Coble: Obama Administration Dithering on Job-Killing European Emissions Scheme

Posted July 11, 2012 at 11:01pm

If there is anything we can’t abide in North Carolina, it’s politics as usual — especially if you talk a big game but fail to deliver. In this case, it’s the Obama administration’s inaction concerning the European Union’s emissions trading scheme.

Under the EU scheme, American carriers or airliners, and all other non-EU aircrafts, are required to pay emissions allowances while flying over the United States, international airspace and non-EU countries for flights bound for EU member states. These actions violate long-standing international law, threaten our sovereignty and have been likened to the paying of ransom to the Barbary pirates for safe passage.

China has responded forcefully, even threatening to impound aircraft from EU countries if they try to punish Chinese airlines for not complying with the emissions trading scheme. Beijing has instructed airliners not to comply or provide any emissions data to the EU.

But the United States stands idle as the EU attempts to subsidize its depleted bank accounts by enacting more socialistic policies, now on the global stage. This time, the EU is taxing flights in American airspace.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” And they’ve run out. In turn, they’re now coming after ours.

For the United States to fail to act in response to this absurd policy, unjustifiable taxation and threat to our sovereignty makes absolutely no sense. Higher taxes on American businesses reduce our competitiveness and cost us jobs.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) introduced H.R. 2595, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act, opposing U.S. participation in the EU’s exorbitant emissions trading scheme. And the legislation passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.

And this week, the House took further action by approving an amendment to the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill to protect U.S. airlines and their customers from the emissions trading scheme. The bill would prevent the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department from using funds to implement the European scheme on U.S. operators.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has introduced a companion bill, S. 1956, yet no vote is scheduled. The Senate recently held a hearing with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who struggled to answer basic questions regarding the ETS scheme.

At the hearing, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said to LaHood, “I think this is not a political but an American essential that we stand up for our airlines against an attack on our sovereignty.”

But LaHood opted to pass the buck. “I think all of you know that I’m a part of a team of people, and I’ll run it up the 25 flagpoles I have to run it up. Look, I don’t make these decisions, Senator.”

And while LaHood decried the ETS on behalf of the Obama administration and said he opposes the EU’s actions on both “legal and policy grounds,” he articulated no action plan to protect American interests.

Talk is cheap and does nothing to prevent the unlawful and burdensome taxation of American airliners. Instead of running this matter up the proverbial flagpole, the Obama administration needs to act and protect American jobs and sovereignty.

Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure and Judiciary committees.