This week, Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo introduced a bill that would create a $24-per-ton carbon tax in 2020, rising 2 percent each year plus inflation. The law would end Obama-era emissions regulations and scrap gas taxes, replacing them with a single carbon price.
The carbon tax would raise $700 billion between 2020 and 2030, mostly for transportation infrastructure and state low-income assistance programs, according to one analysis.
"We know that the current system to fund our country's infrastructure is broken, it's insufficient. And what we do here is marry two very popular and important concepts — infrastructure investments and reducing carbon emissions," said Rep. Curbelo, speaking to Bloomberg TV about the bill.
Rep. Curbelo is one of a handful of moderate House Republicans willing to actually address climate change, rather than just talk about it. (And there are very few moderates actually willing to talk about it.)
"It is a conservative approach. This is a concept that trusts consumers to determine what kind of future we're going to have when it comes to energy. And we believe this is going to accelerate the clean energy revolution that we've been witnessing for the past decade or so," he said.
However, the rest of his party continues moving in the opposite direction. Last week, House Republicans approved a resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy."
Curbelo was one of six Republicans who voted against the measure. Dozens of other Republican members of the climate solutions caucus approved the language.
Consequently, the reaction to this new bill was virtually unanimous: It will never pass.
Judging by the last 10 years of climate politics, they're probably right. Maybe?
Alex Bozmoski, managing director of the conservative climate advocacy group RepublicEN, thinks that a very small number of Republican voters could tip the scale in favor of a carbon tax bill. It wouldn't take that much.
RepublicEN is not a lobbying group. But Bozmoski often asks conservative lawmakers how many voters it would take to change their attitude about an issue. "A hundred is the most common thing I hear. I've heard a senator say 200 in his state."
"We want 50 Republicans in the House to lead on climate. So that means we need 5,000 voters. That's nothing," he said. "How hard is that? I think we can do that."
The Curbelo proposal isn't getting much Republican support. Environmental groups are also lining up to criticize the bill, saying it doesn't go far enough.
But Bozmoski doesn't think the math is as difficult as it seems. "It doesn't take that many people to fundamentally change the perception of an issue in an office," he said.
"If we had 100 people in 50 of the right congressional districts phoning their support for climate leadership, I have no doubt that Congressman Curbelo would experience a rush of enthusiasm for his bill and quite possibly for amending his bill."
Listen to the rest of our conversation with Bozmoski on The Interchange podcast this week.