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Tax the Oil Companies

February 27, 2012 - Fighting climate change by taxing carbon pollution has been given a new lease on life.  An op-ed appeared in the Washington Post within the last few days, authored by two current and two past members of Congress.  The strategy they endorse addresses two sets of problems: fiscal and environmental. Carbon producers wish to pay as little tax as possible, and would find themselves taking a renewed interest in emissions reduction.  At the same time, emissions are difficult to eliminate completely, thereby producing an income stream for the government.  Can you say "deficit reduction?"

Considering that Exxon and Chevron were two of the most profitable (nos. 1 and 3) businesses in the country last year - and that they accomplished this by shamelessly pouring toxins into the air that you and I breathe - the two companies not only are, without question, beholden to the citizens of this country, but plainly capable of paying the proposed tax.  The carbon pollution policy's authors - Democrats Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, along with Republicans Sherwood Boehlert and Wayne Gilchrist - portray its benefits in the most beguiling terms. "Using these policies, the United States could raise$200 billion or more over 10 years, and trillions of dollars by 2050, while cutting carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050 ..."

Contrast the rosy picture just presented with its do-nothing alternative: "Delaying action just until the end of the decade will quadruple costs to the global economy, according to the International Energy Agency."  Given that the CEO's of leading energy, chemical and manufacturing companies have decried further delay, it would appear that Congressional inaction is based upon old, very inaccurate information.  These corporate leaders told Climate Progress ( that the only reason they've waited as long as they have is that they don't know what the government will require of them ("... they have deferred hundreds of billions of dollars of investments ...")!  Why is it that Congress is always the last to know?

Wait a minute - that's not fair.  The need for emissions reductions is very evident to Waxman, Markey, Boehlert, and Gilchrist.  Though Republicans Boehlert and Gilchrist are former members of the House of Representatives, I do not believe these four gentlemen speak only for themselves, or that former Republican members are the only Republicans who see the need to reduce humankind's carbon footprint.  Since American businessmen now accept the inevitability of investing in a less polluted future, surely they can combine forces with forward-thinking members of Congress to make this proposal a reality.  Furthermore, many members of the business community are disgruntled about the lead China is taking in developing "green" products.  They are eager to get into - and win - that game.  The time has come.

Take a minute to write your Congressional representatives, and tell them that there can be no further delay in implementing a carbon tax.  Oil companies have all the money, the government is head over heels in debt, everyone knows the obvious answer.  Congress, do you even know the question???


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