GOP's Fitzpatrick Introduces Carbon Tax Bill

A Republican congressman from Pennsylvania is the latest lawmaker to author a bill to tax carbon emissions. While dozens of cities, from Alaska to Florida, were having their hottest Septembers on record, Brian Fitzpatrick, who represents a suburban district just east of Philadelphia, was trying to do something to combat the forces believed to be driving our temperatures ever higher. 

“The lion’s share of economists say that putting an honest price on carbon--one that includes the costs that burning carbon imposes on all of us--is the fastest and most efficient way to tackle climate change,” said George T. Frampton, co-founder of the Partnership for Responsible Growth (PRG). “We welcome any such legislation, but it’s especially exciting when a Republican is the lead sponsor. Our nation needs a bipartisan spirit to meet this enormous challenge.”

To improve his legislation’s prospects, Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent and a leader of the House Climate Solutions Caucus, signed up two Democratic colleagues as co-sponsors: Representatives Salud Carbajal and Scott Peters, both of California.

Fitzpatrick’s Market Choice Act calls for a tax of $35 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions starting in 2021 with rates increasing cumulatively thereafter.

This measure is the eighth carbon tax bill introduced this year. The bills propose different rates that would increase at varying speeds, and they also differ in how the massive proceeds would be used. The Pennsylvania congressman calls for investing most of that money in the nation’s infrastructure. “With the American public overwhelmingly seeking fixes to our crumbling roads and bridges while searching for solutions to mitigate the dangerous effects of climate change, our bipartisan bill is a dynamic solution that seeks to tackle both problems,” Fitzpatrick said.  

Reporting on the introduction of this legislation, The Hill’s Miranda Green wrote, “The push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions comes as both Democrats and Republicans face pressure from their constituents, and in some cases the fossil fuel industry itself, to regulate carbon emissions that lead to climate change.”

Another Republican congressman who is out front in combating climate change is Francis Rooney of Florida. He has introduced two carbon tax bills this year. One would use most of the revenue to reduce payroll taxes, while the other would return the revenue to U.S. households as monthly rebate checks.

The “obvious, no-brainer tool for curbing carbon emissions,” wrote columnist Catherine Rampell, is “putting a price on carbon. A carbon tax (or its cousin, a cap-and-trade system) is almost universally embraced by economists on both the left and the right. With good reason, too. Taxing carbon means pricing in, upfront, the implicit costs that come from using fossil fuels — especially, though not exclusively, the cost of warming our planet.”

“With his leadership as the lead sponsor, Congressman Fitzpatrick has showed that he is a true conservative and patriot,” said The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox, president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.  

The bill was widely praised by leaders in the conservation community. “Increasingly severe storms, droughts, floods and megafires all make clear the urgent need for strong, bipartisan action to reduce carbon emissions and prepare our communities for unavoidable impacts,” said Shannon Heyck-Williams, director of climate and energy policy at the National Wildlife Federation. Fitzpatrick’s bill, she stated, would “increase investments in clean energy and natural climate solutions that will make communities and ecosystems more climate-resilient.”

Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, which has created a Carbon Tax Research Initiative, has produced an online guide titled “What You Need to Know About a Federal Carbon Tax in the United States.” It provides a high-level overview of carbon-pricing basics, the major decisions that policymakers confront when designing a carbon tax, the implications of those decisions, and the proposals in Congress today. In addition, Jason Ye of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has analyzed such legislation.