Mere days after Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson successfully launched tourism flights into near-space, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) proposed a special tax be placed on private space travel.
The SPACE Tax Act (Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions), would set in place a new excise tax against commercial space flights that carry human passengers for reasons other than conducting scientific research. The tax even considers how far into space you go, with the first tax rate applying to suborbital flights at between 50 and 80 miles high, and a second tax rate applying to flights that exceed 80 miles over the Earth’s surface.
Blumenauer called the space expeditions a “tax-free holiday for the wealthy,” and then went on to condemn them for contributing to climate change.
The lawmaker’s office issued a press release explaining the bill. They cite the ambitious plan of Virgin Galactic to launch a commercial flight every 32 hours, as “particularly concern[ing]” in light of its “environmental impact.” The statement also argues that although proponents of such suborbital flights have an equivalent emission output as a transatlantic flight, they see the spaceflight as carrying so many fewer passengers that it represents “an estimated 60-times greater emissions… on a per-passenger basis,” and justifies a special tax on those grounds.
Blumenauer explained with the release of the bill that since taxes are paid on airline tickets, so should “billionaires who fly… to produce nothing of scientific value” pay taxes on their ventures, “and then some,” he added. Blumenauer argued that he’s not opposed to private spaceflight, but believes that activity done for entertaining or tourism purposes must “support the public good” somehow since they aren’t contributing to science.
Responding to Blumenauer’s proposed bill, Alex Epstein, an energy expert and founder of the Center for Industrial Progress condemned Blumenauer for seeking to “loot this new industry.”
The rise of the commercial space industry is a truly exciting development that we should be celebrating and liberating. Instead, a huge portion of the reaction is to condemn the ultra-productive people leading this industry as well as trying to loot this new industry.🧵
— Alex Epstein (@AlexEpstein) July 23, 2021
Epstein added that Blumenauer and others of his ilk simply use carbon emissions as a screen to crack down on an exciting and emerging new private sector.
Epstein argues that rather than cracking down on privatized space travel, the government should “be getting out of the way,” as private innovation paves the way to offering the benefits of space “to the masses.”
Author: Dexter Sharp