Senate GOP propose 25% ‘Do-Nothing’ energy tax on Americans and a $4 trillion climate tax on our children

MEMO TO THE MEDIA:  The nation’s energy and climate problems have reached the point where obstructionist politicians cannot be given a free pass to simply criticize those attempting to solve those problems while offering no credible alternatives or business-as-usual policies.

At 11:30 ET, Senators Boxer and Kerry (and others) will introduce the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.  For the cost of about a postage stamp a day per U.S. household, the bill would generate millions of clean energy jobs, while preserving and protecting clean air, clean water, and a livable climate.

At 2:45 ET, Senator Inhofe and other GOP Senators will hold a “Press Availability on Boxer-Kerry Energy Tax” in Senate Radio-TV Gallery S-325.  But in fact, it is Senate conservatives who are pushing the really big tax on Americans — a double tax, really, since doing nothing on climate and clean energy is the one certain way to ensure

  1. Our energy bills soar just as they did under the do-nothing policies of George W. Bush and the conservative-led Congress and
  2. Our children are saddled with the staggering cost of desperately trying to adapt to catastrophic global warming.

We know that if the final energy and climate bill that hits Obama’s desk retains the energy-saving provisions of the House bill, it could save $3,900 per household by 2030 and would cut the U.S. foreign oil bill $650 billion through 2030, saving $5,600 per household.

The only existing GOP energy proposal, the American Energy Act (AEA), is nothing more than a good old-fashioned 25% energy tax on consumers (see here).  The GOP plan — or doing nothing at all, as the GOP Senators will apparently propose today — means no savings from energy efficiency, no stop to soaring oil prices and a soaring trade deficit in oil when the economy and petroleum price rebound.  It means no effort to preserve a livable climate.  In short, it is just Cheney-lite, if it’s possible to be lighter than the Cheney energy plan.

What are the benefits to our children of not destroying their livable climate, of averting 10°F warming over much of this country and 5+ feet of sea level rise by century’s end, of not turning the oceans into a large, hot, acidified dead zone?

New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity published a recent analysis that found the “clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill creates $1.5 trillion in benefits.”  But that was at a low societal cost of carbon.  For a more reasonable estimated cost of the impacts of carbon dioxide, say, $68, they estimated the total cumulative net benefit of climate action is $4 trillion (see Chart 2, page 31 here).  And that didn’t even include an analysis of the plausible worst-case scenario for global warming, which we now know is 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic in 50 years!

In fact, a more rigorous new analysis by top “scientists led by a former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” found the net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path, making mitigation to under 450 ppm a must.

Doing nothing thus imposes an unimaginable burden — a multi-trillion dollar carbon pollution tax — on our children and grandchildren.

A do-nothing energy policy also means higher energy bills in the next decade, just as it did in the last one.  In April, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a detailed analysis showing the main result of the Bush-Cheney plan was that energy costs rose more than $1,100 for the average American household:

Over this period, the typical annual American household expenditure on electricity rose more than $170, and the typical annual American expenditure on gasoline rose more than $960 (in 2007 dollars). Note that the gasoline price increases listed here do not include the unprecedented $147 per barrel of oil and $4.11 gasoline prices that occurred in the summer of 2008.

Here is more of CAP’s analysis of the impact on Americans of the failed conservative energy policies of the last decade:

Gas and electricity prices battered household budgets in the last recovery

America needs to invest in a diverse clean energy economy now instead of doubling down on dirty energy. The recession and the low prices of gasoline and electricity provide an opportunity to ensure the next period of economic growth is not like the last one.

Economic growth under Bush lasted from November 2001″”when the United States emerged from the first Bush recession””to December 2007″” the beginning of the second Bush recession, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, which tracks and measures business cycles.

Over Bush’s period of economic growth, expenditures on electricity for a typical American family (earning the median income) grew 16 percent to $1,285 in 2007, up from $1,106 per year in 2002, an increase of $179. The typical family’s expenditure on gasoline grew nearly 70 percent to $2,418 in 2007, up from $1,450 in 2002, an increase of nearly $1000 (All dollar amounts in inflation-adjusted 2007 dollars.)

Gas and electric prices grew much faster than inflation

The price of gasoline and home electricity grew faster then general inflation because of the lack of diversity in our energy system and spiraling global demand for fossil fuels: 1.6 times faster in the case of residential electricity and a staggering 6.4 times faster in the case of gasoline.

These price spikes occurred despite the Bush administration’s massive public subsidies for dirty energy. The 2005 energy bill contained a token level of investment in renewable energy, but it also provided billions of dollars of support for dirty energy, offering $27 billion in subsidies for coal, oil, and nuclear energy.

Although the current recession has dragged down gas prices from the record $4.11 per gallon of July 2008, gas prices still averaged $2.01 in March 2009, up 67 percent from a $1.28 average in March of 2002. The fundamentals that created the huge increases in oil and electricity prices from 2002 through the summer of 2008″”after the recession officially began but before demand plummeted worldwide””still lurk, and will return with a vengeance once the global economy begins to rebound.

Doing nothing is the most costly option.

16 Responses to Senate GOP propose 25% ‘Do-Nothing’ energy tax on Americans and a $4 trillion climate tax on our children

  1. mike roddy says:

    I appreciate your rational arguments, Joe, but the people opposing climate change legislation (mostly fossil fuel, ag, and timber companies) are not operating on that level. For them, the strategy is threefold:

    1.Give cash to our Congressmen so that they can continue to visit expensive prostitutes in DC, and get applauded as heroes at local business functions. This includes Blue Dog Democrats.

