James Baker among GOP group pressing carbon tax to Trump

James A. Baker, who served as the U.S. Secretary of State between 1989 and 1992. (AP Photo/Nousha Salimi)

Some big name Republicans have joined on to a coalition lobbying to combat climate change through a carbon tax.

A group that includes former Secretary of State James Baker III, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Walmart Chairman Rob Walton are pressing President Donald Trump to back a proposal that would tax carbon emissions and then  return that money to U.S. taxpayers through a dividend payment.

Baker met with Trump’s National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn at the White House Wednesday morning and said afterwards while they didn’t get an immediate response, “I think they’re going to look at it.”

“If you’re a Republican there’s a lot to like,” Baker said before boarding a plane at Dulles International Airport to fly back to Houston. “The risks [of climate change] are so great, if the greenies are right. You need an insurance policy, and this a damn fine, free market, conservative, less regulation proposal. It’s very simple at it will work.”

As concerns rise over the impact greenhouse gas emissions are having on the earth’s atmosphere, some economists have pressed the federal government to institute a carbon tax as the most direct and least complicated means of addressing climate change. Supporters of the proposal include former Vice President Al Gore, environmental groups and even some large oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell.

But Republican and Democratic leaders alike have resisted, concerned that rising prices at the gasoline pump and heating bills would lead to a backlash from voters.

The conservative group Heritage Action lashed out at the plan Wednesday morning as an “just the latest example of policy solutions crafted by and made for cultural elites.”

“There is no room in the Republican Party for a carbon tax. These so-called Party elders might want to meet with former Secretary Clinton to discuss this idea.”

Under the plan put forward by the Climate Leadership Council, the U.S. government would institute a $40 per ton carbon tax that would increase over time. The tax revenue would be returned to taxpayers through a dividend estimated at $2,000 a year for an average family of four.

At the same time, a border tax on carbon would be implemented to “protect American competitiveness and punish free-riding by other nations.” And much of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon regulations – like the controversial Clean Power Plan – would be terminated.

Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney offered his support, tweeting Wednesday, “Thought-provoking plan from highly respected conservatives to both strengthen the economy & confront climate risks.”

But so far Republicans currently in elected office have largely been quiet.

Baker still describes himself as a “climate change skeptic,” but one who concedes the planet is warming and mankind is playing some role in that – how much he says is impossible to say. While outside the views of mainstream climate scientists, it’s also anathema to many Republicans who would just as soon see no action on climate change.

Trump himself has in the past called climate change a Chinese hoax and more recently has questioned predictions by scientists of flooded coastlines, crop failures and water shortages.

Baker, whose law firm Baker Botts has a long roster of oil and gas industry clients, said while he didn’t expect Republican lawmakers to sign on immediately he though the proposal was a starting point to give the party “a seat at the climate change table.”

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “Is it an uphill climb? You bet it is. Is it something you that needs to be done? You bet it is.”

 

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