While President Obama was making a big speech on climate change on Tuesday afternoon at Georgetown University, somewhere in Washington D.C. a lobbyist group was talking with members of Congress, congressional aides and anyone else who would give a listen about the tax the group is lobbying for, a proposed federal tax on carbons right as they come out of the ground. (They're holding the conference at Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel, but it's more fun to make it sound all mysterious.)
The Citizens Climate Lobby is in D.C. all week holding a conference to lobby for the group's big idea - a federal "revenue neutral tax" to be levied on things like oil and natural gas and coal, right as they come out of the ground.
Richard Bradley, the regional coordinator for Texas and Oklahoma, based in Houston, said they are pushing for this tax as a way to raise the prices of fossil fuels across the board so that renewable energy sources become more competitive. While the tax would make things like gasoline more expensive, the revenues would be delivered back to the public to balance this out, Bradley said.
"Our pie in the sky way of doing it is to have the money dispensed as a check," Bradley said.
His organization has been working to get support for this issue since it was founded in 2007. Now they have 102 chapters across the country, with volunteers working to build support for the idea of the tax at the grassroots level and with the government representatives in each U.S. district, Bradley said.
"What we're hoping to do is to make the price of renewables more competitive with fossil fuels. We believe there are negatives that are not being captured by our price at the pump," Bradley said. The tax is a way to raise the price to reflect what Bradley described as the "real cost" of fossil fuels, which has a higher price tag than what is reflected at the pump because it doesn't factor in the cost of military involvement to protect oil resources or the health care costs incurred by pollution.
This week Bradley and other members of the lobbyist group are gathered at a conference in D.C. where they are meeting with members of Congress or congressional aides and representatives from other organizations that will need to support the measure. Their method of lobbying is to build relationships with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to get them interested in supporting the tax.
They chose to focus on the federal level - where the revenue from the tax would be dispersed evenly across the country - because it seemed more likely to get one body to support one measure than to try to get state legislatures to put together their own version of the tax, he said.
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"It's persistence. We keep going, we keep trying and we never give up. We keep asking for meetings and keep speaking," Bradley said.
While people laughed at the concept of this tax two years ago, Bradley said it's something that has been seriously discussed as concern grows over climate change.
"Although we have different motives, we all want the same outcomes," he said. "We all want a secure energy future, plenty of jobs and not to destroy the environment."
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (aka Georgetown University), the president made a speech on Tuesday announcing his push to cut back on the use of coal by limiting carbon emissions from coal-fueled power plants, decrease the use of coal internationally and generally step away from using that particular carbon fuel. All in all it seems like Bradley and the rest of the Citizens Climate Lobby picked a good, topical week to do some lobbying in D.C.