For years, our friends in the European Union (E.U.) have sought to put in place an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which would tax every plane flying into Europe, even for the time that carrier spent in non-European airspace. It is a concept that represents bad policy and worse politics, while violating American sovereignty in the process.
As one would expect, this misguided strategy has generated an uproar among American elected officials and corporations. The thought of a foreign government taxing an American corporation, which in turn will pass the cost to travelers, for flying over the United States??? own airspace has been met with incredulity and resentment.
Clearly, at first blush, this is a gross infringement on our sovereignty, and next, it is nothing more than a blatant money grab on the back of American taxpayers as Europe???s debt continues to grow.
Fortunately, both the U.S. House and Senate have passed the European Union Emission Trading Scheme Prohibition Act (S. 1956), which according to author Senator John Thune, ???protect[s] U.S. air carriers and passengers from the potential for an unprecedented tax levied on them in American and international airspace by the E.U.???
This legislation has now been sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. Given that both Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the past have issued letters to the E.U. expressing our nation???s opposition to the enforcement of emissions trading scheme, it is presumed the President will sign the bill and make it the law of the land.
And the legislation, which was sponsored by Democrats and Republicans alike, has widespread third party support, including from the Airlines for America, Air Line Pilots Association, American Society of Travel Agents, Cargo Airline Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, International Air Transport Association, Interactive Travel Services Association, National Air Carrier Association, Regional Airline Association, U.S. Travel Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and United Airlines, according to a release issued by Thune???s office.
The development concerning the legislation???s passage comes on the heels of the E.U. announcing it will postpone taxes on international flights. The delay is due to negotiations taking place within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is expected to present a global policy addressing the matter in its general assembly next autumn.
For those who are unfamiliar with the organization, according to its Web site, ICAO was created in 1944 to ???promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation throughout the world. It sets standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity, as well as for aviation environmental protection. The organization serves as the forum for cooperation in all fields of civil aviation among its 191 Member States.???
The E.U. ETS was rejected by leading nations and its postponement is largely an admission of failure by the Europeans. Led by China, India and Russia, most notably not the United States, foreign governments began coalescing against the borderless tax scheme. These countries forcibly denied their domestic airlines from complying with the E.U.???s demands, preventing the release of any national airline emissions information. In addition, some of these countries even promised an all-out trade war should Brussels attempt to enforce such a policy. Russia, in particular, threatened the E.U. with extraordinary measures, going as far as suggesting a tax on European tourism, should the policy not be revoked.
By signing the European Union Emission Trading Scheme Prohibition Act, the President can guarantee that the U.S. will not be saddled with the taxing and job-killing scheme put forward by the Europeans as they desperately search for additional revenue. American taxpayers and carriers are anxiously watching, awaiting his action on the matter.
Stephen DeMaura is president of Americans for Job Security.