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A hopeless carbon tax bill that's still worth watching

Emissions from power plants
Photo: Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images

A bipartisan handful of House members unveiled a carbon tax plan last night that stands no chance of becoming law, at least not for years.

Why it still matters: It's a marker for efforts to move national carbon pricing beyond the think tank and advocacy world, where it has largely been exiled since a big cap-and-trade plan collapsed in the Senate in 2010. And it could help shape what emerges if climate legislation gains traction under a different president, and if there's a shift in congressional power with either firm Democratic control or erosion of what's now almost unified GOP's resistance.

Reality check: Needless to say, those are big caveats. Carbon taxes face opposition from advocacy groups that are influential in GOP circles.

Driving the news: Florida Democrat Ted Deutch unveiled the bill with two other Democrats and two Republicans. The bill would impose an initial $15-per-ton carbon "fee" on fossil fuel producers, processors and importers.

  • It rises $10 annually.
  • All the revenues are returned to the public.
  • The plan would remove some but not all greenhouse gas regulations.
  • Deutch's co-sponsors are Democrats John Delaney and Charlie Crist, and Republicans Francis Rooney and Brian Fitzpatrick.
  • They plan to quickly re-introduce it in the next Congress.

By the numbers: The plan aims to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 33% from 2015 levels within 10 years and by 90% by 2050. The sponsors say it would create 2.1 million net jobs within 10 years and prevent 13,000 pollution-related deaths annually.

Another reason the bill matters: It's a useful starting point for comparing various legislative proposals floating around.

  • That's what Noah Kaufman of Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy does in this new analysis, which basically finds it more effective.

Where it stands: It has support from some conservative groups pushing carbon taxes as a market-friendly climate policy and some environmental groups.

  • According to the sponsor's press release, backers include: Citizens Climate Lobby, Climate Leadership Council, The Nature Conservancy, Alliance for Market Solutions, Environmental Defense Fund, RepublicEn, Niskanen Center, National Wildlife Federation, and the National Audobon Society.
  • It also drew supportive statements from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and the World Resources Institute.

Go deeper: The cost of climate change

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