Earl Blumenauer’s Carbon Audit

Earl Blumenauer, a leading left-of-center congressman from Oregon, has an extremely appealing idea: why not subject the U.S. tax code to a carbon audit? Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post explained the idea last week, and David Roberts of the environmentalist news site Grist has posted a comprehensive interview with Blumenauer on the subject.

Why a carbon audit?

Part of dealing with our carbon pollution is understanding what policies contribute to it. People understand transportation impacts, impacts from energy utilization and farming practices, but one area that has as significant an impact as any is our tax code. What does the federal government do, with the way that it collects revenues, with incentives and penalties, that has an impact? We have some suspicions but we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a matter of speculation but cold, hard data.


How will this help in shaping the tax code?

This is important data for me as a member of the Ways and Means Committee. In the next congress, things have to happen with the tax code—we can’t just go on auto-pilot. There are provisions expiring, there are revenue demands, there are lots of forces at work now, so there will be changes. There’s an opportunity for reform. Having this information is going to be an extraordinarily valuable tool to do our job right.

This is exactly the kind of proposal that liberals and conservatives should unite behind. There are a number of tax provisions and regulations that undermine the ability of private firms to enhance efficiency and improve their environmental impact. What I find appalling is that it took Congress so long to allocate funds for the carbon audit. 

Note that agreeing in principle to a carbon audit does not imply accepting a cap-and-trade regime or some other carbon pricing mechanism. Rather, it will give conservatives an opportunity to identify tax subsidies that are environmentally counterproductive. I had assumed that this would be very clear.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More