Rep. Carlos Curbelo took an election-year risk Monday when he unveiled a plan to tax greenhouse gas emissions.
The Republican, who represents Monroe County and parts of Miami-Dade County and is up for re-election this fall, says it's time for his party to show leadership on climate change.
"As I tell my colleagues, this bill’s open for amendment," Curbelo said in an interview with Bloomberg Politics. "If you can make it better, if you have concerns we need to address, let’s do that. But Republicans must have a solution."
The plan would tax the biggest greenhouse gas sources: companies that produce natural gas, coal and oil. Because those companies would likely raise fuel prices in response, the bill eliminates the gas tax people have to pay at the pump. Companies that can show they've developed techniques so their fossil fuels have low or no emissions would be eligible for a refund.
Proceeds from the tax would go to infrastructure projects: 70 percent, or about $285 billion, for the Highway Trust Fund, and about $18 billion for the Airways Trust Fund, according to a statement from Curbelo's office. Some of the projects are intended to reduce the amount of time people spend idling in traffic.
Other funding would go to support energy workers, to encourage emissions reduction research and to help communities deal with flooding. (Read the full text of the bill here.)
According to an assessment by Columbia University, the proposal would result in 27–32 percent reduction in emissions levels by 2025 and a 30–40 percent reduction by 2030, as compared with 2005 levels.
Curbelo is a co-chair and one of the 86 members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives who work on climate issues. To be part of the caucus, a representative must bring onboard another representative from the other party.