The US House of Representatives has passed a law that, if approved by the Senate and signed by the president, will result in a direct clash with the European Union.
The European Union sees itself in the vanguard of the fight against global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions and has passed a carbon tax applicable to all airlines flying in and out of the European Union. What is unusual about the tax is that it covers airspace and flights originating outside the European Union.
The airlines have already petitioned the EU judicial system but were rejected. The United States is not alone in opposing the measure and is joined by China, Russia, Japan, Brazil and many other countries. While the European Union admits that it would be best if the UN agencies regulated this issue, they claim that the process is taking too long, justifying unilateral European action.
China, in retaliation, has threatened to cancel orders for airliners built by Europe's Airbus consortium and transfer the orders to Boeing.
The Republican dominated House has passed a law that effectively bars US airlines from complying with the European law and imposes punitive penalties on the airlines if they comply with the law.
The bill also reflects partisan divisions within the United States. Republicans have little patience for environmental proposals that translate into additional outlays for American businesses, precisely at a time when the United States must generate more jobs. Most of the declared Republican presidential contenders believe that global warming is unproven or actually a fraud.
Jon Huntsman, the one pro-environmental candidate has had a zero impact on the race. These mainstream Republican sentiments were reflected in the House bill.
Florida Republican John Mica, defended the bill, saying, "this appropriately named EU scheme is an arbitrary and unjust violation of international law that disadvantages US air carriers, threatens US aviation jobs, and could close down direct travel from many central and western US airports to Europe."
As the Democrats control the Senate, and President Barack Obama claims to be on the side of the environmentalists it is not certain that the bill will become law.
Pro-environment legislators as well as the environmental groups in the United States are urging the United States to comply with European regulations and avoid a trade war. They also claim that the United States should respect European law the way the Europeans respect American law.