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Sanders: Carbon tax bill is ‘not political’ but ‘has everything to do with physics’

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, February 14, 2013 17:14 EDT
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An aggressive new bill aiming to impose a tax on emissions that drive climate change is “not political,” according to co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but it “has everything to do with physics.”

The proposal is part of a two-bill package introduced Thursday by Sanders and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who’ve scrapped the unpopular “cap and trade” scheme Boxer attempted to pass in 2008 in favor of a simpler system that would tax emissions and use the money to invest in renewable energy technology and hardened infrastructure, along with deficit reduction and rebates to American families who experience rising energy costs as a result.

“Let me be very clear,” Sanders said in prepared text. “The issue that we are dealing with today is not political. It has nothing to do with Democrats, Republicans, Independents and all of the political swabbling we see here every day. It has everything to do with physics. The leading scientists in the world who study climate change now tell us that their projections in the past were wrong. That, in fact, the crisis facing our planet is much more serious than they had previously believed.”

He added that without major changes to the world’s energy infrastructure, cities like New Orleans, Boston and Miami will be “uninhabitable” before the century’s end. “And this would be true for coastal communities all over the world,” Sanders said.

Text of the Climate Protection Act (PDF) says that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would begin by charging the nation’s biggest polluters $20 per ton of emissions, and escalating that cost every year by 5.6 percent. Its sister bill, the Sustainable Energy Act (PDF), directs the government to spend that money on renewable energy investments, infrastructure improvements and assistance to families, along with eliminating subsidies for oil and gas companies.

A Sanders aide told Raw Story this week that the total figure raised from the tax could be as much as $1.2 trillion in about 10 years, collected from roughly 3,000 of the nation’s largest polluters who produce about 85 percent of climate change-causing emissions.

“Sens. Sanders and Boxer actually understand the depth of the climate problem we face,” environmental activist Bill McKibben added. “We are awfully grateful to them for starting us down the legislative path that could reverse our disastrous course. We hope and trust that they won’t have to be a lone voice.”

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced in late January that he is stepping down. It’s not clear who may replace him, but a variety of names have been floated of late, including former DNC co-chair Jim Rogers, Clinton administration staffer Cathy Zoi and renewable energy executive Louis Hay III, among others.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson also stepped aside in December, and the agency’s acting director, Robert Perciasepe, is favored to succeed her.
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Photo: Flickr user Idaho National Laboratory, creative commons licensed.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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