March 14, 2013

Two U.S. senators have introduced legislation that would enact new taxes on carbon emissions, including those from aircraft, though few in Washington believe the bill will pass Congress.

The Climate Protection Act of 2013, sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), would impose a $20-per-ton fee on carbon emissions beginning Jan. 1 on the year after it is signed into law. It would increase 5.65 percent each year thereafter for the next decade, encompassing up to 85 percent of carbon emissions generated in the U.S.

The tax would be applied “upstream,” according to the Senate summary of the measure. Specifically, “Applied upstream (at the coal mine, the oil refinery, the natural gas processing point or at the point of importation), this fee would apply to only 2,869 of the largest fossil fuel polluters…”

The tax would most likely be passed along in the form of increases in the cost of affected fuels and related products, including aviation fuels. The funds would also create a program to help finance renewable-energy partnerships.

Consideration of this legislation by the full Senate is unclear at this point.

It also was not immediately clear whether the White House would support the measure.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew previously said in a written statement to Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT), “The administration has not proposed a carbon tax, nor is it planning to do so.”

However, the president has made it clear that his administration intends to address the issue of climate change during the next four years.

“…(I)f Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” vowed President Obama in his State of the Union Address. “I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take now and in the future to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”