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ABC's Diane Sawyer Pleads for European-style Gas Tax

Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer on Tuesday aggressively lobbied for the Obama administration to install a European-style gas tax on the United States. Talking to Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, about Obama's plans for increased fuel standards, she began, "Why not just go to a gas tax, for instance, which would accomplish a reduction in the use of gasoline, dependence on foreign oil right away?" Sawyer would proceed to ask variations on this question six times.

Citing calls for a gas tax by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, she pressed, "If you really want to change the fuel patterns of this country, and if you want to reduce dependence on foreign oil, not by 2015 or 2016, but right now, there is one way to do it. It's the way Europe has been doing it. And that is a gasoline tax." Browner mostly dodged the question and focused on new fuel and environmental standards. Sawyer, however, would not be deterred. She fretted, "Do you think the gas tax approach is right or wrong? Or just politically unacceptable?" Not liking the non-answers, the ABC host argued, "So, no gas tax ever, as far as you're concerned?"

It soon became clear this would be the focus of almost the entire interview. Sawyer grilled, "I have a feeling we're in a standoff on this question here. It's that politically explosive?" After asking one question on another topic, the anchor returned to her quest for higher taxes. She queried, "I'm asking one more time here. If a gas tax reduces dependence on foreign oil and changes the foreign political dependency immediately, why not be for it right now?"

Now, at no time did Sawyer speculate or consider the consequences of raising taxes in a recession. She didn't wonder what effect higher taxes have had on Europe. Instead, she repeatedly pushed the Obama administration to the left, practically begging for higher taxes.

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:04am on May 19, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: Other questions arising this morning. Why not just go to a gas tax, for instance, which would accomplish a reduction in the use of gasoline, dependence on foreign oil right away? One of the questions we posed just a few minutes ago when we talked to Carol Browner, who is the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. Ms. Browner, so good to have you with us this morning. Good morning.

CAROL BROWNER (Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change): Thank you.

SAWYER: First, let me just ask this one. It's counterintuitive- the time when the car companies seem to be teetering so badly, to be saying to them, okay, retool for some $40 billion or more?

BROWNER: Well, Diane, we worked with all of the car companies and ten of the CEOs will be joining the President here today at the White House. And what they told us over and over again is they wanted to make more fuel-efficient. They wanted to make more cleaner cars. And what they needed was the government to give them the predictability and certainty so that they could make the investments towards cleaner cars. And that's what the President announces today.

SAWYER: Again, I guess they want the government to ensure that everybody is going to be doing this at once. But let me ask you about what Tom Friedman, the columnist from the New York Times, and others have been saying. If you really want to change the fuel patterns of this country, and if you want to reduce dependence on foreign oil, not by 2015 or 2016, but right now, there is one way to do it. It's the way Europe has been doing it. And that is a gasoline tax. And he said you can phase it in over two years, 10 cents a month. It will not be that onerous. And Americans stand ready.

BROWNER: Well, what we're doing is we're using the laws on the books today, which allow us to set fuel efficiency standards and we're setting the first ever greenhouse gas pollution standards. And what this means is, we're going to be able to reduce our dependence on oil by 1.8 billion barrels over the life of the program.

SAWYER: Do you think the gas tax approach is right or wrong? Or just politically unacceptable?

BROWNER: I think what we're doing today is right. I think putting these standards, proposing these standards, moving forward, working with car companies, working in partnership is what we need to be doing.

SAWYER: So, no gas tax ever, as far as you're concerned?

BROWNER: We're doing what we think the right today, which is setting fuel efficiency, greenhouse standards.

SAWYER: I have a feeling we're in a standoff on this question here. It's that politically explosive?

BROWNER: Well, we work, obviously, within the laws on the books. And what we're using is the President's executive authority to propose these standards. And it is the first-ever time that EPA And DOT Have taken their existing individual authorities and woven them together so that we can give the American public and the car companies what they want.

SAWYER: Let me just ask one more question here. As we know for cars, you're talking about reduction from 27.5 miles a gallon, up to 39 miles per gallon. Also, light trucks. 23 up to 30. But what about Hummers, which are getting about eight to ten miles a gallon? What are you going to do about them?

BROWNER: Well, all cars and light-duty trucks are included. So, Hummers would be included. And in every single category they have to improve their fuel efficiency. This isn't simply about looking across the fleet, and so, therefore, if you make a big car, you have to make smaller cars. This is about every, single category of vehicles becoming more fuel-efficient and reducing their greenhouse gas pollution.

SAWYER: I'm asking one more time here. If a gas tax reduces dependence on foreign oil and changes the foreign political dependency immediately, why not be for it right now?

BROWNER: Well, what the President is announcing today, these proposed national standards will achieve the greatest reduction in oil use that we've seen in a very, very long time. 1.8 billion barrels of oil will be reduced over the life of the program.

SAWYER: Again, we thank you so much, Ms. Browner. As we said, it's a big day at the White House, a big announcement. And we're grateful to you for joining us.

BROWNER: Thank you.