Emissions Tax: What 2012 Presidential Hopefuls Are Saying

President Obama called on Congress and the United States to end gridlock and create a new clean energy standard when he unveiled a new energy blueprint today.

But there was a glaring omission from his speech. What he did not mention was a cap-and-trade proposal, which would place limits on how much greenhouse gas a company could emit and allow more energy-efficient companies to sell their unused "emission permits" to companies that might find it harder to reduce their emissions. Republicans defeated such proposals last year by calling them an energy tax. Democrats came within several votes of passing a cap-and-trade proposal last year.

Now Senate Republicans have launched an effort to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of authority to cap carbon emissions.

Most Republicans now oppose imposing mandatory emissions caps on U.S. companies, arguing that it would dent job growth and hurt the U.S. economy. But it wasn't always so. Republicans such as Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham once co-sponsored cap-and-trade legislation with Democrats, many of whom say cap-and-trade policies are needed to curb the emissions of dangerous carbon dioxide greenhouse gases.

At least three Republicans currently considering a run for the presidency at one time endorsed a cap-and- trade policy: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Pawlenty went so far this week as to tell conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that his past support for a cap-and-trade policy was a mistake. He apologized for it.

Here's a look at where potential 2012 candidates stand on the controversial issue and how their views have evolved:


Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrinch

Former Speaker of the House

Opinion: Flipped

"If he [President Bush] had instituted a regime that combined … mandatory caps, a trading system inside the caps as we have with clean air, and a tax incentive to be able to invest in the new technology and to be able to produce the new technology, I think we would be much better off than we are in the current situation." - Frontline, Feb. 15, 2007

"President Obama wants to impose a cap-and-trade regime. Such a plan would have the effect of an across-the-board energy tax on every American. That will make our artificial energy crisis even worse — and raising taxes during a deep economic recession will only accelerate American job losses." - Newsweek, April 4, 2009

The former congressman supported President Bush's campaign pledge to impose mandatory carbon caps, arguing that emissions caps should be combined with a trading system and a tax incentive program. Gingrich even recorded a global warming commercial with then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. But Gingrich has been a vocal critic of Obama's policies, even suggesting that the Environmental Protection Agency should be shuttered. At the Conservative Political Action Conference, Gingrich argues that a global warming bill would increase electricity rates for consumers and create a massive bureaucracy.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Former Governor of Arkansas

Opinion: Flipped

"I also support cap and trade of carbon emissions. And I was disappointed that the Senate rejected a carbon counting system to measure the sources of emissions, because that would have been the first and the most important step toward implementing true cap and trade." - Clean Air Cool Planet Conference, Oct. 13, 2007

"This kind of mandatory energy policy would have a horrible impact on this nation's job market. I never did support and never would support it - period." - Blog post, Dec. 15, 2010

Huckabee denies that he supported cap and trade as a presidential candidate in 2007, arguing recently that he would have supported such a move if companies volunteered for it, but he never supported enforcing it on U.S. businesses.

Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor

Opinion: Flipped

"Come on Congress. Let's get moving. Cap greenhouse gas pollution now." - Radio ad, 2007

"I think cap-and-trade would be a ham-fisted, unhelpful, damaging thing to the economy. ... It's misguided. I made the mistake. I admit it. I'm not trying to be cute about it. I just come out and tell you it was a mistake." - Laura Ingraham show, March 28, 2011

Pawlenty recorded a radio ad for the Environmental Defense Fund with then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano pushing Congress to cap greenhouse gas pollution. Pawlenty said this week that his support of the 2007 renewable energy legislation was a mistake.

Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann

Representative from Minnesota

Opinion: Against

"The underlying bill represents the tyranny and intervention of the federal government." - June 28, 2009

The feisty Tea Party supporter argued that imposing a cap-and-trade policy would put the United States at an economic disadvantage, and increase costs for Americans. She has also argues against the harmful benefits of carbon dioxide. Bachmann is on the League of Conservation Voters' list of worst environmental offenders.

Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour

Mississippi Governor

Opinion: Against

"The cap and trade tax, the $81 billion of tax increases on the oil and gas industry contained in the president's budget and the Waxman-Markey renewable energy standard would all drive up costs and drive down economic growth." - Statement before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, July 7, 2009.

Barbour, an outspoken critic of the Obama administration's energy agenda, has said that cap and trade would make manufacturers less competitive, drive up the cost of heating and cooling homes and boost already-high gas prices. He has also warned against the involvement of international actors in the U.S. industry, namely China, who he argues could invest heavily in carbon dioxide emissions permits instead of U.S. treasuries.

Mitch Daniels

Mitch Daniels

Indiana Governor

Opinion: Against

The Waxman-Markey bill "quite simply, it looks like imperialism. This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers." - Wall Street Journal op-ed, May 15, 2009.

The fiery Republican governor is a staunch opponent of the Democrats' and Obama administration's cap-and-trade proposals, saying it would put Indiana residents at a disadvantage and cost jobs nationally. "It stands no chance of achieving its objective of a cooler earth," Daniels said in 2009. He's touted Indiana's energy policy as a model for the country.

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

Former Alaska Governor, 2008 GOP Vice Presidential Candidate

Opinion: Against

"Job losses are so certain under this new cap-and-tax plan that it includes a provision accommodating newly unemployed workers from the resulting dried-up energy sector, to the tune of $4.2 billion over eight years." - Washington Post op-ed, July 14, 2009.

Palin is one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration's energy policies. The former Alaska governor argues that cap and trade policies would cost the U.S. economy, cut Americans' jobs and in the end, increase taxes on the poor. Palin has also said that the potential harm from climate change pales in comparison to what would happen if the Democrats' policy were to pass.

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

Former Massachusetts Governor

Opinion: Against

"Because cap and trade simply moves greenhouse gas emitters from America to other nations like China and India that don't participate in the program, it wouldn't do a thing to affect the climate of the overall planet." – Video on PAC website

In 2005, Romney touted cap-and-trade as "good for business," according to the Boston Globe. Like many of his counterparts, Romney now says a cap and trade program would hurt the U.S. economy and kill American jobs. He said he rejected a regional cap and trade program as Massachusetts governor because it would raise energy prices for businesses and families.

Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman

Former U.S. Ambassador to China, Former Utah Governor

Opinion: Supporter

"We have entered an era in which all nations are called upon to work together to address the urgent problem of global climate change. … During my chairmanship of the Western Governors Association, we focused specifically on the global nature of climate change, working directly with China and other major carbon emitters on this critical issue." - Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, July 23, 2009.

The former Obama administration official's cap and trade record could prove to be a significant barrier in his 2012 run. In 2007, Huntsman signed the Western Climate Initiative designed to lay the groundwork for a cap and trade system in western North America.

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