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K Street Files: Manufacturers, Citing Job Losses, Oppose Carbon Tax

Congress and the White House, like most of K Street, may be consumed with the latest fiscal crisis. But even though a carbon tax seems like a policy relic from the past, the National Association of Manufacturers has decided to keep the heat on against the possibility.

“As Congress continues to grapple with the fiscal situation ... I think there’s going to be an effort to find other alternatives to feed the appetite of the federal budget,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said during a Tuesday conference call with reporters.

The group says a tax on carbon emissions would cost more than any revenue it might generate. Timmons said NAM plans to discuss the matter “early and often” so that it doesn’t see the light of day in Congress.

NAM released a report it commissioned from NERA Economic Consulting, which found both that a carbon tax could result in job losses and increased fuel costs and that negative effects on the overall economy would far outweigh the revenue raised.

“We believe the conversation should be over,” Timmons said, noting that the report found that it would have a “devastating impact” on manufacturers.

Rob Brundrett, director of public policy services for the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, said a carbon tax would deal a setback to his state’s manufacturing “renaissance.”

“The numbers in this report are actually quite scary,” he said.

Indigestion in Lobby Land

In a new book released Tuesday, investigative reporter Michael Moss chronicles the rise of the processed-food industry and explores in-depth its link to the obesity epidemic. With a title like “Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” perhaps it’s no surprise that the industry in Moss’ cross hairs is striking back.

Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, acknowledged in a statement that obesity is a “serious problem,” but she said the reporter’s work “misrepresents the strong commitment America’s food and beverage companies have to providing consumers with the products, tools and information they need to achieve and maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle.”

She also released a series of food industry talking points to rebut the book’s claims that food-makers such as the GMA’s members fill their products with unhealthy, addictive ingredients.

Among them, Bailey cited an effort to offer more whole-grain, low-calorie foods as well as items with reduced fat, sodium and sugar. She noted that the industry had “voluntarily” restricted certain advertising on children’s programming.

“The root causes of obesity are well known,” her statement said. “Too many calories consumed from any source, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, are the main risk factors for obesity. As such, public policy proposals to ban, tax or restrict consumer access to certain foods or beverages will not solve the obesity problem.”

Such policies have led the group to step up its spending on federal lobbying, starting in 2008 when taxes on products such as sugary sodas started to gain traction on the Hill. That year, the group reported lobbying bills worth more than $4.5 million, a dramatic uptick from 2007’s $1.6 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Last year, the group spent about $3.4 million on federal lobbying under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

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