Durango Herald: Republicans can support a carbon tax

By Walt Minnick

Most people probably would agree with The Herald Dec. 20 editorial’s statement that a carbon tax, “no matter how logical, is a nonstarter with the Republican Party.” But after talking with 175 members of Congress or their aides, most of them Republicans, I believe there is a way to win GOP support. To appeal to Republicans, the tax (or fee) should be revenue-neutral – meaning that the proceeds of the fee go back to taxpayers rather than to the U.S. Treasury. Half the money could be used to reduce the corporate tax rate, the highest in the industrialized world, from 35 to 25 percent. This pro-growth feature was popular with the members of Congress we contacted. The fee could start at $35 or so per ton, perhaps doubling over 10 years. It should be levied at the mine mouth or oil and gas collection point. A $35 levy equates to about 32 cents per gallon of gasoline. 

To offset these slightly higher energy costs, half the proceeds could be refunded to low- and middle-income households. A border adjustment for imports and exports would protect domestic manufacturers. This centrist approach can get traction on Capitol Hill if businesses and local opinion leaders speak out in support. A late-November New York Times-CBS News poll found that most Americans, including Republicans, now believe that the climate is changing and want our government to take action. A survey by three GOP pollsters in September showed that 54 percent of conservative Republicans would support a carbon fee if the proceeds were rebated. The time has come for U.S. leadership in setting a global price on carbon. 

Editor’s note: Minnick is a former congressman from Idaho and is co-founder of the Partnership for Responsible Growth.