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Dems want CBO to examine 'carbon footprint' of all bills presented in Congress


Three House Democrats have proposed legislation that would require the Congressional Budget Office to produce a "carbon score" for legislation, in the same way CBO creates a budget score for bills.

Under the bill from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), CBO would "estimate and report the projected carbon footprint of bills considered before Congress." He introduced his bill just as Congress was considering the Keystone XL pipeline, a project he said would be rejected if the scope of its 'carbon footprint' were known.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 8.52.56 AM Democrats want Congress to have a 'carbon score' of all legislation it considers, an idea that would likely lead to even more fighting over CBO scores.
Image: AP Photo/Matthew Brown

"This bill would provide Congress and the American public with nonpartisan, objective information on how legislation would help or hinder our efforts to decrease carbon emissions and fight climate change," he said. "Just as each bill's projected financial impact is of incredible importance, the total carbon impact should be a serious consideration for lawmakers."

The bill has no hope of moving any time soon in the Republican House, but if it became law, it would likely lead to endless partisan fighting about how bills are scored. Republicans and Democrats already routinely criticize CBO for its budgetary scoring of legislation.

For example, Republicans have argued that CBO needs to use dynamic scoring to take into account reduced economic activity and lower tax revenues that would accompany tax increases, instead of simply assuming that higher taxes means more revenue.

Critics of Obamacare have also noted that CBO scored the health care law as one that would reduce the deficit, even though many now see it as a very expensive bill to implement:

Specifically, Huffman's bill would require CBO to provide a "carbon score" for legislation as it submits its budget score. To do this, it would have to calculate the increase or decrease of greenhouse gas emissions that would happen under the legislation, compared to emissions without the legislation.

CBO would have to set up best practices for doing this, including the use of "lifecycle analysis" and international methodologies such s guidelines from the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change."

CBO currently has no expertise for running analyses on how to "carbon score" legislation, so Huffman's bill would provide "such sums as are necessary" to develop that expertise.

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