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US House Democrat proposes carbon tax to fund infrastructure

U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., introduced a bill to create a tax on carbon emissions that could generate $1.2 trillion over 10 years to help rebuild the nation's infrastructure.

The legislation, called the America Wins Act, or H.R. 4142, is one of several before the U.S. Congress aimed at placing a price on carbon dioxide emissions, a key contributor to global warming.

"We cannot wait any longer to address our global climate crisis," Dodd said in introducing the bill Aug. 2. "The America Wins Act would reduce greenhouse gas emissions above and beyond our Paris Climate Accords commitments, while funding historic investments in rebuilding America's infrastructure and combatting climate change."

The bill would place a tax of $52 per tonne on carbon emissions associated with the sale of coal, petroleum products and natural gas produced in the U.S. or sold to an entity within the U.S. for consumption or warehousing. The tax would rise by 6% annually above inflation.

The tax is estimated to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 52% over 10 years while generating $3.2 trillion in revenues, including $1.2 trillion for transportation projects, electric grid upgrades and broadband deployment, among other infrastructure projects.

Funds from the tax would also support research into clean energy and energy efficiency technologies, assist workers and communities that rely on carbon-intensive industries and communities impacted by carbon pollution, and provide $900 billion in rebates and benefits to consumers to compensate for increased energy and household costs.

The America Wins Act is one of several bills lawmakers have introduced in 2019 to place a tax or fee on carbon emissions. In late July, Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Dianne Feinstein of California and Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California announced that they would introduce the Climate Action Rebate Act, which sets a goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by more than half from 2017 levels by 2030 and by 100% by 2050.

To achieve those cuts, the bill would create a tax on carbon emissions from fossil fuels and fluorinated gases that starts at $15 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, with a lower number for fluorinated greenhouse gases. The fee would rise more quickly if annual emissions reduction targets are not met.

Several other congressional lawmakers have also rolled out plans to tax carbon emissions, sometimes with a resulting dividend for households to offset the cost of the carbon fee.

But the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate appears unlikely to approve a tax on carbon emissions in the near term. Despite support for such a fee from some corners of the energy industry, including from major oil producers, Senate leaders including Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., have expressed opposition to a carbon tax.