Just the facts: Senator Begich and the carbon tax

February 21, 2014

FACT: Mark Begich told Alaskans that “if you’ve got an insurance plan now you like, you keep it.” In December 2013, PolitiFact named “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” the Lie of the Year after more than 4 million Americans received notices their health insurance plans would be cancelled.

FACT: On March 22nd, 2013, Senator Begich votes against Amendment 261 offered by Senator Blunt. The purpose of the amendment was “To create a point of order against legislation that would create a Federal tax or fee on carbon emissions.” The purpose of the amendment was “To create a point of order against legislation that would create a Federal tax or fee on carbon emissions.” This amendment would have required three fifths of the Senate to vote in favor of a carbon tax in order for a carbon tax to become law. If he is really “against the carbon tax” why would he oppose an amendment that would have made it more difficult to impose one?

FACT: On July 16th, 2010, Senator Begich signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader saying “we believe the scale of this challenge dictates the need for a comprehensive solution that includes making polluters pay through a price on greenhouse gas emissions.” This is the definition of a carbon tax. Not only was he not fighting to stop it he was urging the Majority Leader to move legislation that would impose one.

FACT: The Heritage Foundation analyzed the impact of pricing carbon at $25 per ton and increasing it at a rate of 5 percent each year and found it would reduce the income of a family of four by $1900 a year. Additionally, it would raise energy bills of a family of four by more than $500 a year and cause gasoline prices to increase by up to 50 cents a gallon. All together these costs would be over $2,000 a year for the average family of four.

FACT: According to a study by the National Association for Manufacturers a carbon tax would have the following impact: “This tax would deal a blow to employment in Alaska, with a loss of worker income equivalent to 7,000 to 21,000 jobs in 2013 and 9,000 to 12,000 by 2023. The hardest hit economic sectors in Alaska would be energy-intensive manufacturing, which would lose between 9.5 and 11.0 percent in economic output, non-energy-intensive manufacturing, which would lose between 1.3 and 2.4 percent, and refining, which would lose between 2.5 and 4.4 percent.”

FACT: The environmental issue a carbon tax is designed to address is carbon dioxide emission and global warming. The problem is that a unilateral carbon tax will force businesses to look outside the United States. The potential negative trade impacts of unilateral policies that increase the price of energy in the United States, such as carbon tax systems and cap-and-trade, are a well-recognized concern. The concern is that the policy “causes a shift in production to nations with weak or non-existent greenhouse gas regulations.”  This phenomenon is called “leakage.”

FACT: The result of “leakage” could be so great that leakage rates could be “as high as 130%, in which case GHG control policies in the industrialized countries actually lead to higher global emissions” according to a paper by Mustafa H. Babiker published in the Journal of International Economics in 2005.

FACT: Furthermore, a unilateral reduction of carbon dioxide in the United States, due to a carbon tax or other policy, will have a minimal impact on global temperatures. According to climatologist Paul Knappenberger, “if the U.S. as a whole stopped emitting all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions immediately, the ultimate impact on projected global temperature rise would be a reduction, or a “savings,” of approximately 0.08°C by the year 2050 and 0.17°C by the year 2100—amounts that are, for all intents and purposes, negligible.”

FACT: A carbon tax in the United States would likely lead to worsening air quality in other countries. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, a carbon tax would lead to “output from energy-intensive manufacturing sectors dropping as much as 15.0 percent” and “output from non-energy-intensive manufacturing sectors dropping as much as 7.7 percent.”

Furthermore, “losses of job equivalents relative to baseline levels ranging from about 1.3 million job equivalents in 2013 to almost 21 million job equivalents by 2053.” As noted above, this will result in “leakage” to other countries. Some of the countries that would like benefit are fast-growing countries like China and India. Air quality in these countries is much worse than the United States. Earlier this year, China’s air quality hit 517 on the air quality index at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

To put that in context, the air quality in Reno, Nevada as a result of the big forest fires in Yosemite only read 135 on the air quality index—and that’s the worst air quality in the United States as of August 29. India’s air quality is also poor. In late 2012, the air quality index for PM 10 in New Delphi was over 1,000. U.S. jobs and manufacturing that go to China and India will only result in more poor air quality in those countries.

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