Liberal Split on Carbon Tax Creates Opportunity for Conservatives

Liberals and the Democratic Party are sharply split over a Washington State ballot initiative to tax carbon dioxide emissions. The split illustrates a golden opportunity for conservatives to turn an awkward political issue into a boost for the economy and a powerful political winner.

Initiative 732 would make Washington the first state to tax carbon dioxide emissions. Taxes would be collected on gasoline and electricity from carbon dioxide-emitting sources. Money collected from the carbon tax would be applied to reduce the state sales tax, cut manufacturing taxes, and distributed to lower-income state residents via a more lucrative earned income tax credit.

350.org founder Bill McKibben and Bernie Sanders.

350.org founder Bill McKibben and Bernie Sanders.

Many liberal groups, elected Democrats, and local Democratic Party groups support the measure as a way to battle global warming. Nevertheless, some liberal groups like the Sierra Club have declined to take a position on the Initiative, and still other liberal groups and the statewide Washington Democratic Party oppose the Initiative. The primary reason given by liberal groups and Democrats for opposing the Initiative is most of the collected revenues would be returned to the people via tax cuts rather than remaining with government and being spent on government programs.

Conservatives have a golden opportunity to turn this type of liberal discord into political advantage. As we have documented here at the Spark of Freedom Foundation, energy sources long championed by conservatives – natural gas, nuclear, and hydro power – can and do dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions while keeping energy prices low. Conservatives can offer a policy prescription of replacing coal power with affordable alternatives, which demonstrates effective leadership regardless of whether one believes in an imminent global warming crisis. Liberals, on the other hand, will be exposed for championing an extremist position holding that global warming is an unparalleled threat but should be addressed only if the prescription includes higher overall taxes and giving more money and power to government. For voters choosing which is the more cooperative, reasonable position, that is a no-lose outcome for conservatives.

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