WASHINGTON — An Institute for Energy Research survey released today indicates a broad-based opposition to a carbon tax among registered voters. The survey has been featured in a number of news publications. Among today’s top stories were:
A conservative energy group is rolling out a multi-pronged push ahead of the August congressional recess that aims to put the carbon tax in its deathbed.
“We’re hoping to put the final nail in the coffin on the carbon tax. The proposal should be dead on arrival by the time lawmakers come back from August recess,” Benjamin Cole, a spokesman with the Institute for Energy Research and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance, told The Hill in an interview detailing the plan.
The effort includes a new poll of American opinion on a carbon tax and an advertising campaign centered on five House members, among other elements.
As early as Thursday, AEA will launch a two-week radio advertising campaign that targets five House lawmakers — four Democrats and one Republican.
The ad blitz, which will cost between $120,000 and $150,000, targets Democratic Reps. Bill Owens (N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.) and William Enyart (Ill.), along with GOP Rep. Chris Smith (N.J.).
AEA chose to focus on members who have been “soft on the carbon tax issue” and reside in “marginal districts,” Cole said.
“We obviously are ones to apply pressure in any way we can,” he said.
The timing of the IER and AEA operation is designed to get energy issues on the agenda when lawmakers meet with voters in their congressional districts, Cole said.
Cole compared the upcoming recess to the summer of 2010, when the House had recently passed ObamaCare, the national healthcare law.
He said the climate change plan Obama unveiled last month — which relies on a suite of executive actions that industry, Republicans and coal-state Democrats say will slow the economy — will draw fire from voters across the country.
“We know that there’s going to be town halls that congressmen go back to their districts to hear from their constituents. We want to make sure that energy is on the plate,” he said.
The effort will attempt to blunt any possible momentum for a carbon tax, Cole said.
Of that, there appears to be little.
Taxing carbon emissions has support from some environmentalists, as well as a collection of conservative economists and advocates who say it should be coupled with lower personal tax rates. But the idea has little political traction.
Carbon tax proposals are a non-starter in the GOP-controlled House. And Republicans combined a bloc of centrist Democrats threaten to thwart a carbon tax in the Senate. On top of all that, the White House has said it won’t pursue a carbon tax.
The concept has fueled intense opposition from the right.
The IER and AEA campaign has the support of several conservative outfits, including Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
The first piece of the rollout is an IER-commissioned poll of 800 registered voters conducted last week by The Tarrance Group that says Americans reject the idea of a carbon tax.
Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they oppose a carbon tax “paid by businesses of all sizes,” compared with 35 percent of those who favored the concept.
The poll doesn’t take into account different schemes for a carbon tax — for example, there’s variability in policy circles when deciding whether to apply a fee at the point of carbon emissions or fossil fuel extraction.
Still, the responses differed greatly among parties. A majority of Democrats — 54 percent — favored a carbon tax, while 80 percent of Republicans rejected it.
The results of that poll will be discussed at a carbon tax event IER is hosting Wednesday. Then comes the radio ad launch.
IER will also give lawmakers a point-by-point critique of the climate change plan Obama unveiled last month before they head home.
“It’s teeing up August recess interaction with constituents,” Cole said.
Cole said that IER and AEA plan to keep the heat on lawmakers until the heads of the congressional tax-writing panels, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), formally declare a carbon tax is off the table.
The two committee heads have demonstrated a desire to overhaul the federal tax code — and for both, time is of the essence. Baucus isn’t running for reelection in 2014, and Camp’s term as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is up after next year.
“There’s nothing that motivates a politician more than building his own legacy,” Cole said.
A healthy majority of Americans oppose adoption of a carbon tax and would punish any elected official who voted for one, according to a new poll released today by the Institute for Energy Research, which opposes the policy.
The nationwide survey of 800 registered voters was conducted last week by the Tarrance Group and has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
“Some people in Washington are considering a tax on … carbon dioxide emissions that would be paid by businesses of all sizes,” the survey told participants.
Fifty-four percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans said they supported the tax described. The policy was slightly more popular among women (37 percent) than men (34 percent).
Fifty percent of those polled said they would be less likely to vote for a member of Congress if he or she supported a carbon tax, while 33 percent said they would be more likely to do so. The remaining 18 percent said it wouldn’t make a difference.
The survey didn’t mention climate change, but instead asked respondents whether the economy (79 percent) or the environment (17 percent) was a higher priority for them.
IER spokesman Ben Cole said the poll skirted the climate change issue because it had already been “poll-tested to death” by President Obama and supporters of his climate change agenda.
“I’d be interested to see how many people who have done polls on climate change have asked people, ‘Do you want to pay for a carbon tax?'” he said in an interview. He also disputed that a carbon tax would be an effective way to combat climate change.
In its poll, the fossil fuels advocacy group presented a carbon tax as a “tax increase,” rather than the revenue-neutral model championed by some pro-carbon tax conservatives like former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) and Arthur Laffer, who was an economic adviser to President Reagan.
