In Congress

Oil Lobby Working With Republicans Behind-The-Scenes To Push ‘Gateway’ To Carbon Tax

America’s leading oil and gas trade group is working behind the scenes with moderate House Republicans to push support for a bill that critics say could lead to a domestic carbon tax, according to an email obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation and sources familiar with the matter.

On May 14, Chris Boness, the director of federal relations for the American Petroleum Institute (API), sent an email to an API mailing list that named several House lawmakers intending to co-sponsor the PROVE IT Act alongside Republican Utah Rep. John Curtis. The trade group has also met with staffers to try to secure support for the bill, which API supports, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Assuming the House version is the same as the already-introduced Senate version, the bill would instruct the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the carbon intensity of goods — including aluminum, steel, plastic and crude oil — produced in the U.S. and the carbon intensity of products from other countries, according to E&E News.

Dozens of the PROVE IT Act’s critics have described the bill as a possible “gateway” to domestic carbon taxes because it would effectively instruct the federal government to calculate an implicit cost of carbon with few restrictions on how that official metric is used in the future.

“Thanks for those that joined today’s meeting,” Boness wrote in the email obtained by the DCNF. “Here is the list of current [Republican] cosponsors of the PROVE IT Act: Curtis, [Michigan Rep. Tim] Walburg (sic), [Ohio Rep. Bob] Latta, [New York Rep. Andrew] Garbarino, [Florida Rep. Maria Elvira] Salazar, [Michigan Rep. Mariannette] Miller-Meeks, [Indiana Rep. Larry] Bucshon, [Oregon Rep. Lori] Chavez-DeRemer. Additionally, [Georgia Rep. Buddy] Carter, [New York Rep. Mike] Lawler and [Pennsylvania Rep. Dan] Meuser seemed interested. Will keep you updated if others join and send updates on introduction.”

API representatives have had meetings addressing the PROVE IT Act with lawmakers’ offices, sources familiar with the matter told the DCNF. The offices of Curtis, Walberg, Latta, Garbarino, Salazar, Miller-Meeks, Bucshon and Chavez-DeRemer did not respond to questions about why they apparently support the bill.

Carbon pricing is broadly unpopular with Republicans, according to E&E News. Generally, polling indicates that Republicans do not consider climate change to be a problem in need of major government-led solutions and that energy affordability, for example, is a much stronger concern.

API Email re: PROVE IT Act by Nick Pope on Scribd

The bill’s proponents tout it as a measure to reward American companies for producing products more cleanly than foreign competitors, but opponents are strongly concerned that the bill instructs the federal government to effectively set a price on carbon with insufficient restrictions what the government can do in the future.

Notably, Republican West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito introduced an amendment to the Senate version that would prevent the data collected from being used as the basis for carbon taxes or tariffs, but Democrats killed that proposal while the bill sat in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Despite concerns from those opposed to the bill that it could be a first step to carbon taxes or tariffs, API supports the PROVE IT Act. Notably, API is in favor of carbon pricing.

“America’s oil and natural gas is produced under some of the highest environmental standards in the world,” a spokesperson for API told the DCNF. “Efforts like the PROVE IT Act are bipartisan opportunities to help study and quantify that advantage and demonstrate our industry’s commitment to producing cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy here at home while still supplying the energy our world needs.”

Some of the lawmakers API suggested could be interested in co-sponsoring the PROVE IT Act are wary, however.

Rep. Meuser, whose district includes energy-rich parts of Pennsylvania, is opposed to the bill as it stands, despite API’s suggestion that he is potentially interested in supporting it, a source familiar with Meuser’s thinking told the DCNF.

Rep. Carter is skeptical of policies that could lead to a carbon tax.

“Mr. Carter is reviewing the legislation,” a spokesperson for Carter told the DCNF. “He is absolutely opposed to anything that could lead to a carbon tax.”

In the eyes of those opposed to the bill, the PROVE IT Act would make it easier for a second-term Biden administration to pursue carbon taxes or tariffs that would hurt American consumers and certain types of energy producers.

“Our opposition to the PROVE IT Act is clear and concise. The latest attempt by some in Congress who are trying to create a structure that would lead to a domestic carbon tax will have price implications on our energy, particularly our fuel,” Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, told the DCNF. “I do think that it is important to recognize that John Podesta made it clear that this is a second term agenda item for the Biden administration. And why would any Republican want to be the lead on helping President Biden further his war on affordable energy?”

Mike McKenna, a GOP strategist with extensive experience in the energy sector, expressed a similar view.

“The big problem with the bill is that it creates infrastructure to impose a carbon dioxide tax,” McKenna told the DCNF. “As everyone who has had more than ten seconds of exposure to the federal government knows, once that infrastructure can be put in place, it’s going to be used.”

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Nick Pope

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