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New Carbon Tax Bill Suggests a Future Republican Shift on Climate Change

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Artem Hvozdkov / Getty Images

On Thursday, July 19 The Hill reported that the Republican controlled Congress passed a non-binding resolution saying a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions "would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States."


But the next Monday, a Republican duo introduced and co-sponsored the MARKET CHOICE Act (H.R. 6463) that would implement a carbon tax and funnel the proceeds towards improving infrastructure.

The two approaches, Time Magazine reported Thursday, could represent the past and future of the Republican party.

"The pendulum will swing," former Republican South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis, who heads the non-profit RepublicEn, which promotes conservative solutions for environmental problems, told Time. "And when that pendulum swings…it may just be the solution you don't want on climate."

The two congressmen who introduced and co-sponsored the carbon tax bill could be the beginning of that swing.

Carlos Curbelo, the Florida Representative who introduced the bill, represents a district stretching from Key West to outside Miami.

He has been a unique Republican voice on the reality and threat of climate change since he was first elected in 2014, according to Grist.

"I tell my skeptical colleagues: When my district is underwater, I'll move to their district and run against them," he told Grist. "That usually breaks the ice."

He formed the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus with fellow Floridian and Democratic Congressperson Ted Deutch, which is designed to have an even number of Republican and Democrat members.

As of now, Time reports it has 43 Republican members, even though many still vote against climate action despite claiming to believe in its necessity.

"We're seeing trends in the House that should give us all hope," Curbelo told Time.

The bill's co-sponsor, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voted in line with the environment 71 percent of the time in 2017 according to the League of Conservation Voters' scorecard, the highest percentage of any Congressional Republican, Grist reported.

One reason a carbon tax might be a gateway climate proposal for Republicans is that it is actually favored by companies who see climate policy as inevitable, and prefer a tax to more complicated regulations, Time explained.

On Wednesday, 34 major companies including BP America, Shell and General Motors wrote a letter to Curbelo thanking him for introducing the bill, though they did not endorse it outright.

"We believe that an economy-wide, market-based approach to valuing or pricing carbon, when carefully crafted, can both strengthen our economy and reduce carbon emissions by encouraging technological innovation and stimulating new investments in infrastructure, products, and services," the letter said.

Curbelo's current bill is not likely to pass, given the opinions of the rest of the Republican majority in Congress, but it might model a way forward for the party in the future. Time reported two polls by the Alliance of Market Solutions and the Pew Research Center respectively that showed that more than half of younger Republicans care about climate change and that almost 25 percent of people under 30 who identified as Republican in 2015 had since left the party.

However, Emilie Prattico, director of development at We Mean Business, a private-sector climate mobilization non-profit, cautioned in a Huffington Post opinion piece that carbon tax supporters could do better than Curbelo's bill.

While it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 27 to 32 percent by 2025 and 30 to 40 percent by 2030, its other provisions would not go far enough to adequately address climate change.

It would devote as much as 70 percent of generated revenue to updating existing fossil-fuel-based transportation infrastructure and only a small percent to developing carbon-free transport options and it would allow emitters a chance to perform their way out of having to obey Clean Air Act regulations if they followed the law.

"A successful carbon tax bill, whether it is proposed by Democrats, Republicans or both, would not only impose a levy on fossil fuels but steer the economy toward innovation, less-polluting alternatives for high-emitting sectors, and fairness to consumers and citizens," Prattico wrote.

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