A Carbon Tax Is the Big Issue Burbling Under the Surface of Obama’s Plan to Regulate Power Plants

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


President Obama hasn’t given his big climate speech yet, but the bullet points have been released and I think it’s fair to say that everyone thinks the biggest deal is his executive order telling the EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.

I’ll wait for more details to comment further, except for one thing: one of the key issues here is what Obama’s real goal is. Does he really want the EPA to create new regs? Or does he want to use the threat of new regs as leverage to get Congress to pass a carbon tax of some kind? Probably the former, but you never know. Back when the cap-and-trade bill was being debated in 2010, one reason for guarded optimism was the fact that even Republicans might prefer it to the alternative, which was crude EPA regulation of power plants. In the end, that turned out not to be enough. Republicans apparently weren’t convinced that the EPA would really go through with tough new rules.

But now that changes. If Obama and the EPA are serious, then utility operators are going to get increasingly nervous as the rules work their way through the system and start to look like they’re really going to happen. At that point, will Republicans relent and agree to a bill that sets a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade limits) in return for a congressional halt on new EPA regs?

No one knows, of course. But to me, this is the key issue burbling under the surface of Obama’s announcement today. Are his new regulations just what they seem, or are they really a bargaining chip for a carbon tax? Stay tuned.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate