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A new carbon audit

By Juliet Eilperin

Amid all the talk about what the United States will and won't do about global warming, one concrete climate measure cleared an important hurdle Thursday--and it wasn't in Copenhagen.

Buried in the "minibus" spending bill approved by the House Thursday afternoon is a provision providing the National Academy of Sciences $1.5 million to conduct a carbon audit of the U.S. tax code.

You might ask, what is a carbon audit, and who had the idea of applying something so wonky to the even-wonkier tax code?

The answer is Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who actually thinks about all the little things that contribute to the nation's annual carbon output. This is why the man bikes everywhere, including to and from his congressional office.

Blumenauer had gotten the study signed into law in 2008, under George W. Bush's administration. But without appropriated funds, it never happened. Now the NAS will identify which tax provisions have the greatest impact on carbon emissions, and estimate how big that footprint is.

There are obvious candidates, such as federal subsidies to fossil-fuel industries like oil and gas, but then there are more subtle provisions, like tax incentives for larger homes or parking subsidies.

"Studying the pollution caused by various provisions in the tax code will give Congress the tools we need to create policies that reduce global warming emissions," said Blumenauer, who plans to journey to Copenhagen before the climate talks conclude here a week from Friday. "At a time when Congress is working to pass a climate bill and come to an international agreement in Copenhagen, simple steps like weeding out pollution incentives can make America a better leader in fighting climate change."

The Senate is expected to pass the spending bill in a matter of days, at which point the NAS funding will become law. Now whether Congress will ever act on the study's findings, that's another question.

By

Juliet Eilperin

 |  December 10, 2009; 4:30 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg     Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"There are obvious candidates, such as federal subsidies to fossil-fuel industries like oil and gas, but then there are more subtle provisions, like tax incentives for larger homes or parking subsidies."

What about agricultural subsidies??? All the focus on fossil fuels is completely ignoring rising concentrations on other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide and methane. The way we grow and raise our food is just as much a culprit in climate change as the burning of fossil fuels.

Posted by: aawiegel | December 10, 2009 9:12 PM
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