Kerry: Gas Tax? What Gas Tax?

| Wed Apr. 21, 2010 8:19 AM PDT

Here's a fabulous sneak peek into the climate bill negotiations. Yesterday Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) attempted to squash the idea he and his colleagues have ever contemplated including a gas tax in the climate bill. "There is no gas tax, never was a gas tax, will not be a gas tax, I don’t know where that came from, but it is just wrong. Period,” he told reporters. "There is not even a linked fee, there is not a tax, there is nothing similar."

Pretty sure the idea came from … the bill's coauthors. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) discussed the prospect of a carbon fee on transportation fuels with reporters shortly before the April recess. "It's on the table," Lieberman said following a March 25 meeting with industry groups. And Graham explained that the oil industry favored a fuel fee if that would mean the industry wouldn't be included under a hard cap on carbon.

It's not entirely clear if what's going on here is a rhetorical shift (nobody likes the word "tax" of course), or an actual policy change. This could be much like the whole "cap and trade is dead" dance the senators are performing, in which they declare the policy deceased while, in reality, some form of it will likely be included in their bill.

The senators are supposed to release a draft on Monday, but from everything I'm hearing on the Hill, there are still lots of loose ends to be tied up. Of course, the constant shifting has raised concerns about whether Kerry and his colleagues can deliver. As one industry source put it to Climate Wire last week:

"He's literally trying to promise everything to everybody," said one industry source close to the negotiations. "While his enthusiasm is appreciated, there's grave doubts he can hold the promises he makes."

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