Congress Confronts EU Tax
Senate Clears The Way For Airlines To Oppose EU

The Senate will now join the House in prohibiting airlines from complying with the EU carbon tax, with a solution that uses the UN.

Amiel Ungar ,

Spring Airlines flight
Spring Airlines flight

The United States has been effectively stymied on Syria at the United Nations by the Chinese and Russian vetoes in the Security Council. Now it looks like the United States is going to take advantage of the creaky decision-making process at the United Nations to block the European Union.

The United States and 15 other major countries including India, China and Russia oppose the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) under which airlines landing or taking off from Europe have to pay a carbon tax even if most of the flight time they are outside European airspace.

The entire American airline industry is opposed to the tax, fearing that it would impose a cost burden on US carriers. The lobby sent a letter to transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reminding them of their opposition to the European measure and claiming that the industry itself had instituted many improvements in both fuel efficiency and pollution control. They urged the United States to file suit against the European Union on the basis of the Chicago Convention that regulates international air traffic.

The US House of Representatives has already passed a bill prohibiting airlines from cooperating with the European measure. Additionally, the US has coordinated with other nations on opposition to the EU rule and hosted a two-day meeting on the subject that concluded Wednesday.

On Tuesday the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee cleared the way for a Senate version of the House bill, called the European Union Emission's Trading Scheme Prohibition Act. Until now the bill had been opposed by 2 senior Democratic senators – John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. As the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry was sensitive to the EU position, while Boxer represents a state that strongly supports environmentalism.

The breakthrough was achieved when the sponsors of the bill agreed to an amendment that would ask the International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency, to take measures to reduce emissions. This gave Boxer cover. "We're saying no to unilateral moves by Europe, but yes to taking a lead role in doing something collaboratively." 

The European Union approved the regulation unilaterally, precisely because there was no movement in such organizations as the ICAO. Kerry, however, recognized the amendment as a hollow victory, because the debates in Congress essentially represented a rebuke to the man-made-global -warming school of thought. "There's a level of skepticism when the two words 'climate change' are mentioned, and it's really kind of dangerous," Kerry said.