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Al Gore's inconvenient tax

What you probably won't hear at the Live Earth concert: a call for higher taxes on gasoline and fuel.

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The current crop of US presidential candidates can only wish for the spotlight that will shine on Al Gore Saturday. He's the luminary for a globe-spanning, rock-star-studded, anti-global-warming concert called Live Earth. Most likely, though, his most radical idea won't get a mention.

The former vice president (and almost president) wants to replace the current payroll tax with a consumer tax on fossil-fuel use.

This "carbon tax" would, of course, raise the price of gasoline and home heating/cooling. And it would put the burden of generating the same level of federal revenues on consumers while reducing the tax burden on labor and capital (workers and employers). Unless the poor get a break on this consumption tax, it will hit them harder than wealthier folks.

No wonder then that Mr. Gore waited until March to really push this extreme makeover of the US tax system aimed at achieving a rapid reduction in oil and coal use with a fee on greenhouse-gas emissions.

No wonder that no presidential candidate endorses it, especially with gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon. (Polls show that two-thirds of Americans don't want to pay more at the pump, just as they don't prefer more slowly.)

And no wonder a carbon tax is not even suggested in the seven-point pledge that everyone who watches the Live Earth broadcast will be asked to sign.

If Gore does run again for president, as some hope, his taxing idea will likely become the hottest topic on the stump. (Hillary Clinton says a gas tax is "hardly politically palatable at this moment.")

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