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Earlier this month, Obama mega-donor Bill Maher suggested that the President manipulate the current fiscal crisis as a means of implementing a carbon tax to combat global warming. Maher was plotting a rather vengeful plan, claiming "it would be just desserts for the oil and coal industries that went all in for Mitt Romney."
The notion of such a tax has once again resurfaced while Congress debates an extension of tax cuts, and oversees part of the recovery for areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
And despite the President's promises to take an 'all of the above' approach to energy policy, recent events may prove to embolden him to further implement one of the few campaign promises he has kept since 2008 - to bankrupt the coal industry.
With four years of bureaucracy and crippling regulations already taking their toll, a carbon tax might prove to be the final nail in the coal industry's coffin.
Sure enough, Bloomberg News reported on the carbon tax being part of some quiet "backroom debate(s)" mere weeks after the election. The tax it was said "could raise an estimated $100 billion in its first year."
There has also been support from some seemingly unlikely sources. Last month, petroleum giants Exxon, Shell, and BP all voiced support for such a measure.
According to Myron Ebell at GlobalWarming.org:
Exxon Mobil confirmed earlier this month in a Bloomberg Businessweek article that they support a carbon tax. Shell and BP have signed a Climate Price Communiqué that was distributed on 29th November at the eighteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change...
So how would titans in the oil industry benefit from supporting a carbon tax? Sure there's politics involved, along with international perceptions, but even those reasons yield a more simplistic bottom line.
Steve Maley at RedState writes:
Cooperating with a carbon tax would “green” their brands while giving natural gas a decided advantage over coal for power generation.
Ebell phrases it much more succinctly:
The most obvious reason why big oil and gas companies would support a huge new tax ... is that it would kill coal first.
Indeed, a carbon tax would double the price of coal-produced electricity, and by extension provide ample reason for utilities to switch to natural gas.
Such a shift would further cripple an entire region of America that is already being crushed in difficult economic times. States such as Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, coal-rich swing states that inexplicably swung towards the coal-loathing President this past election, states which already live in the shadow of new regulations that could spell the elimination of nearly 900,000 jobs annually, would see their economic fates sealed.
But could the notion of a carbon tax fly in a Republican-dominated House? Maley thinks it's a perfectly reasonable possibility.
How could a carbon tax be passed in a Republican-dominated House? A carbon tax combined with reduced corporate income tax rates may appeal not only to liberals and moderates, but also to some muddle-headed and panicky conservatives. Ken Green, an environmental specialist at the American Enterprise Institute adds that part of the appeal to the House majority may be a chance to “green up the conservative brand.”
We've certainly seen muddle-headed Republicans willing to cave on issues such as the debt limit, raising taxes, or balking on spending cuts and entitlement reforms during these fiscal cliff negotiations, that another panicked and unwise decision seems downright likely.
The fact remains, the American economy and the coal industry in particular could not afford such a radical tax when it was proposed back in 2009, and we certainly aren't in any better shape to absorb one now.
While killing coal is certainly one way for the President to avoid a lump of coal in his stocking this Christmas, the idea of a carbon tax should be enough to put anybody who supports it on the naughty list.
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