goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. That would amount to a $3.75 per gallon tax on gasoline alone!

Lawmakers should be skeptical of any calls for a so-called “moderate” carbon tax, as it is undoubtedly a stepping-stone for carbon tax advocates to call for a much higher and more painful carbon tax.

The debate over a carbon tax is not a nuanced one. It’s clear that a tax on our most abundant, affordable, and reliable energy sources would be a bad deal for the American people. It would raise the cost of energy and everyday products—hitting hardest those who can least afford it. And for all the economic pain, a carbon tax would do nothing to impact global temperatures.

When lawmakers head to the floor to vote on the Scalise resolution they will face a simple choice. They can vote against the resolution, leaving the American people more susceptible to higher energy costs, or they can vote in favor of it and protect their constituents from the devastating impacts of a carbon tax. The choice is theirs.

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