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Could Murkowski save the climate bill?

By Juliet Eilperin

Once seen as a moderate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has become the Republican that environmentalists love to hate--ever since she introduced a resolution last month that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases.

But Murkowski has been quietly working on an alternative climate proposal, one that may stand a decent chance of attracting bipartisan support. In an interview Friday, McKie Campbell, GOP staff director on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, shed some light on the senator's strategy.

"We're currently looking at a variety of options, including a net-zero carbon tax," Campbell said.

Campbell didn't disclose many details of the plan, which he emphasized is still being vetted by Murkowski and her staff. He said it would include provisions to ensure it had "environmental and economic integrity." That means there would be ways to assess the fact that it was a) cutting carbon emissions in line with the bill's overall reduction target and b) raising the price of carbon without harming the overall economy.

In general, a net-zero carbon tax works like this: you put a price on carbon that raises the cost of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas (which in turn makes other goods and services such as electricity more expensive). To balance it out you cut some other federal tax, such as payroll taxes, so in the end, the average American is not suffering an economic hit, but has less of an incentive to consume fossil fuels.

Can a cost-neutral carbon tax fly in the Senate? Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has floated it before, and it's never gained traction. But it's something many economists have embraced, and given the uncertain prospects for a bill capping carbon outright, anything that can get 60 votes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions might attract significant support at this point.


Juliet Eilperin

 |  February 5, 2010; 2:00 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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A revenue-neutral carbon tax is absolutely the best means by which to reduce emissions. It will not only avoid the evasion and market manipulation of cap and trade, it will reduce emissions, incentivize "green" R&D AND return the revenue to families already struggling under the weight of the current economic downturn.

Posted by: SallyVCrockett | February 9, 2010 9:27 PM
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I agree with the bill to restrict the E.P.A..
They have exceeded their authority, and are once again using their gloom and doom environmental politics to control our nation. We are a nation that needs to have energy, and we need to drill now and bring all our resources of energy development on line. It is required for our national security, and to revive our economy to put people back to work. A bill to put the E.P.A on hold is a wise decision. We do not need a carbon tax, we need energy to stay warm and the people have empty pockets. It is hard to put food on the tables these days.

Posted by: dj_ingraham | February 7, 2010 6:45 AM
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If this is Senator Murkowski's agenda, I might be behind it. Alaska is feeling the impacts of climate change right now: as I write, the air temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. We're not getting the snow pack we need and the oceans are acidifying. If she's merely blowing smoke for the oil industry I'll fight her.

Posted by: akcrabber | February 6, 2010 6:38 PM
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we don't need to regulate a hoax. vote her out along with the progressives.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | February 6, 2010 6:01 PM
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I don't like the idea of a carbon tax, not because I don't believe the bulk of scientists, but the high pass along costs to consumers using coal fired plants. I also feel other environmental damage is worse than co2. Acid rain, breathing poison from burning exhaust byproducts, rock fracture gas capture poisoning water tables, inefficient oil sand/corn ethanol cooking, fission waste etc. destroy the environment or waste needed capital (corn ethanol). A nominal tax based not on carbon but BTU output could pay for the tax credits needed for conservation and alt. energy production. I look at Europe and see the Ford Focus with a diesel engine that gets over 40 mpg while gasoline engines on identical models get 25 mpg. While solar panel and wind turbine electric power has increased, a larger credit for them and higher structure energy saving improvement credits would increase their use. A priority on new energy transmission lines is vital for less fossil fuel use and energy transfer from plants to downtime alt. energy users. Hopefully functioning super-conductor transmission lines can become commercially feasible.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 6, 2010 5:25 PM
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More noise about an irrelevant bill for a totally discredited international scam. For real news, read the British/Australian/Canadian press. One good article:

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | February 6, 2010 4:25 PM
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Actually, Cantwell-Collins is mainly a net-zero proposal. It conducts an auction for carbon permits strictly allowing participation only by carbon producers and importers. The auction cuts out speculators. It returns 75% of the auction proceeds in the form of a payment to individuals and uses the other 25% to mitigate adverse impacts (e.g., among the employees of carbon producers) and to promote research on alternatives.

Posted by: StanKlein | February 6, 2010 2:32 PM
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Why don't we just identify all the taxes we do not need first and get rid of them. Then we can decide if we want to add a new one.

There is no net zero tax. We need so much money to fund the existing programs. We can not just add a new program and pay for it from another fund. This is how we get deficits.

If this program is beneficial to all Americans, then all Americans should pay for it. If someone does not pay for anything, they do not appreciate the cost of these things. Either politicians do not have any sense or they are dishonest.

We can have carbon credits if we take funding out of social security which has a $36 trillion deficit. Good plan.

Posted by: tomhamand | February 6, 2010 2:02 PM
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Yonkers, New York
06 February 2010

What? Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski plans to cut payroll taxes?

Does she know the consequences of such a tax on the Social Security Trust Fund which, even with the present level of payroll taxes, is slated to go bankrupt in just a few years--and more so now that those baby boomers are retiring in droves and making their legal claims on the Fund?

Mariano Patalinjug

Posted by: MPatalinjug | February 6, 2010 12:55 PM
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It won't work because the idea is from a Republican, therefore idiotic in the eyes of the "educated" Democrats.

Posted by: wpcdias | February 6, 2010 11:34 AM
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It won't work, because they'll narrow the scope of the deduction so much "If you're rich, i.e. make over $150K, you get no deduction, and unless you itemize, you get no deduction", that it's just another way to tax us to pay for the huge, crushing deficit they're jamming down our throat.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | February 6, 2010 7:55 AM
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