Despite President Obama's renewed attention to climate change, as expressed in his inaugural address, the White House is ruling out any plans to propose a tax on carbon emissions favored by many environmentalist groups.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday confirmed that Mr. Obama would pursue stricter carbon-pollution regulations through the Environmental Protection Agency, expanding rules on carbon-emitting plants so they cover existing power plants, as well as newly built ones.
But Mr. Carney repeatedly refused to say whether Mr. Obama would expend any political capital to back climate-change legislation on Capitol Hill, even as environmentalists call on him to get behind new measures.
"I can't comment on any specific future actions that he might take," Mr. Carney said, "except that he has demonstrated his record during his first term that we can, together, take action that is not only helpful to our environment in that it addresses the issue of climate change, but it is also helpful in our long-term economic vitality by ensuring that we make investments in new energy technology."
Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent and self-described socialist who caucuses with the Democrats, said he plans to introduce legislation in February that will charge companies a fee for carbon pollution, in addition to ending tax subsidies for oil and coal companies and making "historic investments" in renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The bill, he said, would also give consumers a rebate "to offset any efforts by the fossil-fuel companies to jack up their prices," he said in a statement.
When asked if the president could support such a measure, however, Mr. Carney demurred, saying only that the White House does not support a tax on carbon emissions.
"We have not proposed and have no intention of proposing a carbon tax," he said.
The White House previously said they would not pursue such a carbon tax, just days after the Mr. Obama's re-election victory in November.
But the concept had drawn fresh attention after an analyst with banking giant HSBC predicted Mr. Obama might pursue the idea in his second term.
"A second Obama administration could also explore the potential for raising revenues from a carbon tax as part of a wider package of measures to avoid the 'fiscal cliff,'" HSBC's Nick Robins wrote in a Nov. 7 research note.
Interest in Mr. Obama's plans was also piqued by the unexpectedly central place the issues of climate change and global warming were given in the inaugural address Monday.
In the speech, the president promised to tackle the threat of climate change and said that "a failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."
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Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at email@example.com.
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