Spelunking the Bailout Bill —Carbon Tax Audit Anyone?


As many have noted, the bailout legislation passed by the Senate and up before the House today contains a lot of early Christmas presents for various favored industries. One favorite is a provision repealing a 39-cent excise tax on wooden arrows for kids. (I'd have thought for-the-kids nannystaters would have argued for banning such dangerous toys which encourage violence rather than hand arrow corporations a tax break, but these are strange times.)

Another provision that has alarmed the good folks over at the Capital Reseach Center is a clause authorizing a "carbon audit of the tax code." CRC's Green Alert warns:

This appears to be an attempt by global warming fanatics to lay the foundation for an economy-killing carbon tax just like the "cap-and-tax" system that is now destroying European industry.  

The actual provision reads

             SEC. 117. CARBON AUDIT OF THE TAX CODE.

(a) Study- The Secretary of the Treasury shall enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to undertake a comprehensive review of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to identify the types of and specific tax provisions that have the largest effects on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and to estimate the magnitude of those effects.
(b) Report- Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the National Academy of Sciences shall submit to Congress a report containing the results of study authorized under this section.
(c) Authorization of Appropriations- There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section $1,500,000 for the period of fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

I am not deeply schooled in the arcana of legislative construal, but on its face, the provision appears to authorize a look at the tax code to see how it affects the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Such an audit could uncover tax subsidies of carbon-based fuels that one would surely want eliminated. On the other hand, it might reveal taxes that are hampering the use of carbon-based fuels.

Finally, it could also find tax subsidies of alternative fuels that one would also want eliminated, but it's unlikely to find taxes that suppress the adoption of alternative fuels. Of course, I understand that those who put in this audit provision will most likely use the findings to argue against carbon fuel subsidies, and skip over the subsidies to the alternative fuels they favor. But isn't eliminating some subsidies better than eliminating no subsidies?