An idea first floated more than 10 years ago to address climate change, an idea with plenty for liberals and conservatives alike to embrace, is now detailed in a bill that deserves consideration and deliberation in D.C.
The bill calls for the creation of a federal revenue-neutral carbon tax paid for by energy companies, providing them and their customers financial incentive to pursue lower-carbon alternative fuels. The harm from climate change would be reduced, and revenue from the tax would be distributed to Americans via monthly dividend checks.
“Americans would make money off climate change rather than being harmed by potentially higher energy prices,” Washington Post science and environment writer Chris Mooney wrote in 2015.
Liberals can support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, as the House bill is called, because it “forwards their very clear agenda of prioritizing climate solutions,” said Katya Gordon of Two Harbors, the northern Minnesota coordinator for the Citizens Climate Lobby, a national advocacy group behind “carbon fee and dividend.” The lobby has projected the approach would reduce carbon emissions to 50% of 1990 levels by 2035.
Conservatives can get behind the act, too, because it promotes a gradual transition to cleaner energy, is market-based, puts Americans first, and reduces the need for regulations. Also, the monthly dividend checks are projected to outpace increases in fuel costs that inevitably would be passed along by the energy companies.
In addition, since the revenue wouldn’t go to the government, the strategy wouldn’t expand the size of government. This isn’t tax and spend — and it doesn’t have to be politically polarizing like other climate measures.
“Americans are tired of partisanship, and they want to see ways to work together. This is absolutely a centrist bill. It was written by both Democrats and Republicans,” Gordon said in a recent interview, conducted virtually, with the News Tribune Editorial Board. “Climate solutions must be bipartisan and they must be enduring or they will not solve the problem.”
The House version of the carbon-fee-and-dividend bill boasts 82 co-sponsors, including one Republican lead co-sponsor. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown, isn’t among them, despite being a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a cooperative undertaking of 50 congressional members, an even number of them Republicans and Democrats; they set aside party affiliation in the name of serving all in our nation. An email to Stauber’s staff requesting comment wasn’t immediately returned this week. A Senate version of the legislation is similar but not identical and isn’t getting the same attention as the House bill.
The province of British Columbia in Canada already has instituted a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and taxes in the province went down as a result. In the U.S., Democrats and Republicans alike can support a result like that.
“This is a way that we can come together in an increasingly polarizing time,” Brett Cease of Duluth, an education and engagement director for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, said of the carbon-fee-and-dividend idea.
We’d be coming together and addressing climate change. As Gordon put it, “It’s a win-win.”