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Florida GOP Rep. Rooney Calls For Carbon Tax; Says It's 'Time To Stop Denying A Crisis’

Congressman Francis Rooney (R-Naples)
Congressman Francis Rooney's Facebook page
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Congressman Francis Rooney (R-Naples)

Republican Congressman Francis Rooney, who represents the Naples area in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, is gaining national attention for calling out climate change as a "crisis."

Rooney, appearing on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross on Tuesday, has broken ranks with his party, calling for action to spur decarbonization. Specifically, he wants a carbon tax to slow down fossil fuel pollution.

“Let the free market price coal out of existence, price carbon sequester in and incentivize people to reduce the carbon footprint and use the cleanest fuels possible and ultimately, more and more renewables. Rather than a cap-and-trade regimen, which is bureaucratic albatross, or this Green New Deal, who nobody really knows what it is, but a carbon tax would be a good first start,” he said.

Related: Listen to the full interview with Rooney on Tuesday's First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross

Rooney is trying to convince fellow Republicans that if they don’t proactively deal with what he calls “the facts on the table about climate,” then they will wind up with more burdensome remedies down the road. 

He also believes carbon sequestration and capture is another part of the solution, but he’s not sure how that would be deployed on a large scale.

Carbon sequestration is the process of pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and holding it in solid or liquid form. That can be done by both natural and artificial processes, including planting trees. 

Although Democrats have largely taken the lead on combatting climate change, Rooney said that historically Republicans led the way on environmental issues.

He points out that President Teddy Roosevelt established the U.S. Forest Service, and President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and enacted the Clean Air Act.

As a recent example, Rooney and Jacksonville area Republican Congressman John Rutherford were among the representatives who rallied to pass House bills to ban offshore drilling.

Earlier this month Rooney wrote an op-ed, saying if Republicans don’t change their party’s positions soon, “our voters will punish us.”

In the piece, published by Politico, Rooney writes, “It's time to stop denying a crisis that our constituents are already seeing every day.”

Hear the interview with Rep. Rooney when First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross encores at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17, on 89.9 FM. The episode will also be posted online and in the WJCT app on Tuesday afternoon. 

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.