Conservatives are celebrating that influential Detroit lawmaker Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, argued Friday that “nobody knows” that a cap on global warming pollution amounts to a “great big” tax. Questioning Vice President Al Gore, Dingell argued that Congress needs to choose between “cap and trade” and an “energy tax” to finance a green recovery:
We’ve got to finance this and we’ve got to enforce it. Cap and trade is one mechanism, an energy tax is another. Every economist says that a carbon tax is a better, more efficient, fairer way of doing it. The Europeans have had two, maybe three fine failures in their application of cap and trade. How do we avoid the mistakes that they made? And how do we come up with something that gives us the best? Nobody in this country realizes that cap and trade is a tax, and it’s a great big one! I want to get a bill that works — how do we choose the best course?
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the National Review, the Drudge Report, and other right-wingers have seized on Dingell’s comments. Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-IN) spokesman pushed the comments to Politico, claiming: “Chairman Dingell agrees with what Republicans have been saying all along: the Democrat cap and trade bill is a national energy tax on working families.” However, Dingell has proposed both carbon-tax and cap-and-trade legislation to stop giving polluters the right to continue polluting for free.
Vice President Gore responded that both a carbon tax and market-based cap can address the climate crisis while strengthening the economy:
I have for twenty years supported a CO2 tax that’s given back to the people so that it’s revenue-neutral but accomplishes the desired effect. But I’ve never proposed it as a substitute for cap and trade. I’m in favor of both. And the number of countries that have done the best job of addressing the climate crisis and strengthening their economies have in fact put both in place. But I believe the cap-and-trade approach is the essential first step partly because it is the only basis on which we can envision a truly global agreement, because it’s very hard to imagine a harmonized global tax.
Countries like Denmark, Norway, and Holland which have both a carbon tax and cap-and-trade are indeed weathering the global recession much better than countries like the United States. In fact, Denmark is both the most taxed country on earth and the best country for business in the world.
It is our nation’s dependence on polluting fuels that acts as a tax on society — “a great big one.” As corporations pollute for free, everyone else pays for the disease, asthma, heat waves, droughts, floods, storms, sea level rise, and economic and national insecurity that results. Dingell has spent his political career misguidedly fighting pollution and efficiency standards on behalf of the domestic automotive industry, putting Detroit on the verge of bankruptcy. As millions of Americans understand, it’s time for Washington to repower America with laws that reward work instead of pollution.