A New Tax Proposal Has Sprung Up: Space Tourism Tax

In the days following the successful tourism flights to space taken on by Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has proposed a new tax to be placed on private space travel.

This new tax, the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, would set in place a new excise tax on any and all commercial space flights carrying human passengers for any purposes other than explicit scientific research. The new tax plan would be carried out in two tiers, the first of which is for suborbital flights that go reach over 50 miles above the Earth’s surface and the second for all orbital flights that reach a space over 80 miles from the surface of the planet.

Along with making the claim that these tourism expeditions were just a “tax-free holiday for the wealthy,” Blumenauer spoke of the effects on the climate as a particular area of extreme concern.

A press release from the legislator’s office explains:

As this budding space tourism industry takes shape, Blumenauer is particularly concerned about the environmental impact of sending humans into space, particularly when there is no scientific value associated with the launch. The number of trips to space are expected to increase, with Virgin Galactic planning to eventually launch a shuttle of passengers into space, on average, every 32 hours.

While proponents of suborbital space flights point to transatlantic flights as having similar carbon footprints, these flights carry significantly more passengers and travel much farther. The result is space launches accounting for an estimated 60-times greater emissions than transatlantic flights on a per-passenger basis, enough to drive a car around the earth and more than twice the carbon budget recommended in the Paris Climate Agreement. 

“Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some,” explained Blumenauer in the document. “I’m not opposed to this type of space innovation. However, things that are done purely for tourism or entertainment, and that don’t have a scientific purpose, should in turn support the public good.”

as a reaction to the proposal from Blumenauer, Alex Epstein, an energy expert and the Center for Industrial Progress founder, made note that although “the rise of the commercial space industry is a truly exciting development that we should be celebrating,” policymakers are seeking to “loot this new industry.”

Epstein went on to say that Blumenauer and “other would-be looters of the commercial space industry” are attempting to hide a crackdown on the industry behind a facade of concern for carbon dioxide emissions.

“We should be getting out of the way of space innovators so that they can bring the benefits of space travel — including the wonders of space tourism — to the masses,” he stated. “I know I certainly would love to be able to afford a trip to space.”

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