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Dozens Of Energy Policy Experts Write To Congress Opposing ‘Carbon Tax’ Gateway Bill

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  • Dozens of energy policy experts signed a letter to lawmakers urging them to reject the PROVE It Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that would represent the potential first step toward imposing a carbon tariff on imported goods.
  • The bill would commission the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the carbon intensity of American products and compare them to competing products from other countries on that basis, paving the way for a carbon tariff on imported goods that could itself open the door for a domestic carbon tax, the letter warns. 
  • “This legislation is a gateway for a carbon tax on imported goods and a domestic carbon tax. It is shocking that legislators would contemplate advancing policy that would increase taxes, drive up prices for American families, harm workers and those on fixed incomes and punish energy use,” the letter states.

Dozens of energy experts and advocates signed onto a Tuesday letter to congress expressing their opposition to a bill that they say opens the door to a “carbon tax.”

Forty-one organizations were represented as signatories to the letter urging lawmakers to reject the PROVE It Act, a bipartisan bill that would mandate the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the carbon intensity of U.S.-made products as a potential first step toward implementing a carbon tariff on foreign goods, according to its text. However, as the bill’s opponents make clear in their letter to legislators, there is significant concern that the imposition of a carbon tariff on foreign goods would pave the way for the government to craft and enforce carbon taxes on domestic goods after the government establishes a means to calculate the cost of carbon.

“This legislation is a gateway for a carbon tax on imported goods and a domestic carbon tax. It is shocking that legislators would contemplate advancing policy that would increase taxes, drive up prices for American families, harm workers and those on fixed incomes and punish energy use,” the letter states. “A carbon tariff is two taxes in one. First, a carbon tariff is a tax on imported goods, borne by American consumers, workers, and businesses. Once the structure for imposing a carbon tariff has been established, it can then be used to impose a domestic carbon tax. To think that the government would develop the administrative infrastructure to impose a domestic carbon tax without following through is naïve, at best.”

PROVE It Letter by Nick Pope on Scribd

The PROVE It Act is headed to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday for a markup hearing, according to Politico.

“As the markup of the PROVE IT Act approaches, there may be disingenuous gimmicks such as amending the bill to say it may not be used to impose a carbon tariff. Such a provision does not change the fact that the foundation would have been created to impose a carbon tariff and domestic carbon tax,” the letter continues.

Democratic Delaware Sen. Chris Coons introduced the bill, which is cosponsored by ten other senators. Prominent cosponsors include Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Dick Durbin of Illinois, as well as Republican Sens. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said that she will oppose the bill during the markup hearing, according to Politico.

“If you are confident in your position about America’s exceptionalism, then prove it,” Cramer told Politico. “That’s why the name and mission of the legislation is neutral and benign politically. It ought to be unless someone wants to exploit the politics for some other agenda.”

Cramer and other Senate Republicans who are backing the bill describe it as a protectionist measure to safeguard American manufacturing and industrial jobs from competition in countries like China that can produce cheaper equivalents for less thanks to weaker environmental and labor standards. But opponents of the bill reject that framing.

“This is a climate and energy fight, but proponents of PROVE It are trying to avoid that by trying to make it about trade and China because they know there is more sympathy for taking on China [among Republicans],” Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance and signatory of the letter, told Politico. “It’s not necessary to study something we know is going to cause harm and increase energy prices.”

Pyle’s organization sponsored a recent poll with the Committee to Unleash Prosperity that found more than 50% of likely 2024 voters in eight swing states oppose a tax on imported products based on the amount of energy it takes to make those goods.

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