U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks Co.) has once again embraced a carbon-tax proposal, putting him at odds with hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania workers in the traditional energy sector already under pressure from the Biden administration.
Fitzpatrick joined with Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Ca.) to reintroduce the Modernizing America with Rebuilding to Kickstart the Economy of the Twenty-first Century with a Historic Infrastructure-Centered Expansion (MARKET CHOICE) Act,
Fitzpatrick said in a press release that it would implement a “fee on carbon emissions,” which would help fund infrastructure advancement and development while combatting climate change by eliminating the federal gas tax.
“We are at a crossroads with regard to infrastructure and climate change,” Fitzpatrick said. “This Congress has the unique opportunity to come together to forge bipartisan consensus on both of these critical issues.
“Legislative action taken—or not taken— by this Congress on these issues will be felt for generations,” Fitzpatrick added.
Critics of a carbon tax, however, say it’s both bad tax policy and bad jobs policy.
According to a study by Capitol Alpha Partners based on a carbon tax starting at either $40 or $49 per ton and increases by 2 percent annually, the result is “lost GDP equal to between $3.76 trillion and $5.92 trillion over the 22-year forecast period.”
John Kartch, vice president of communications at Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), said a carbon tax will be felt by all Americans.
“It is the dream tax for a politician because it automatically goes up every year,” said Kartch. “If this bill passes, every year, automatically, the carbon tax will rise without any vote from the people’s representatives in Congress. So, every year, more money automatically gets sent to Washington, D.C. for them to spend.”
Kartch adds people should not ignore this under the thinking that only big polluters will be targeted and impacted.
“A carbon tax is a tax on everything you buy, everything you use,” said Kartch. “Because this gets ratcheted up every year automatically, it makes everything in your life more expensive because it’s taxed.”
When the MARKET CHOICE Act was introduced by Reps. Fitzpatrick and Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) in 2018, a study included with the announcement said per capita energy expenditures per person would go up by $275 a year.
“So, if you have 2.5 people in a household, on average, you’re looking at about $700 per year just in the first year in increased cost,” said Kartch. “Of course, that goes up.”
Fitzpatrick’s bill has the backing of a who’s who of environmentalists including Elizabeth Gore of the Environmental Defense Fund, Jason Albritton of The Nature Conservancy, and Reverend Mitchell Hescox of Pennsylvania-based Evangelical Environmental Network.
“Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick has recognized the problem of climate change and has proposed an effective solution: A well-structured carbon tax that meets our pollution reduction commitments under the Paris Climate Accord, ” Hescox said. “With his leadership as the lead sponsor, Congressman Fitzpatrick has shown that he is a true conservative and patriot.”
The Institute for Energy Research (IER) believes otherwise. Jordan McGillis, deputy director of policy, warned in 2018 about measurable economic harm to the United States:
“According to Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy – which views carbon pricing favorably – natural gas production will be lower, gasoline prices will increase, average electricity prices will be as much as 10 percent higher, and economic growth will slow, bringing down GDP about two-tenths of a percent.”
“One thing that carbon tax pushers will never tell you is the impact on local governments,” said ATR’s Kartch. “Local governments own a lot of buildings, vehicles, schools, and those have to be cooled, heated, maintained, driven, etc. But supporters of a carbon tax never have an answer for how local governments are supposed to pay their increased costs.”
Kartch points to a situation in Canada where a school in Calgary cut bus service for 400 kids to cover the expense of its carbon tax bill.
Two-thirds of registered voters reportedly support making fossil fuel companies pay a carbon tax. That’s according to information collected by the Yale Program on Climate Communications, published on CarbonTax.org. However, Kartch says there are polls that say otherwise.
“When they are directly asked to address the question of a carbon tax, even in blue areas of the country, voters reject it,” said Kartch. “Blue Washington state tried several times and voters said ‘Nope, we’re not doing that.’ And this goes back a decade, so I don’t know what Fitzpatrick thinks he’s doing with this.”
A September 2020 DVJournal poll asked local residents how much more they would be willing to pay in their utility bills to achieve the goals of the Green New Deal. More than 40 percent said “none,” while another 24 percent said they would only be willing to pay up to $10 more per month.