Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dingell Backs Huge Gas Tax Increase

The US automakers have no greater friend in Congress than John Dingell. He's served in the House since the Eisenhower administration, and chairs the powerful Energy and Commerce committee. In that post, he has tangled prominently with Speaker Pelosi over global warming and the appropriate Democratic response. His refusal to go along with the fuel economy standards advocated by environmentalists has led them to mock him as the 'Dingell-saurus.' Dingell for his part, points out that CAFE standards don't hold much promise to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

But given the commitment of House Democrats to do something to fight global warming, Dingell is going to introduce a bill that chooses the simplest, most effective, and most efficient way to reduce petroleum consumption -- slap a huge tax on it:

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) will propose a new carbon tax that would increase the gasoline tax by 50 cents, the lawmaker said in an interview on C-SPAN's ‘Newsmakers’ airing Sunday.

In the interview, Dingell acknowledged that voters may not be willing to bear the cost of limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and that he would propose the new tax “just to sort of see how people really feel about this.”

“I sincerely doubt that the American people are willing to pay what this is really going to cost them,” Dingell said in the interview...

In addition to raising the gasoline tax, Dingell’s new proposal would institute a “double digit” tax on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted.
This is brilliant. It addresses man's role in global warming -- such as it is -- by reducing our use of hydrocarbons, and does so in a transparent way. Many economists (probably most) argue that if you want to reduce use of gas and/or fight global warming, the best way to do it is through a carbon tax such as the one advocated by Dingell. One who has written about it extensively is Greg Mankiw. Mankiw frequently reports on noted economists who have signed on to his Pigou Club.

There are other Congressional Democrats who've endorsed the idea of carbon taxes, but it doesn't have much appeal outside of the bluest areas of the bluest states. It's also likely to get a great reception on the liberal blogs -- like this one at the Huffington Post:
If Dingell comes up with a bill that is seriously and thoughtfully designed to make steep cuts in GHG emissions, and it includes both a cap-and-trade program and a carbon fee, that will be vastly more consequential than anything happening around CAFE.

I don't think people quite appreciate what Dingell's done here. He's the first member of Congress with any power or seniority to even mention a carbon tax, much less endorse it. He's putting up a trial balloon, nudging the Overton Window. It's an opportunity for the rest of us to run with it -- to take something that's suddenly got a toehold in the realm of political possibility and pound it home...

IMO, the smarter play on MoveOn's part would have been to blast its three million members with the happy news: The fight for a carbon tax now has a key congressional ally! Tie Dingell to his words, and signal to every other member of Congress that a carbon tax is now a live issue, not a theoretical one.
Most Democrats who have to worry about re-election prefer to pretend that there easy and pain-free ways to reduce hydrocarbon use. They can't support a straightforward and honest approach, because they know that outside of San Francisco, the Huffington Post, and MoveOn, it's political suicide.

For reference, the federal gas tax is now 18.4 cents per gallon. State taxes range from 7.5 to 33 cents per gallon. So an increase of 50 cents per gallon would nearly quadruple the federal tax, and would triple the overall gas tax in some states. The proposal is probably dead in the water. And if House Democrats endorse the idea... well, how much further down can they go in the polls?

Dingell knows all this of course; he doesn't intend this idea to go anywhere. It's just his way of telling Al Gore and the global warming crowd to put up or shut up.


Anonymous said...

Since human induced "global warming" is complete utter nonsense...this obviously makes a lot of the usual liberals.

For craps sake..even the scientists that were on the IPCC panel as signers have finally started telling the truth...think Greenland here guys.

Why are the Martian poles also losing ice...think Sun cycle folks.

Still trying to figure out who is more dangerous...the Puritanical Right...or the Tyrannical Left.


Eric Puravs said...

Republicans have some expensive policies, such as the war in Iraq. That has been said to cost $12 billion per month, or $400 million per day. US gasoline consumption is also about 400 million gallons per day. So why not step up and propose to fund the war with and additional $1.00 per gallon gas tax?