U.S. sides with China against emis­sions tax

Pres­sure against EU plan grows

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY TIM DE­VANEY

The Euro­pean Union’s plan to im­pose a tax on in­ter­na­tional air­lines for their car­bon emis­sions has run into fierce head winds, with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion join­ing China, In­dia and other pow­ers in a grow­ing global drive to force the EU to back down.

Top Euro­pean avi­a­tion com­pa­nies this week is­sued a public plea for EU lead­ers to re­verse course on the “emis­sions trad­ing scheme,” while Air­bus, the gi­ant Euro­pean con­sor­tium that com­petes with Amer­i­can aero­space gi­ant Boe­ing Co., said Thurs­day that the stand­off has put into doubt an­other ma­jor jet sale.

Euro­pean of­fi­cials have re­sisted the pres­sure, but the up­roar shows no signs of sub­sid­ing, and some pri­vate an­a­lysts say the bloc has picked a global, mul­ti­front trade fight that it can­not win.

“It’s a tricky one: Fight a trade war with the en­tire world,

Prog­nos­ti­ca­tors say that if a Hol­ly­wood fa­vorite like Mr. Kucinich can’t un­seat the pow­er­ful, union-backed in­cum­bent, what chance does a new­comer have? Just watch, says “Joe the Plumber.” “You have to have con­fi­dence in your­self,” Mr. Wurzel­bacher said. “You have to be grounded as an in­di­vid­ual. I know where I stand. I know my style. I keep things in per­spec­tive.”

Call­ing his own plays

Mr. Wurzel­bacher, 38, said he won’t be tak­ing his cues from the Washington es­tab­lish­ment or the tea party.

In­stead, he is re­ly­ing on friends and fam­ily to serve as a sound­ing board and posse — an ad­vi­sory team of hard­work­ing, beer-drink­ing, Wal­Mart-shop­ping “av­er­age Joes” whose No. 1 is­sue, Mr. Wurzel­bacher said, is jobs.

Jobs, jobs and jobs, he re­peats, lament­ing that his neigh­bors and friends for 30 years have been forced by the econ­omy to leave their homes and move for work.

He feels their pain. Shares it. Like them, he’s not rich. He strug­gles, a fact that makes his shoe-leather cam­paign all the more rel­e­vant, he said.

“This econ­omy is dis­plac­ing fam­ily mem­bers and friends. My son . . . can’t stay here be­cause he’ll just end up with a job for $7 an hour. Per­son­ally, I don’t know how I will af­ford my house pay­ments. Just sim­ple things that peo­ple take for granted are no longer there.”

Go­ing af­ter the in­cum­bent

Too many politi­cians, Mr. Wurzel­bacher said, see sta­tis­tics in­stead of peo­ple.

“That’s very much the dif­fer­ence be­tween me and my op­po­nent. If I was her, I’d be em­bar­rassed to run on [her] record. You drive around her dis­trict and see homes for sale, ones that have been fore­closed on, busi­nesses are shut down, new strip malls are built but many are empty and va­cant. Sure, she brings back pork for cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als and groups, but there are 600,000 peo­ple in this dis­trict, and she is help­ing the few, not the many,” he said.

But that dis­trict is still solidly Demo­cratic, say po­lit­i­cal ob­servers, and over­com­ing Ms. Kap­tur’s ad­van­tages in or­ga­ni­za­tion, sup­port and cam­paign money would be a huge up­set.

“I would say she will edge to­ward 70 per­cent,” said Bald­win-wal­lace Col­lege po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Tom Sut­ton, pre­dict­ing a blowout win for the in­cum­bent this fall. “I think she’s tak­ing this se­ri­ously, and I think she’s go­ing to run a hard cam­paign, but by the same to­ken, I think the odds are such that ‘Joe’ doesn’t have much of a chance be­cause of the de­mo­graphic, the fi­nan­cial dis­par­i­ties and his lack of ex­pe­ri­ence.”

In his pri­mary, Mr. Wurzel­bacher eked out a win with about 1,500 votes sep­a­rat­ing him and his op­po­nent. The Re­pub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment has es­sen­tially writ­ten off the race, Mr. Sut­ton said, mean­ing that the un­der­dog Mr. Wurzel­bacher will find it dif­fi­cult to at­tract the fi­nan­cial sup­port he would need to be com­pet­i­tive.

