Republicans pushing for new energy taxes. No, really.

There’s little doubt enthusiasm for climate change legislation among House and Senate Republicans is tepid, at best. But lately some members of the GOP have been sounding down-right tax-happy.

richard_lugar Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana). “I can’t wait to get my hands around a new tax!”

Recently Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker sent a letter to colleagues bashing a cap-and-trade plan from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a consortium of businesses and environmental groups, as being too complicated and easily co-opted by special interests.

“A simple, transparent cap-and-trade proposal, or another mechanism putting a price on carbon, such as a carbon tax, can be a useful tool for reducing our dependence on foreign oil and other carbon-based fuels.”

Bob Inglis, a Republican representative from South Carolina joined former Reagan economic policy advisor Arthur Laffer in writing an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a carbon tax with a full rebate to consumers:

“Conservatives don’t support tax increases that are veiled as “cap and trade” schemes for pollution permits. But offer us a tax swap, and we could become the new administration’s best allies on climate change.”

And even Republican Senator Richard Lugar is suggesting a gasoline tax to both help cut oil use and help cut emissions.
Has the world gone mad? No, says Kenneth Green, an environment and public policy analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. It’s just that Republicans can’t be “the party of ‘no'” when it comes to climate change legislation these days.
“If they really see themselves staring down the barrel of a nasty cap-and-trade law, they know they have to offer up a position with an alternative environment bill,” Green told the Chronicle. “They can’t just say ‘No, we don’t believe there’s a problem” anymore. They have to accept that the public has said it wants change now.”
Does a carbon tax really have a prayer of being passed, particularly when a cap-and-trade system is considered central to the Obama administration’s environmental plan and there are many banks and energy trading outfits eager for such a system? Most say no. But some argue conservatives are raising the carbon tax as a way to derail any sort of climate legislation:

“It’s a way to avoid legislation at all if possible and secure the weakest possible bill if not. It’s a way to exploit disagreements within the climate coalition and derail momentum. That’s what they do. As usual, they’re fighting a knife fight and the left is holding a grad school seminar,” says Gernot Wagner, an economist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

To that end, here’s Green giving his 2-cents (over 9 minutes) on cap-and-trade versus tax.