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Iowans could use a break.

According to Common Sense Institute Iowa, consumer prices in the state have risen 17 percent over the past three years, meaning that “the typical Iowa household has spent an additional $22,800 since the start of 2021 to maintain the same standard of living.” President Biden insists that inflation is down, but that doesn’t mean prices are down. It just means things are getting more expensive less quickly. Not exactly cause for celebration.

And yet, as Iowans are clamoring for relief, a bipartisan coalition in Washington is pushing a pair of bills that would drive prices even higher.

The first piece of legislation, known as the Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency (PROVE IT) Act, would require the Department of Energy to “submit a report on the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of certain products produced in the United States and in certain foreign countries.”

The second bill, the Foreign Pollution Fee Act, would then put that information to use, imposing a tariff on imports based on how much carbon they emit.

This might sound great: we can protect U.S. manufacturing, stick it to China, and safeguard the environment, all at the expense of foreign polluters. With optics this good, it’s no surprise that a wide array of lawmakers — including Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and John Boozman of Arkansas, as well as (reportedly) several GOP House members,  have lined up to support the legislation. Iowa’s own Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks’s name has also been mentioned as one member considering the bill. And as an added bonus for Miller-Meeks, biofuels are among the products listed in the PROVE IT Act. The U.S. imported nearly 12 million barrels of biodiesel in 2023, and Iowa’s powerful biofuel lobby would doubtless be thrilled to kneecap the competition.

Ultimately, though, it’s American citizens, not mega-polluters like China and India, who will end up paying the price. If we slap a new tariff on foreign-made staples like steel, cement, oil, paper, and plastics, the companies that make those products won’t respond by going green. They’ll simply pass on the cost to U.S. consumers. Both bills include language insisting that nothing in the text authorizes the creation of a carbon tax, but calling it a carbon tariff instead won’t make much difference to Iowans’ wallets.

As a group of 40 conservative groups wrote in a recent letter to congress, “To think that the government would develop the administrative infrastructure to impose a domestic carbon tax without following through is naïve, at best.” As the old saying has it, “What gets measured gets managed.” Though when government’s involved, it might be more accurate to say, “What gets measured gets taxed.”

In fact, the U.S. might actually be required to implement a domestic carbon tax if the Foreign Pollution Fee Act becomes law. As the Cato Institute explains, “U.S. carbon tariffs would likely violate the World Trade Organization (WTO) non‐​discrimination rules, which state that WTO members must treat like imported products equally and give imports the same treatment as the same products made domestically.”

If a carbon tariff would be painful for American consumers, a full-blown carbon tax would be pure agony. The price of gasoline, heating oil and electricity would spike. And according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Office, these costs “would consume a greater share of income for low-income households than for higher-income households, because low-income households generally spend a larger percentage of their income on emission-intensive goods.”

Congress should reject these bipartisan backdoor carbon tax bills, which would force thousands of Iowans into poverty, and instead focus on bringing down inflation, increasing wages, and rebuilding American energy independence.

Steve Sherman (North Liberty) is a prolific author, popular radio commentator, and former Iowa House candidate. His articles on political and cultural commentary have appeared nationally in both print and online. All his novels can be found on Amazon or at www.scsherman.com.

Author: Steve Sherman


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