“Cer­tainly he has wide name recog­ni­tion as ‘Joe the Plumber,’ but I think there is a dif­fer­ence be­tween rec­og­niz­ing his name and vot­ing for him,” Mr. Sut­ton said. “I think it’s nice that he says he’s go­ing to knock on ev­ery door in the 9th Dis­trict, but that’s phys­i­cally im­pos­si­ble. The fact of a cam­paign is you are go­ing to at­tract money from peo­ple who make a dif­fer­ence if they think you have a chance of win­ning. The folks that would give that kind of money, who would help him have a cam­paign that he can re­ally build, are not there.”

Ready for long haul

But Mr. Wurzel­bacher, who worked as a plumb­ing contractor un­til launch­ing his cam­paign last fall, said he un­der­stands the odds against him — and he is ready for the men­tal and phys­i­cal de­mands of the race.

“Blue col­lar” doesn’t mean stupid, Mr. Wurzel­bacher said. He grew up in a house­hold where his fa­ther ex­pected him to read the news­pa­per for at least an hour a day.

“Ob­vi­ously, I hated it, but I learned so much,” he said. “Be­ing in a pa­tri­otic, mil­i­tary fam­ily . . . he said, ‘Son, you’ve got to know what is go­ing on, lo­cally, within your state, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the world.’ ”

Since his March 6 pri­mary win, he has been be­sieged for in­ter­views.

“I don’t watch news on TV. I hate it,” Mr. Wurzel­bacher said. “The na­tional me­dia . . . they pot­shot you. They want to bring some­thing up of a so­cial na­ture or a cul­tural na­ture, and that has noth­ing to do with what is go­ing on.”

Mr. Wurzel­bacher’s frus­tra­tion with the press was on dis­play this month when CNN asked about his use of the word “queer” in a 2009 in­ter­view to re­fer to gays. The ques­tion, he said, was noth­ing more than a trans­par­ent “gotcha” at­tempt.

On the cam­paign trail, the Air Force veteran prefers to speak di­rectly, one-on-one, with sup­port­ers.

He sees run­ning for Congress as a chal­lenge — he an­swers email to his cam­paign per­son­ally — and said he seeks in his nascent po­lit­i­cal bid “not to dis­re­spect my­self or my fam­ily.”

“I’m sup­posed to be this dumb, red­neck plumber who don’t know noth­ing,” he said in a mo­ment of mock self-aware­ness.

“Well, some of the smartest men I know didn’t grad­u­ate from sixth grade. I still laugh some­times that I would be in a po­si­tion to do some­thing like this. It still floors me that peo­ple would want to take their picture with me or have me sign some­thing. And then, I get a card from a se­nior cit­i­zen who be­lieves in my mes­sage so much that they take the pal­try money they have to live on and send it to me. And you know they are hurt­ing. . . . It brings tears to my eyes.” or back down,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice pres­i­dent of anal­y­sis at Vir­gini­abased Teal Group. “I’m think­ing they’re go­ing to back down.”

China is one of the big­gest op­po­nents of the plan, which would tax air­lines for their car­bon out­puts for flights to or from Europe. The con­tro­ver­sial part of the tax, which has drawn com­plaints that the fee is il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional trade law, is that it is as­sessed based on the en­tirety of the flight dis­tance, not just the part spent over Euro­pean airspace.

Hit­ting back at Europe where it counts, China has can­celed plans to pur­chase 55 jets worth $14 bil­lion from Air­bus.

On Thurs­day, it sus­pended a pur­chase of 10 Air­bus A330s, a move made just days af­ter Air­bus com­plained to Euro­pean politi­cians about China hav­ing put off buy­ing 10 A380 su­per­jum­bos and 35 A330s.

China and Rus­sia have said their air­lines will not com­ply with the emis­sions charge, which could keep their car­ri­ers from trav­el­ing to Europe al­to­gether. Congress has con­sid­ered a sim­i­lar mea­sure.

At a meet­ing last month in Moscow, al­most 30 coun­tries adopted a res­o­lu­tion threat­en­ing Europe with eight forms of re­tal­i­a­tion they would con­sider if the charge is not scrapped. Among those mea­sures are bring­ing le­gal cases be­fore in­ter­na­tional trade fo­rums, not grant­ing Euro­pean car­ri­ers land­ing rights and routes, and new levies against EU na­tional air­lines.

