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Oil Tax

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I know there is no way it will get past Congress, but President Obama is completely correct in calling for a $10 per barrel tax on oil to fund green infrastructure.

The proposal would go toward a $32.4 billion annual push to green the transportation sector by funding public transit, an urban planning initiative and clean vehicle research, the White House said in a fact sheet. Obama will include the plan in the budget request he releases next week.

The plan will likely die in the GOP-controlled Congress, which will vet Obama’s budget request before writing spending bills later this year.

But the proposal represents a new front in Obama’s climate change end-game: After finalizing carbon reduction regulations for the electricity sector last year, he is turning his attention back to the transportation sector, which accounts for 30 percent of American carbon emissions every year.

“The president’s plan does what we need to once again have a transportation system that is a source of American strength while at the same time taking steps to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change,” Jeff Zients, the director of the National Economic Council, told reporters Thursday.

Charging the fee to oil companies, the White House said, is both a funding mechanism for the transportation initiative and an incentive for the private sector to move toward cleaner fuel.

Mostly, this is the correct policy. Now, it’s not without its downsides, in that were this to pass, it would be passed on to consumers, meaning that it would effectively be a regressive tax that made gas and heating bills a larger percentage of income for the poor than the rich. And I have a problem with that, not that there is an easy alternative solution. Otherwise, this is a correct policy in that it specifically targets climate-change inducing industries, incentivizing them, as well as drivers, to use less oil and move toward green energy, while using the money to build the infrastructure necessary to manage this transition. Of course, Republicans are opposed to hippie energy and infrastructure spending alike, so it will die. But this is along the lines of the policy Democrats need to constantly fight for.

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