Rep. Henry Waxman, a leading member of the House of Representatives on environmental issues, told BuzzFeed Friday afternoon that the "best legislative option" for the new Congress to act on climate change would be a measure that White House press secretary Jay Carney has already ruled out — a carbon tax.
Although Carney said at a press briefing last month that the administration had "no intention of proposing a carbon tax," Waxman made the case that putting a price on carbon could actually appeal to Republicans and private sector business leaders.
"Putting a price on carbon is a very important way to give an incentive to the private sector to develop technologies and take actions through market incentives through which they'll benefit," said Waxman.
"There are a lot of Republican economists who would like us to put a price on carbon," he added. "They see that a cap and trade or carbon tax could git in their view of, 'When we tax the things we don't want, we'll get less of it.' That can help us deal with the environmental problem that is so urgent, but it can also help reduce our deficit."
The Democratic representative from California announced last Thursday that he and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse would be leading a bicameral task force on climate change, which would work toward proposing legislation of some kind, though neither Waxman or Whitehouse, who spoke with BuzzFeed earlier this week, would specify what type of bill they envisioned for the task force.
Waxman's comments, though, gestured toward the increasing possibility that a carbon tax was the course of action he and his colleague are considering.
"It would be the best legislative option," said Waxman of a carbon tax. "But I wouldn't want it to replace the other actions that, say, the EPA could take."
"It's too early to talk about specific proposals," he added. "Senator Whitehouse and I both support a tax on carbon, but that may or may not be what the task force will recommend."
Waxman said he and Whitehouse sent quieries this week to 300 buseinesses and organizations across the country — "from the utility industry, to the auto industry, to the range of environmental organizations," he said — to ask for their "best ideas" on how to chip away at the problem of climate change. The co-chairs asked that proposals be submitted back to the task force by the end of February.
"We want to get more information and recommendations from these different groups about what they think ought to be done," said Waxman, "and then we'll talk about specific legislation."
Waxman and Whitehouse invited every member of both chambers, and both parties, to join the climate task force. So far, said Waxman, 17 members of Congress — all Democrats — have joined the group. No Republicans yet.