Baucus wants border measures in climate bill

by Fran Smith on November 10, 2009

in Blog

Uh-oh.  Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) is raising the stakes on a U.S. climate bill by endorsing the idea of some sort of tariff on goods from countries that haven’t taken steps to suppress fossil fuel use.  According to Reuters, Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, yesterday said:

“We must push our trading partners to do their part to curb harmful emissions and we must devise a border measure, consistent with our international obligations, to prevent the carbon leakage that would occur if US manufacturing shifts to countries without effective climate change programs.”

Currently the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer, has rushed through its own bill without minority input to try to catch up with the House, which passed its cap-and-trade bill – H.R. 2454 — on June 26, 2009. The House bill contains a border tax adjustment measure, while the Senate bill does not.  At least, yet.  But Baucus’ comments are a strong signal that the Senate bill will also include tariffs or border “adjustments,” i.e., taxes.

This unfortunate idea is gaining greater traction among global warming advocates as a way to maintain U.S. competitiveness for industries, such as steel and cement, that would be facing higher costs if an energy suppression bill to address global warming is passed.  Proponents of “border measures” also see this as a way to curtail so-called leakage of carbon-intensive industries and related jobs to other countries without similar constraints. Of course, the common justification for those who want to hobble their competition is the refrain: “Level the playing field.”  In Washington politics, that usually means bringing your competitors down to your level.  Check out this article for some possible consequences.

These endorsements could portend a carbon tariff push in Copenhagen when world climate pukkas gather on December 7, 2009. Luckily for people in the U.S., it’s not likely that a newly minted global warming bill will be in their pockets.

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