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Climate Change

‘Gas Tax’ Sounding Like a Four-Letter Word to the White House and Senate

8:32 AM PDT on April 16, 2010

Transportation groups of all shapes and sizes have been
concerned
that the Senate's forthcoming climate bill could set back
the prospects for a federal transportation measure by imposing extra
carbon fees
on Big Oil -- which would then be passed on to
customers at the pump, effectively increasing the gas tax for purposes
other than funding new infrastructure projects.

050217_lindseyGraham_hmed_4p.hmedium.jpgSen.
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined the White House in denying that his
forthcoming climate bill would feature a "gas tax." (Photo: MSNBC)

But
it looks like there's no need to worry. The Obama administration
yesterday gave a statement to the Wall
Street Journal
that sought to lock down any attempt to associate
the Senate climate plan with higher fuel charges: “The Senators don’t
support a gas tax, and neither does the White House."

A spokesman for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the climate proposal's
sole GOP sponsor, also denied that the bill would include a gas tax. The
bulk of the back-and-forth is a semantic battle that reflects how
politically poisonous a gas tax increase remains for both parties in
Washington.

But it may also suggest that Graham and his co-authors are moving
away from the carbon fee they had originally conceived. Graham described
the idea to
The Hill
last month as "an assessment on what they do in the carbon
world. They are creating a carbon product, they are going to pay a
fee." The cost of such a fee, he added at the time, would be partially
passed on to customers at the pump.

On the whole, the fact that the White House is already denying the
existence of a gas tax more than a week before the climate bill is set
to emerge may not bode well for its future (not to mention that of the still-stalled
six-year transportation legislation).

"So Much For Kerry-Graham-Lieberman Global Warming Gas Tax?" the
press office of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) tweeted.

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