Members of the conservative Climate Leadership Council, half of whom publicly denounced candidate Donald Trump during the election, visited the White House yesterday to extol the benefits of a carbon tax. In their view, such a tax would mark the first step toward fighting global warming while potentially gaining new constituents for the party.

The CLC, run by eight old-school Republicans and business leaders, wants to impose a $40 tariff on each ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted through mechanical or industrial policies. In exchange, the administration could cancel some of the most expensive EPA rules.

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And even though the Council’s membership is comprised of GOP loyalists, many made disparaging comments about Trump during the campaign. Henry M. Paulson, Jr., a CLC member and a GOP Treasury Dept. secretary, said he had voted for Hillary Clinton. Three others made critical comments that might also overshadow their case for a new carbon tax.

While most politicians understand that things said during a heated campaign are just rhetoric, it’s a little different when your own party members are voting for or supporting the other candidate.

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But Trump is not like most politicians and may see things differently. During the campaign, George Shultz, who served as Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, told a crowd at the Hoover Institute “God help us” over the notion of a Trump presidency:

Another member on the CLC is N.

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Donald Trump

Gregory Mankiw, who served as Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005 under President George W. Bush. Mankiw told CNBC’s John Harwood he could never support or vote for Trump. He also said a Trump administration would be worse than an Obama/Clinton presidency.

The Council tried to convince the administration that a carbon tax could start immediately, allowing the EPA’s regulatory power to be “phased out.” They also think the carbon tax would attract legions of young voters who are “deeply concerned” about climate change.

And they say that what’s left over from the carbon tax after the government gets its share would be given back to taxpayers as “dividend checks.”

A Mitt Romney-approved tax

One has to wonder if CLC member Martin Feldstein brought picture books and pop-ups to the White House to help explain the proposal. According to Feldstein, President Trump doesn’t know even the most basic knowledge of economics and “does not seem to be concerned about it.” Feldstein previously told the Wall Street Journal, “That alone disqualifies him in my judgement.” Another telling sign is that Mitt Romney, possibly Trump’s fiercest detractor, lauded the idea of a carbon tax in a tweet.

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The carbon tax is likely to go nowhere, given President Trump’s promise to cut taxes across the board for all income classes. A carbon tax would only benefit the middle-class, with the costs passed on to consumers of electricity and gas. Critics of the tax say the U.S. is already lowering CO2 emissions thanks to fracking, which has allowed new power plants to use abundant natural gas.

Either way, the carbon tax presented by the CLC demonstrates the cumbersome nature of contemporary climate policy, with heavy costs being levied on consumers based on a scientific theory being debated hotly in both academic and political circles.

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