“Do you believe the money from this tax increase should be used to pay down the federal debt, or fund new government spending?” the survey asked.
The vast majority of those polled said the new revenue should go to pay down the debt (80 percent) rather than to fund government programs (13 percent), but participants said it would likely go to government programs (73 percent) rather than debt-reduction (18 percent). Ninety-one percent of those polled said that businesses would pass the cost of the tax on to consumers.
The poll is part of a broad campaign by IER opposing the idea of a carbon tax, which has gained some renewed interest in Washington, D.C., think tanks and among Democratic lawmakers in the last couple of years but which faces long odds on Capitol Hill.
Cole said IER took the carbon tax seriously in part because Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), leaders of Congress’ tax-policy panels, haven’t ruled out the possibility of including it in a broader tax reform measure.
“We think that it’s still fair game for us to push back against,” he said. “And we want to make sure that as many members as possible go home during the August recess and face their constituents in town hall meetings as possible, and are put on the record by their constituents about the carbon tax.”
IER is preparing a recess briefing paper for lawmakers on the pitfalls of Obama’s climate change plan, too, he said.
The American Energy Alliance — IER’s political arm — also plans a new two-week radio advertising campaign for later in the week, aimed at pressuring five lawmakers from swing districts who it views as possible supporters of a carbon tax.
These include Democratic Reps. Bill Owens of New York, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Patrick Murphy of Florida and William Enyart of Illinois, along with Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey. Smith, who voted for a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade bill that cleared the House in 2009, has been “particularly unreliable when it comes to energy issues,” Cole said.
Finally, IER will host a panel tomorrow afternoon at which the group’s CEO and founder, Robert Bradley, and four economic analysts who are opposed to a carbon tax will outline their views about its economic and environmental implications and about energy-sector regulation. The event will be held at the Loews Madison Hotel at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
Cole said that while all the panelists now oppose a carbon tax, there is some diversity of views: Economist Kenneth Green of the Fraser Institute will participate, and he once supported the idea.
Since President Barack Obama called on Congress to take action on global warming, some lawmakers have been scrambling to garner support for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.
However, supporting a carbon tax may cost them their seat, according to a new poll.
A poll by the Tarrance Group that surveyed 800 registered voters on behalf of the free-market Institute for Energy Research (IER) found that 50 percent of voters are less likely to re-elect their member of Congress if they support a carbon tax, while only 33 percent of voters are more likely to vote for them again.
This shouldn’t be surprising as most Americans — 59 percent — do not support a carbon tax, and 51 percent of voters say they are not willing to pay more every year for a carbon tax. Only 35 percent of voters favored a carbon tax.
“National leaders who support a carbon tax do so at their own peril,” said Thomas Pyle, president of IER. “Americans don’t buy the argument that a carbon tax will be used to help the environment or that businesses will just swallow the costs.”
With Congress’s approval rating still staggeringly low — the Real Clear Politics average is 13.6 percent — many Americans don’t trust lawmakers to responsibly use new revenues that would be raised through a carbon tax.
Sixty-one percent say that most lawmakers who support a carbon tax do so because they want more money to spend, while only 34 percent say they want to use the money to improve the environment.
Furthermore, while 80 percent of Americans believe that new government revenues should be used to pay down the federal government’s massive $16.7 trillion debt, only 18 percent actually believe it will be used for that and 73 percent think it will be used to fund more government spending.
“Common sense and experience leads the public to conclude that a carbon tax will only lead to more spending, more deficits and more harm to the U.S. economy,” Pyle added.
IER’s poll is part of a larger campaign to pressure lawmakers to scrap any plans they have for a carbon tax. The group will roll out a media blitz as early as Thursday that targets four Democrats and one Republican in the House who are “soft on the carbon tax issue,” IER spokesman Benjamin Cole told The Hill.
“The ad blitz, which will cost between $120,000 and $150,000, targets Democratic Reps. Bill Owens of New York, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Patrick Murphy of Illinois and William Enyart (Ill.), along with GOP Rep. Chris Smith (N.J.),” The Hill reports.
Previously, Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said that the idea of a carbon had been gaining traction among lawmakers and was “on the table.”
“There are more members of the Senate now who openly talk about that than I have experienced. It is creeping up a little bit. Is that going to rise to the level of where it is a very strong, serious provision? I don’t know. But I am not going to pre-judge it,” Baucus said at a Christian Science Monitor event.
Conservative groups are concerned that a carbon tax could become part of a grand bargain between Republicans and Democrats whereby a carbon tax is put in place in exchange for lowering personal income, corporate income, or payroll taxes as well as nixing some environmental regulations.
However, IER and other groups warn against such political games, arguing that a carbon tax would harm the already delicate economy as it would make the price of nearly all goods and services increase as energy prices go up.
IER has declared that their campaign against the carbon tax won’t stop until Baucus and Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Camp — the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — both declare that a carbon tax is off the table for tax reform.