Activists are quietly forging ahead with their campaign for carbon taxes despite long odds on Capitol Hill.
Bob Inglis, a former GOP House member from South Carolina, is part of a very loose collection of policy wonks and advocates fighting to change the politics of taxing emissions.
“It’s a longer-term play here,” Inglis said.
Inglis, who launched the “Energy and Enterprise Initiative” at George Mason University last year, sees several forces converging that will enable a carbon tax to surface in a broader fiscal policy deal.
It would happen, he said, by “immaculate conception,” but not until 2015 or 2016.
“It will be nobody claiming paternity for it. It will just develop on its own,” Inglis said in an interview Thursday.
Proposals to impose taxes on emissions from burning coal and oil have been around for years.
But they’ve gained new traction and fresh opposition of late, owing to the collapse of cap-and-trade legislation in 2010, the Beltway search for new revenue sources and the renewed attention to climate change.
Advocates range from longtime backer Al Gore to Inglis to Art Laffer, one of the godfathers of conservative economics. They all back a “revenue-neutral” carbon tax that would be offset by reductions in personal taxes.
Other proposals call for using a tax on various industry sectors — such oil and coal producers or power companies — to pay for deficit-reduction, consumer rebates, green energy programs or some combination.
Tyson Slocum, head of the energy program at the left-leaning group Public Citizen, said there are discussions occurring in “multiple types of formats” and “involving a lot of different kinds of stakeholders.”
None of it is going very far right now.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said in late 2012 the administration would “never” propose a carbon tax.