David Roberts at Vox:
The dream of a bipartisan deal on carbon taxes is evergreen in US political circles. Lately, it has taken on a somewhat more specific form. The Climate Leadership Council (led by emeritus Republicans George Shultz and James Baker III) and the libertarian Niskanen Center have both proposed various forms of a deal in which Republicans would agree to a carbon tax in exchange for Democrats agreeing to repeal regulations on carbon emissions and fuel economy (among others).
Reporter Amy Harder (who recently moved from the Wall Street Journal to Axios) points out that no Republicans support the deal. But she also says that environmental groups and Democrats will not accept it — and their refusal is “the logjam preventing any climate compromise.”
Niskanen’s David Bookbinder (formerly of Sierra Club) told Harder that green groups actually would accept the trade if the price was right, they just won’t say so. "Like most entities that have no experience in actual negotiations,” he said, “[environmental groups] believe that they can't say publicly that they will make the trade until the R's put the tax on the table.”
Our thought bubble: At least one side is going to have to be the first to show a willingness to compromise privately and eventually publicly to break the logjam that is this perennial carbon tax debate. So far, that's not happening. A spokesman for the Sierra Club declined to comment on the record about their official position, which is that they wouldn't support a trade of EPA regulation for a carbon tax.
This is shaping up to be a classic Washington dynamic: Democrats being pressured to compromise in advance, with phantoms.
Here’s the thing about the “perennial carbon tax debate” — it’s not a debate between the two parties. No actual Republican officeholder has proposed a carbon tax or signaled support for one. Conservative power brokers like Grover Norquist and the Heritage Foundation (which is writing Trump’s environmental initiatives) have stated in no uncertain terms that a carbon tax is a non-starter.
"We could spend time coming up with this grand compromise and then start working with the Hill and it would all collapse," a Trump administration official told Harder of the tax-regulation swap. "We wouldn't waste our time on it."
That may be the only smart decision made by this administration yet.
There’s nothing wrong with people pushing this idea, if they think it’s a good idea. But elected Democrats are surely aware that a) there is no actual support for it among the GOP and b) when it comes to carbon, federally speaking, EPA regulations are the only tool left on the table.
There are lots of reasons in the [...]. I agree that it would make sense for everyone to relax until someone with any political power acts as if a carbon tax is a serious proposal during this political cycle. Blaming environmental groups and Democrat politicians for their lack of compromise about a vague non-congressional proposal is just bat poop crazy.