GOPers Re-Name the Climate Bill Again: Now It’s a ‘Gas Tax’!

Seven months after first trying to re-brand congressional climate change legislation as an "energy tax," Senate Republicans were back at it today with a new report and op-ed that attempts to expose the climate bill as a "$3.6 trillion gas tax."

kay_bailey_hutchison.jpgSen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) (Photo: GOP Lounge)
Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Kit Bond (R-MO) gathered outside the Capitol today, flanked by aides wearing black stickers imprinted with the slogan "CAP & TRADE = GAS TAX," to promote a new report [PDF] that presents their "gas tax" assertions.

How did Hutchison and Bond get to their $3.6 trillion total, which their report calls "relatively simple and straightforward to calculate"? They simply multiplied their estimate of how much fuel the U.S. would consume between now and 2050 by their estimate of the per-gallon gas price increase that would result from an economy-wide emissions cap.

Hutchison and Bond got their numbers from the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), a business group that released projections on the cost of the House climate legislation at around the same time it joined the official astro-turf lobbying campaign against the bill. The NBCC's analysis, produced by consulting firm CRA International, is one of many competing cost estimates for the climate bill, each of them relying on different assumptions and models that claim to predict the future price of carbon under the pending legislation.

In fact, the NBCC analysis states (in Appendix C) that it has assumed higher CO2 allowance prices than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis of the same House climate bill, thus resulting in higher estimates for the plan's impact on real-world carbon prices.

What does the EPA say about the House climate bill's likely effect on fuel prices? Its analysis found a 25-cent per-gallon increase by 2030, or less than three pennies per gallon per year -- small potatoes compared to the oil price swings of recent years, as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change pointed out.

Center for American Progress senior fellow Joe Romm has delved further into the claim, promoted by the oil industry, that a cap on carbon emissions would increase gas prices. Using the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's estimate of allowance prices, Romm found a per-gallon gas price increase similar to the EPA's.

Still, it's unlikely that Hutchison and Bond would be fazed by economic models that discredit their case. Although they told reporters at today's event that they support cutting carbon emissions, the first page of their report makes clear that they dislike the very idea of more moderate energy consumption:

Advocates of climate change legislation want to increase the price of traditional forms of carbon-based energy, such as coal and oil, so that consumers are forced to respond by using less of those forms of energy. Policy-makers call this putting a price on carbon. Economists call this sending a price signal. The bottom line is that the price of energy will go up.

More expensive energy from climate legislation can be seen as a new national energy tax on American consumers and workers.

Late Update: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), the lead sponsor of the upper chamber's climate bill, came out swinging in response to Hutchison and Bond's report.

"Let’s actually have a debate based on reality,” he said in a statement that accompanied a rebuttal from his office. Check it out after the jump.

Gas tax? More like a $700 rebate…
-          Let’s get one thing clear: There is no tax increase anywhere in the bill. Plain and simple.
-          To get these astronomical numbers, the rightwing assumes there will be no innovation or progress in the next 20 years — now that’s simply un-American. Our most efficient cars today are 20 to 70% more efficient than the most efficient 20 years ago.
-          If you assume that progress continues as our fuel standards improve, every American household actually gets more than $250 in savings from this bill.
-          And if you combine that with the programs this bill creates to improve energy efficiency in our homes, every American household will receive over on average $700 in savings, every year.