    2. Either purchase media outlets or corrupt both them and educational institutions through grants and advertising. Then, be sure that climate change deniers such as “Lord” Monckton and other cartoon characters are treated with respect and gravitas. Ignore key reports such as the recent one from MIT. Assume that those who read The Guardian online or this blog will remain an annoying but harmless minority.

    3. Perfect the language of thought control and appeal to our baser and more ignorant natures by coaching talk radio pundits and far right politicians to frighten people about liberals, taxes, Moslems, and everything else except what they really should be afraid of: a disintegrating clmate and natural environment.

  2. paulm says:

    The next 0.8C is not going to be good.

    Typhoon Kills at Least 41 in Vietnam

  3. Ian Bjorn says:

    Where are the details and the bill numbers for the $4 trillion tax for children. Thanks.

  4. Leif says:

    Why oh why can’t the NY Times prominently print something like this at least every week.
    I vote for JR as guest columnist pronto.
    There appears to be a movement to “phase out” fossil fuel subsidizes in the near future. (What was it that EXONN made last year, $400+ billion?) Anyway, $27 billion comes out to be about $90 per year for every man, woman and child in America. Subtract those too old, too young, too rich or too poor to pay taxes and that cost the rest of us about another $180 per year. What a deal.

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    The MEMO TO THE MEDIA is key, and far too gentle.

    (But good for you for pointing it out!)

    It is way past time for the media to do the CAREFUL EXAMINATION that Socrates would have called for. What IS the purpose of news journalism in a modern democracy, facing the sorts of very real issues we face? What does it mean to genuinely “serve the public good”?

    Clearly, the media have not asked, faced, and answered those questions responsibly. Read the papers. Watch the TV news. Compare what you see to what Edward R. Murrow criticized in his famous speech (to the RTNDA conference), to what people said about Cronkite, and to why Thomas Jefferson felt that education and a responsible press were so important.

    Where are the leading schools of journalism on this? Are they asleep? Are they giving the media an enabling “pat on the back” and passing grade on all this, even as the media are actually flunking (and dismally so) when it comes to genuine measures of effectiveness that should apply to problems such as these?

    At this point, if I were to go out an peacefully demonstrate somewhere, it wouldn’t be easy for me to decide whether it should be on the front porch of ExxonMobil or at the front door of The New York Times. Given what they are supposed to be doing, the more important choice might be the latter one.

    Anyhow, thanks for the reminder to the media, Joe.



  6. paulm says:

    Apparently it is very unusual for such large earthquakes to occur so far apart. There has not been a recent precedent for this.

    This research seems to indicate that there could be a link to GW for the events…

    Climate change: melting ice will trigger wave of natural disasters

    warn of earthquakes, avalanches and volcanic eruptions as the atmosphere heats up and geology is altered.

    Six Volcanoes Erupt Simultaneously in Russia

    Experts say that volcanic and earthquake activity is increasing worldwide.
    Volcanologist Yaroslav Muraviyev says it’s been 55 years since the region had experienced much volcanic activity.


  7. Moses says:

    I’ve about given up on hope for the human race. We’re at 384 ppmv CO2 right now. The average for the Cretaceous was 340 ppmv CO2 and averaged +5 degrees C (and peaked at >10 degrees C) over what we’re at now. How can we possibly be okay if we stabilize at 450 ppmv?

    Regardless of whether 450 ppmv is low enough, I don’t see how we’re going to get there with the obstructionists in the way.

    –Sorry, feeling rather uninspired today.

  8. Rockfish says:

    It’s funny when liberal politicians try to turn the “tax” thing around on Republicans…
    The political equivalent of throwing like a girl!

    [JR: Gosh, a right-winger who’s sexist, too. What a shock. In case you didn’t know, that particular “insult” went out, oh, about 3 decades ago.]

  9. Midwest says:

    Minor typo in this article and the related one you link to: “York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity” should be “New York University…” York University is in Canada, does have a law school, but did not write the “Other side of the Coin” report.

  10. Dr. Matania Ginosar says:

    I submitted two separate comments and they are not here.

    [JR: The first one went up right away, second one got caught in moderation and is now up. Read the TOS.]

  11. A Siegel says:


    I think this is another home run in terms of framing the discussion.

    The DO NOTHING TAX … thanks for the framing.

    Will echo.

    [JR: Thanks. Treehugger liked it and picked it up.]

  12. paulm says:

    I think the rest of the world should implement a Carbon Tax on all Americans flying in and out of the US to help with tackling their emissions .

    Something in the region of a $100 each way should do the trick.

    This would definitely be a wake up call to the Americans on how serious the situation is and at the same time provide revenue to fight AGW.

    Even if only say the Euro zone, China and Australia/New Zealand did this it would have an impact.

  13. David B. Benson says:

    paulm (12) — Great. Suggest that to their US and UN ambassadors!

    And watch it fall flat. Those countries want tourists to come spend $$.

    High jet fuel prices might do it for you. Also fewer Americans can afford to travel. Anywhere.

  14. paulm says:

    Isn’t that the problem – everyone wants to make money at the expense of the environment.

    Also fewer Americans can afford to travel.

    would be symbolic then I guess. The majority of persons flying are the ones with a reasonable amount of disposable income.

  15. Anonymous says:

    $1240 Trillion is a gross UNDERestimate. A 13 degree warming will make Homo Sap EXTINCT. I reckon the price of extinction to be $Infinite. $Infinity is a lot bigger than $1240 Trillion.

  16. Anonymous says:

    “for coal, oil, and nuclear energy.” Woops! Nuclear DOES NOT MAKE CO2!!!!!!!!! So don’t lump nuclear with coal and oil.

    WIND AND SOLAR USE MORE CONCRETE THAN NUCLEAR, thus making more CO2 per kilowatt hour.