A Carbon Tax Is the Big Issue Burbling Under the Surface of Obama’s Plan to Regulate Power Plants

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President Obama hasn’t given his big climate speech yet, but the bullet points have been released and I think it’s fair to say that everyone thinks the biggest deal is his executive order telling the EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.

I’ll wait for more details to comment further, except for one thing: one of the key issues here is what Obama’s real goal is. Does he really want the EPA to create new regs? Or does he want to use the threat of new regs as leverage to get Congress to pass a carbon tax of some kind? Probably the former, but you never know. Back when the cap-and-trade bill was being debated in 2010, one reason for guarded optimism was the fact that even Republicans might prefer it to the alternative, which was crude EPA regulation of power plants. In the end, that turned out not to be enough. Republicans apparently weren’t convinced that the EPA would really go through with tough new rules.

But now that changes. If Obama and the EPA are serious, then utility operators are going to get increasingly nervous as the rules work their way through the system and start to look like they’re really going to happen. At that point, will Republicans relent and agree to a bill that sets a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade limits) in return for a congressional halt on new EPA regs?

No one knows, of course. But to me, this is the key issue burbling under the surface of Obama’s announcement today. Are his new regulations just what they seem, or are they really a bargaining chip for a carbon tax? Stay tuned.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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