| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Feb 20 A carbon tax proposal
outlined on Thursday by California Senate leader Darrell
Steinberg would raise an estimated $3.6 billion in its first
year, revenue he said would go into the pocketbooks of the
state's poorest residents as well as public transportation.
The tax, which would apply to fuels like gasoline, would
start at 15 cents a gallon in 2015 and rise to 24 cents a gallon
in 2020, Steinberg said in a speech at the Sacramento Press
Poverty in the state is growing and money raised by the tax
would be returned to low- and moderate-income working people via
a federal tax credit, Steinberg said. It would also help plug
funding shortfalls in public transit.
The tax would halt plans to bring fuels under the state's
cap and trade program next year, a policy that since the
beginning of 2013 has regulated the emissions of heat-trapping
greenhouse gases from large stationary sources, such as power
plants and cement factories.
Cap and trade sets a gradually declining limit on the amount
of greenhouse gases businesses can emit and allows for the
trading of excess permits on the open market.
A carbon tax is a simper system to administer than cap and
trade, but instead of setting an environmental target, it hopes
to discourage driving by raising the price of gasoline.
In a speech on Thursday, Steinberg said he fears that the
market could produce price volatility at the pump, a result that
would hurt consumers and may undermine California's pioneering
effort to combat climate change through its landmark 2006 law,
"If gas prices spike and fluctuate wildly, I am concerned
that the climate change skeptics will use the crisis to unravel
AB 32 and weaken our essential climate goals," he said.
Passage of the tax is considered a long shot given that
California law requires any new tax to gain the support of
two-thirds of members in both chambers of the state legislature.
The proposal was also met with resistance from
environmentalists, who believe the current policies are well
designed and should not be tampered with.
"We don't support pulling the rug out from something that
has been carefully negotiated for going on seven years," said
Alex Jackson of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
State Senator Fran Pavley, the author of AB 32, called
exempting oil companies from the cap and trade program a
"Letting oil companies play by different rules than other
polluters would undermine all the progress we've made on climate
change and send mixed signals to businesses investing in clean
energy and reducing pollution in disadvantaged communities,"
Pavley said on Thursday.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by G Crosse)