“It’s very rare that mar­kets will for­bid any of their na­tion’s air­lines from obey­ing a law in an­other coun­try,” Mr. Aboulafia said. “That demon­strates a clear sig­nal that this is not even ne­go­tiable.”

This in­ten­si­fy­ing pres­sure led Air­bus and six Euro­pean air­lines to write a let­ter ear­lier this week ask­ing the lead­ers of Bri­tain, France, Ger­many and Spain to back down from the plan. They say the scheme will jeop­ar­dize more than 1,000 Air­bus jobs and an­other 1,000 in the sup­ply chain, and it will re­sult in “sus­pen­sions, can­cel­la­tions, and puni­tive ac­tions” by other coun­tries.

Com­pa­nies sign­ing the let­ter were Bri­tish Air­ways PLC, Vir­gin At­lantic Air­ways Ltd., Lufthansa AG, Air France-klm, Air Ber­lin PLC & Co., Ibe­ria Air­lines, as well as aero­space en­gine mak­ers Safran of France and MTU Aero En­gines of Ger­many, which said the stand­off “is be­com­ing in­tol­er­a­ble for the Euro­pean avi­a­tion in­dus­try.”

“We have al­ways be­lieved that only a global so­lu­tion would be ad­e­quate to re­solve the prob­lem of global avi­a­tion emis­sions,” they wrote.

The Euro­pean gov­ern­ments, how­ever, have shown no signs of back­ing down.

Sil­via Kofler, spokes­woman for the Euro­pean Union Del­e­ga­tion to the U.S., said in a state­ment that Europe will “stick to its le­gal pro­vi­sions.”

The EU ex­tended its emis­sion­strad­ing pro­gram to Euro­pean and for­eign air­lines at the be­gin­ning of this year, though it has said it will not try to col­lect the fee un­til Jan. 1 next year.

Air­lines aren’t nec­es­sar­ily op­posed to pay­ing for their emis­sions in Euro­pean airspace, which is un­ques­tion­ably un­der EU ju­ris­dic­tion, but chafe at be­ing charged for emis­sions over other parts of the world. For ex­am­ple, Euro­pean airspace takes up only 9 per­cent of a flight from San Fran­cisco to London, ac­cord­ing to Air­lines for Amer­ica. The rest is over the U.S., Canada and the high seas, but air­lines would be charged for the en­tire 5,371-mile trip.

The emis­sion-con­trol plan re­quires the air­line in­dus­try to cut its car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from the 2004-06 av­er­age by 3 per­cent in 2012 and 5 per­cent in 2013. Car­ri­ers, which ini­tially re­ceive 85 per­cent of their emis­sions cer­tifi­cates free, must bid for the rest.

“As you know, we be­lieve avi­a­tion emis­sions is an is­sue which needs to be tack­led glob­ally, and we ex­pect our part­ners to con­trib­ute con­struc­tively to this,” Ms. Kofler said.

But Mr. Aboulafia pre­dicts that the “poorly thought out” plan will be dropped be­fore air­lines ac­tu­ally have to start pay­ing out the cash.

“Given the con­certed op­po­si­tion,” he said, “I don’t think this is go­ing to last much longer.”

But it won’t be so easy, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say.

“The EU can’t just ‘drop’ the law. It’s a law,” said An­nie Pet­sonk, in­ter­na­tional coun­sel for the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund. “That would be like the U.S. Congress ‘just drop­ping’ a law Congress en­acted — only more so, be­cause the EU Par­lia­ment and all the mem­ber states would have to undo it.

“The EU has made it abun­dantly clear it will not de­lay, sus­pend or repeal the law.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

GOP House hopeful Sa­muel Joseph Wurzel­bacher, aka “Joe the Plumber,” cam­paigns Feb. 24 in Rocky River, Ohio.

Then-sen. Barack Obama’s en­counter with Mr. Wurzel­bacher in Oc­to­ber 2008, dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, cat­a­pulted the plumber onto the na­tional scene.

Mr. Wurzel­bacher faces long odds in his race against 15-term Demo­cratic Rep. Marcy Kap­tur, seen here cam­paign­ing at a lun­cheon for re­tired au­towork­ers in Parma, Ohio, in Jan­uary.

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