US Republican introduces bill calling for carbon tax


WASHINGTON, July 23 (Reuters) - A Republican lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill on Monday calling for a carbon tax, saying he hoped the legislation would at the very least renew a U.S. debate on climate change that has languished for a decade.

Representative Carlos Curbelo, a member of the House tax committee who faces a tough re-election bid in Florida, said the legislation, called the "Market Choice Act," enjoys small but growing support among Republicans, who he said have been known for their "knee-jerk" rejection of carbon tax proposals in recent years.

The measure is sure to fail in the Republican-controlled House. But Curbelo, speaking at a Washington forum on Monday, remained upbeat.

"I truly believe that one day this bill, or legislation similar to it, will become law," Curbelo said.

"It will spark an important debate about investing in our country's infrastructure, the way we tax and what to do to protect the environment," he said.

The bill garnered at least one Republican co-sponsor, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick. Curbelo and Fitzpatrick are among 17 House Republicans who in March 2017 introduced a resolution that acknowledged the negative impact of climate change.

Curbelo said his legislation would exceed the carbon reduction goals of the Paris climate change pact by imposing a levy of $24 per metric ton on industrial carbon-dioxide emissions, beginning in 2020 and rising annually. It would replace existing taxes on gasoline and aviation fuel, and put the point of taxation on coal mines, refineries and gas processing plants.

President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord in June 2017.

Curbelo said the tax would generate $700 billion in revenue over a decade for infrastructure investments. The bill would also impose a moratorium on U.S. regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions.

The legislation represents a small but meaningful shift for Republicans on climate politics, driven in part by candidates in swing states like Florida where hurricanes and floods make no distinction between Republicans and Democrats.

Many Republicans supported a climate bill 10 years ago. But it died in the Senate. Since then, Republicans, including Trump, have largely stood firm on two positions: cutting taxes and opposing climate legislation.

Last week, the House voted 229-180 to approve a resolution expressing "the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy."

Curbelo and five other Republicans opposed the measure. A seventh chose not to support the resolution by voting "present." Curbelo intends to discuss his bill with the 86-member bipartisan House Climate Solutions caucus, which includes 42 other Republicans.

"We're seeing trends in the House that should give us hope," said Curbelo. (Reporting by David Morgan; additional reporting by Timothy Gardner Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Leslie Adler)