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New bill for carbon tax would eliminate US gasoline tax

Washington DC — A Republican congressman Monday introduced a new carbon-tax proposal which would repeal the federal gasoline tax, causing a slight increase in gasoline prices, but having no forecast impact on crude oil production.

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Florida Representative Carlos Curbelo's bill would replace the gasoline tax with a tax on carbon emissions from oil refineries, gas processing plants, coal mines, industrial facilities and import facilities of ethanol, biodiesel and other products.

The tax would start at $24/ton of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 and would rise at 2% above the rate of inflation annually.

The bill, which limits federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, would eliminate the federal gasoline tax, which has been 18.40 cents/gal since 1993 and is used to fund the National Highway Trust Fund.

But Curbelo said the gasoline tax is no longer able to fund highway maintenance as engine efficiency improves and hybrid and electric vehicle use continues to expand.

"Even if we did increase the gas tax we know it would only be a short-term solution," Curbelo said at a Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy event Monday.

In February, President Donald Trump endorsed increasing the gasoline tax by 25 cents/gal in order to offset some of the cost of a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. The tax increase proposal never made any substantial progress.

Curbelo's bill would not significantly affect crude oil production and would increase gasoline prices by about 10 cents/gal in 2020, according to a study by Columbia's Center on Global Energy Policy.

"The carbon tax in the Curbelo proposal increases the cost of fuels and electricity and, in turn, increases total energy expenditures," the study states. "At the same time, the repeal of the excise tax on transportation fuels reduces retail prices."

Crude oil production is "not significantly affected," the study said.

Curbelo's bill has little chance of passage this year. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday passed a nonbinding measure by a 229-180 vote which called a carbon tax "detrimental" to the US.

"The closer we are to an election, the less risk members want to take," Curbelo said.

--Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jennifer Pedrick, newsdesk@spglobal.com