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Climate Hustle

California has urged President Obama and Congress to tax carbon pollution

Posted on 29 August 2016 by dana1981

Last week, the California state senate passed Assembly Joint Resolution 43, urging the federal government to pass a revenue-neutral carbon tax:

WHEREAS, A national carbon tax would make the United States a leader in mitigating climate change and the advancing clean energy technologies of the 21st Century, and would incentivize other countries to enact similar carbon taxes, thereby reducing global carbon dioxide emissions without the need for complex international agreements; now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Assembly and the Senate of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature hereby urges the United States Congress to enact, without delay, a tax on carbon-based fossil fuels; and be it further Resolved ... That all tax revenue should be returned to middle- and low-income Americans to protect them from the impact of rising prices due to the tax

Copies of the Resolution were sent to President Obama, Vice President Biden, House Speaker Ryan, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and to all members of Congress representing California. The document specifically calls for the type of revenue-neutral carbon tax advocated by the grassroots organization Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Studies have shown that a rising carbon tax with all revenue returned to taxpayers would have a modestly beneficial impact on the economy, while cutting carbon pollution at faster rates than current policies.

California exerts its climate leadership

California has become the US leader in tackling global warming. 10 years ago, the state passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, requiring that its greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 be no higher than 1990 levels. California achieved that goal in 2010, 10 years early, and is among the lowest per-capita carbon polluting states

On the same day last week, the state legislature also passed a bill expanding the Global Warming Solutions Act, requiring a 40% cut in California’s carbon pollution from 1990 levels by 2030. In other words, California isn’t just calling on the federal government to take action on climate change; the state is leading the way.

It remains to be seen whether any climate legislation can survive in the current toxic partisan political climate of Washington DC. However, a revenue-neutral carbon tax has the best chance due to its bipartisan appeal. Its requirement that carbon polluters pay for the costs of their pollution appeals to the political left, while its free market, small government approach appeals to the political right. 

Revenue-neutral carbon tax is hard to dislike

By returning 100% of the taxed revenue to American households, the policy blunts the rising costs of energy produced by burning fossil fuels. In fact, studies project that a majority of Americans would receive a rebate larger than their increase in energy bills; only those who use the most fossil fuel energy would see costs rise more than the rebate.

It’s a policy that’s hard to dislike. It makes polluters pay, goes a long way toward tackling the immense threat of human-caused global warming, results in cleaner air and water by reducing the burning of dirty fossil fuels, and has a modestly beneficial overall economic impact. However, many in the fossil fuel industry oppose the policy for obvious reasons, and through campaign donations they have a solid grip on the Republican Party. In fact, pressure from fossil fuel lobbyists convinced House Republicans to pass their own Resolution condemning a carbon tax less than three months ago.

Thus it’s difficult to see California’s urging having much impact on Congress. Perhaps if the 2016 elections are a disaster for the Republican Party, they’ll change direction away from extreme partisanship and climate denial. Citizens’ Climate Lobby is optimistic that with enough grassroots lobbying, they can convince Congress to pass a revenue-neutral carbon tax in 2017.

It may take more states following California’s lead in calling on Congress to address the climate threat. California is certainly influential - it has the world’s 6th-largest economy, on par with that of France. The state put a price on carbon pollution via a cap and trade system in 2012, and since then its economy has continued to grow while emissions have fallen

An opportunity the GOP must take

It would certainly behoove Republican Party leaders to reverse their climate denial platform. This is an issue on which - as with civil rights and gay marriage - they’re on the wrong side of history, and the electorate is quickly moving in the opposite direction. Climate denial is predominant among old, white men, and even young conservatives want the government to take climate action to preserve their future.

In 2012, the GOP published an ‘autopsy report’ ...

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Comments

Comments 1 to 3:

  1. “You can lead a horse to water…” may apply to the US Congress, neither of whose houses is of good repute these days. (Here in Illinois, our legislature is the stuff of which legends are made.) Nevertheless, climate action is a matter of global concern; serious action at state and local levels offers minimal benefits and possible serious economic drawbacks.

    The US, as a major economic power, can impose a Carbon Tax along with tariffs on imports and rebates on carbon fees paid, to nullify any advantage non-taxing foreign economic entities might have by avoiding an equivalent Carbon Tax. Even better, the tariffs paid on imports from such entities would accrue to the coffers of the US treasury, with nothing going to the non-taxing (or under-taxing) foreign governments. There is wisdom in the slogan “Carbon Taxation in One Country,” a paraphrase of the slogan associated with Iosif Dzhugashvili, altho in this case with an international intent more commonly associated with Lev Bronstein.

    The US Congress can impose such a tax, together with the corresponding tariffs and rebates. However, no individual State among these United States can so do.

    We Americans should do all we can to get our Congress to do so. No other country has the global economic power to do so, save perhaps China.

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  2. In my opinion carbon taxes have plenty of merit. Consider that electric vehicles have good potential to reduce emissions, but uptake is slow because they have about a $5,000 price premium (or more) and a lack of recharging stations, and people are understandably hesitant to make the change.

    It just seems that a carbon tax on oil or petrol, or alternatively more directly on fossil fuel companies, may be enough to encourage electric cars, and perhaps would get them across the line without the tax having to be too high. The tax collected could also subsidise the purchase price of the vehicles.

    I have been reading about emissions trading schemes, and these things are enormously complicated, and the link between the schemes and encouraging electric cars seems very tenuous to me. The European Union emissions trading scheme has not produced particularly spectacular results. There is very slow uptake of electric vehicles and while wind farms have increased, the windfarms seem to be from subsidies, rather than the emissions trading scheme.

    Some of these carbon trading units originate in countries that do not rank terribly high in freedom from corruption surveys, yet the units or credits can be globally traded. I honestly wonder what value they would really have, and how you could even determine their integrity. A carbon tax would be inherently more transparent.

    Emissions trading units are also linked to planting of forests. This is nice in theory as forests are a carbon sink, but we are not really too sure how good this carbon sink is, and it relies on a very strict system of planting and felling trees. There is a risk that over reliance is put on tree planting, rather than reducing emissions at source. In comparison a carbon tax hits the source of emissions, and tree planting could be simply subsidised with the tax collected as a backup plan.

     

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  3. I like to quote James Hansen during his interview with Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! at the Paris COP21 regarding their efforts.


    Well, we have to decide: Are these people stupid, or are they just uninformed? Are they badly advised? I think that he really believes he’s doing something. You know, he wants to have a legacy, a legacy having done something in the climate problem. But what he’s proposing is totally ineffectual. I mean, there are some small things that are talked about here, you know, the fact that they may have a fund for investment, invest more in clean energies, but these are minor things. As long as fossil fuels are dirt cheap, people will keep burning them.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, why don’t you talk, Dr. James Hansen, about what you’re endorsing—a carbon tax?

    JAMES HANSEN: Yeah.

    AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean? What does it look like?

    JAMES HANSEN: Yeah. It should be an across-the-board carbon fee. And in a democracy, it’s going to—it should—the money should be given to the public. Just give an equal amount to every—you collect the money from the fossil fuel companies. The rate would go up over time, but the money should be distributed 100 percent to the public, an equal amount to every legal resident.


    I completely agree, falsified carbon credits in a trading scheme designed by wall street to increase revenues will be a disaster for future generations.  Carbon Tax not Cap and Trade!

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