Should Oil Spill Lead to Cap and Trade Energy Tax?

BP CEO Tony Hayward is sure to get a verbal flogging from lawmakers when he sits down at a Capitol Hill witness table today. But for all the outrage at the oil giant, there is very little agreement here about what Congress should do in reaction to the spill.

Hayward's testimony to a House Committee Thursday will be the 13th appearance by a BP executive before Congress, including a separate appearance Tuesday by BP America CEO Lamar McKay. There have been a score more oil-related hearings with administration officials.

The hours and hours of testimony have not led yet led to any legislation.

Democrats and President Obama have argued that the oil spill demonstrates a dire need for the United States to transition away from an oil-based economy.

VIDEO: CEO Tony Hayward will testify before Congress on the Gulf oil spill disaster.
BP's Tony Hayward to Testify Before Congress on Oil Spill

"The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now," President Obama said in his address Tuesday night from the oval office. "Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America's innovation and seize control of our own destiny."

For most Democrats, that means passing some sort of "cap and trade?" legislation, envisioned as a way to achieve the twin goals of cutting down on the use oil and helping stem global climate change. Cap and trade proposals place a price on carbon emissions, capping how much industries can emit and encouraging them toward cleaner, more efficient fuel sources.

The House of Representatives passed a cap and trade bill late in 2009 and Senate Democrats have put forward a proposal by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn, and John Kerry, D-Mass.

VIDEO: President Obama stresses need for clean energy
Obama Stresses Need for Clean Energy

A recent EPA estimate showed that Kerry and Lieberman's proposal would cost each American household less than a dollar per day.

"And is the American household willing to pay less than $1 a day so we don't have to buy oil from foreign countries, so we can create millions of new jobs, so we can clean up our environment? I think the answer is going to be yes," said Lieberman.

Republicans, on the other hand, have accused Democrats and President Obama of taking advantage of the oil spill to push a long-sought legislative agenda.

"In the midst of the worst environmental catastrophe in American history, they're talking about a new national energy tax to achieve their ideological goal of passing global warming legislation," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, on the Senate floor Wednesday. "Americans are pleading with the administration to fix the immediate problem in the Gulf, and the White House want to give us a new national energy tax instead."

Don't look for any Republicans to sign on to Democrats proposal to place a price on carbon emissions and charge industries for emitting more than a government-mandated cap.

President Obama met Wednesday with moderate Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., but the two could not agree on an energy proposal. They did agree to play some basketball this summer.

In years past some Republicans have supported, and even sponsored proposals to price carbon. One of those was Sen. John McCain. But asked Wednesday about the president's call for climate change legislation, McCain took a pass, and walked out of a press conference without answering.

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