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Steven Chu, US secretary of energy, on Wednesday said that it would not be politically feasible for the country to lower its reliance on oil by raising petrol prices to Europe’s levels through higher taxes or regulation.
In the past Mr Chu has argued that if the US wanted to reduce its carbon emissions, policymakers would have to find a way to increase petrol prices to levels in Europe. But in an interview with the Financial Times, he said: “At this moment, let me be frank, it is not politically feasible.”
Chu’s move against using taxes to raise US petrol prices is likely to frustrate environmental advocates who believe the only way to change Americans’ consumption habits is through higher prices.
Mr Chu was adamant that a cap-and-trade system would be necessary to cut emissions. “We need to begin to put a price on carbon,” he said.
A key question, however, was “how to help the US make the transition”, as many states are heavily dependent on coal or have energy-intensive industries.