For those of you who say I never write anything complimentary about President Obama: He done good this time. From The Hill:
President Obama has signed into law a bill that requires U.S. airlines be excluded from European carbon emissions fees.
Environmentalists had framed the bill as the first test of the president’s commitment to fighting climate change in his second term and urged him to veto it. Obama quietly signed it Tuesday over their objections.
The European Union has been trying since I was living in Brussels to tax any airline, regardless of where it’s based, for the entirety of any flight that enters EU airspace, regardless of how little time the flight actually spends in EU airspace. So, a flight from Los Angeles to London would be taxed for the entire length of the trip, even though only a fraction of it was spent in EU skies.
I don’t think it diminishes what Obama did here to add: He really had no choice. Allowing another government to tax our businesses in this way would open the door to all kinds of mischief — such as taxing a U.S. manufacturer for all its carbon emissions anywhere, not just at its European operations. The U.S. simply can’t cede sovereignty to another government in that way. We fought a war over a similar concept, as you might recall.
As a side note, this issue brings to mind one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever done, with Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary back in 2007. Ryanair is Europe’s leading low-cost air carrier, and O’Leary is one of the most colorful personalities in business, anywhere. The entire interview was fun, but this is the section that’s relevant here:
Airlines have become an enormous target for global-warming doomsayers. Last month, campaigners staged a nine-day protest outside London’s Heathrow airport, hoping to discourage summer vacationers from flying. Mr. O’Leary points out that air transport accounts for only 2% of carbon dioxide emissions world-wide — “It’s less than marine transport, and yet I don’t see anyone [saying], you know, ‘Let’s tax the [bleep] out of the ferries.’”
(”Bleep” was one of the most-used words in my write-up of the interview, as there really was no other way to quote O’Leary at length in a family publication.)
As for Obama: Well done. But if he follows through with that idea of pushing for a global tax on all flights, I’ll be right back to criticizing him …
– By Kyle Wingfield