WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2016 - President Barack Obama has taken some major steps to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, notably by imposing carbon limits on electric utilities and by increasing fuel efficiency requirements for cars and trucks. Now, he’s proposing another big step that he can’t do on his own – a tax on oil.

The $10-a-barrel levy has no chance in this Congress. Republicans greeted the idea with derision and Democrats were largely quiet. But the idea could well be picked up by a future Democratic administration. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has predicted that Congress will pass the tax if Democrats win the White House and take control of the Senate.

Obama’s proposed tax, which the White House prefers to call a fee, would fund what the administration’s “21st Century Clean Transportation System,” which would include improvements in public transportation as well as new automotive technologies, such as self-driving, or electric vehicles.

Some $20 billion would go into mass transit, including development of maglev trains, while $2 billion a year would go into development of “climate smart” cars. Another $10 billion would go toward transforming regional transportation systems.

Some revenue from the oil tax also would be used to help families in the Northeast transition from fuel oil to heat sources with lower emissions.

“As I said in my State of the Union address, rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future,” Obama said last weekend. The budget proposal, released today, will “help the private sector create more jobs faster, lower the cost of clean energy faster, and help clean, renewable power outcompete dirty fuels in every state.”

The Republican reaction shows why a carbon tax will still be a tough sell on Capitol Hill no matter how Democrats do in the fall elections, especially since few analysts believe Democrats have a real chance of taking control of the House.

Good grief,” said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich. “The presidents proposed new tax will hurt those most vulnerable. Jump-starting the economy by raising taxes is not a solution.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said the proposal shows Obama is “on a mission to destroy a major backbone of the U.S. economy.”


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