The Oil Industry’s Carbon Tax Dream is a Climate Nightmare

Big Oil hopes they can fool Americans with fake solutions for the environment like carbon taxes. Here’s what you need to know so they can’t get one over on you.

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Climate and Energy

by Jim Walsh

Thankfully, the serious discussions around climate change have moved from “Is it real?” to “How do we prevent the climate calamities we are barreling towards at breakneck speed?” Now that we have broad agreement about the need to address the climate crisis, fossil fuel interests are changing tactics, and instead of broadly opposing regulations on greenhouse gases, they are pushing false solutions that will undermine our efforts to stop catastrophic climate change and keep their profits growing.

A great deal of credit for this shift in attitude in Congress should be given to scientists and the growing climate change movement, who respectively are clearly laying out the facts of climate change and demanding we rapidly transition to 100% clean renewable energy. Fossil fuel interests see this movement as a threat to their existence, and maybe they should: At the end of the day one of us has to go — humanity or fossil fuels. Rather than sit back and watch us stop pipelines, ban fracking, and rapidly expand clean energy, fossil fuel interests are pushing carbon taxes as false solutions to the climate crisis.

Big Oil Is Backing A Fake Climate Coalition In Congress

The Climate Leadership Council (backed by BP, Exxon Mobil, and Shell) is pushing carbon pricing aggressively in Congress. They know what we know, carbon taxes don’t work. On their face, carbon taxes are a regulatory rollback that will uses taxes instead of emissions limits to regulate greenhouse gases. The tax will be levied on these oil and gas giants, which will push up costs of energy on consumers. Without reasonable alternatives, consumers will be stuck with higher energy bills. This means not only will oil and gas companies get to keep polluting, but they can pass the cost of polluting on to taxpayers. 

A Win-Win For Factory Farms & Fossil Fuels, A Lose-Lose For the Rest Of Us

The benefits fossil fuel interests are sneaking into carbon taxes don’t stop with regulatory rollbacks. There are two scary proposals on the table right now that go much further. 

Climate Action Rebate Act of 2019

Representative Panetta (D-CA-20) introduced the Climate Action Rebate Act of 2019 (HR-4051) which is a carbon tax that actually diverts carbon tax revenue to subsidize fossil fuel interests and creates loopholes for factory farms.

The proposal will funnel carbon tax revenue to fund expensive,unproven carbon capture and storage technology at power plants and refineries. Even if these technologies are successful at stopping greenhouse gas emissions at these facilities, which is questionable, leaks of greenhouse gases in infrastructure will still remain. This technology will also not address any of the problems associated with water pollution, air pollution, or public health impacts that arise from extracting, refining, and transporting fossil fuels. To make matters worse, the legislation will subsidize oil drillers for something they would do anyway, enhanced oil recovery, which is an extreme drilling technique where CO2 is pumped into an oil well to squeeze out every last bit of oil. We should be putting a stop to enhanced oil recovery, not rewarding it with public money.

Representative Panetta also gives a handout to factory farms for installing expensive manure digesters at their facilities. These digesters increase the amount of methane generated from factory farms and captures it, so it can be burned for energy. This creates other negative side effects, including greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants like ammonium nitrate. There are real people who live near factory farms who suffer the consequences of this recklessness. 

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019

Another carbon tax proposal called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019 (H.R.763), introduced by Representative Deutch [D-FL-22], has 65 co-sponsors. If enacted the carbon tax would also incentivize carbon capture technology instead of mandating emissions reductions. However, this bill goes a step further by diverting carbon tax revenue to chemical and plastic manufacturers who utilize fossil fuels in their products. It’s difficult to choose the worst feature of this bill, but the next part is probably it: the legislation hinders the federal government from regulating greenhouse gases except through carbon taxes.

Fight Carbon Taxes Like You Live Here!

The climate crisis will touch everyone on the planet, and many people have already had their lives forever changed by climate supercharged hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires. Our movement is growing in power and influence, winning real victories for a clean energy future. We cannot let ourselves be blown off course by fossil fuel industry front groups and slick PR campaigns pushing false solutions like carbon taxes. 

Carbon taxes wrongly focus on making carbon-intensive energy more expensive, rather than making clean energy more affordable. The impact of these taxes will hit low- and moderate-income families the hardest — those who are least able to make adjustments to their energy usage. Instead of a confusing tax that will hurt working families and subsidize the very companies who are perpetuating the climate crisis, we should eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, put a stop to all new fossil fuel development, and create millions of jobs through a just and equitable transition to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030. 

We need to fight like we live here, because we do.

Tell the Biden Administration that our future must be fracking-free. Our existence depends on it!