U.S. sides with China against emissions tax
Pressure against EU plan grows
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.”
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.