Europe To Tax American Carriers Flying Over U.S. Airspace?

Europe To Tax American Carriers Flying Over U.S. Airspace?

The European Union has established an Emissions Trading Scheme which taxes all airlines including American carriers on carbon emissions, even while they are flying over the United States.

Yes, you read that correctly.  If a plane takes off in San Diego, California and lands in Madrid, Spain an American airline would be taxed by the Europeans on its carbon emissions for the entire flight, even though the bulk of the flight occurred over the United States and the Atlantic Ocean. Their rational?  It landed in Europe.

Nation signatories of an agreement reached at the 1944 Chicago convention on aviation were granted “complete and exclusive sovereignty over airspace above its territory.”  This was obviously well before there was an E.U., but a European court recently found the agreement applied to the European Union, as all its nations have ratified the agreement.

Next, and most obvious, our friends in the old country seem to forget that they have long lost authority over American airspace, as Columbus no longer sails the ocean claiming terrain for the Spanish throne, and Thomas Jefferson purchased the land west of the Mississippi River from the French.

The Wall Street Journal recently weighed in against the scheme editorializing,

The anticarbon movement has already done enough harm by increasing the cost of energy and wasting money on subsidies for ethanol and other renewables that can’t compete on their own.  Now it may start a trade war, which may be the only language that Eurocrats understand.

The Journal goes on to say:

The U.S. has stated its ‘strong legal and policy objections’ to the move, and this month Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned that Washington ‘will be compelled to take appropriate action’ if the EU doesn’t back down.

While it is good to hear some within the Obama Administration oppose this lunacy, we should withhold our congratulations, because it does not appear to ring true at the top.  Apparently, President Obama is trying to have it both ways.  All one has to do is type “Emissions Trading Scheme” into the search function on the White House web site and a joint statement by President Obama and President Rousseff from Brazil on April 9th pops up and in it one finds the below:

The Presidents noted the convergence of positions regarding the application of the ‘Emissions Trading System’ (ETS) of the European Union, to international air transport.  They further emphasized that issues related to international civil aviation emissions should be resolved multilaterally.

“Resolved multilaterally”?  A tax by Europeans on American businesses flying over U.S. airspace “should be resolved multilaterally”?

Lucky for most Americans who are concerned about their jobs if they are employed by an American carrier or about the cost of flights if they travel to Europe, there are several actions that can ensure we aren’t taken to the fiscal woodshed if this is “resolved multilaterally.”

Congress can act. They have already acted with U.S. House passage of The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011 (H.R.2594).  It prohibits the imposition of the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme on U.S. airlines and general aviation flight operators.

In the U.S. Senate, similar legislation (S. 1956) has been introduced by Senator John Thune, ranking member of the Commerce Committee’s Aviation Operations, Safety and Security Subcommittee.  In fact, according to Politico, the “Senate Commerce Committee will hold a full committee hearing June 6 on the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme, which includes the application of fees to airlines based on carbon emissions.”

Option two is for the President to heed the advice of James Carville who famously stated, “If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he’d have two.”  Apparently, all that’s required to end this ridiculous attempt to fleece American consumers and companies is for President Obama to announce that the United States will take action to oppose the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme. The President can do so formally with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The ICAO was formed at the Chicago Convention and is the United Nations’ arm responsible for setting international practices and standards for aviation. President Obama can file an Article 84 complaint.  Such a complaint, if approved by the full ICAO Council, would bar E.U. states from participating in any official ICAO business in the future – apparently a pretty significant hammer.

With formal U.S. opposition expressed in an Article 84 complaint, the scheme would likely not move forward and the nonsense would end.  While numerous nations including India, China and Russia oppose the Emissions Trading Scheme, none have stepped forward to formalize their opposition at ICAO.

President Obama would be wise to either strongly advocate for Congressional action or undertake it himself.  Minus that, a multilateral resolution will be tough to explain to voters in Cleveland, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, etc., etc., etc.