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Our best insurance against coming mega-fires and more


Last updated 8/6/2014 at 9:05am

Much as we may hate to admit it and don’t want to think about it, our burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect. This warms the Earth, which costs us in many ways. Forest fires are more likely as less snowmelt is available in the spring and summer to moisten the soil because more winter precipitation falls as rain rather than snow in a warmer climate. Warming has made fire-prone areas more vulnerable to “mega-fires” like the Carlton Complex Fire that are unprecedented in their social, economic, and environmental impacts. Other costs include loss of summertime runoff for irrigation, and the trillions of dollars of property value that will be lost as sea level rises 20 feet or more, losses that are subsidized by the National Flood Insurance subsidies.

The costs of climate change keep rising, and are rising with interest. The costs will be far higher than the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As time marches on, it will only become more and more expensive to pay for these costs and mitigate these effects.

The Supreme Court has upheld EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, so the U.S. government is moving ahead with EPA rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions at coal-fired power plants. Most of the proposed solutions, such as cap and trade, involve an economic penalty.

As an alternative, a number of conservatives, like former Secretary of State George Schultz, are urging fellow conservatives to support a market-based approach as an insurance policy to solve the problem by using a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

In this system, as proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a $15-per-ton initial fee is placed on fossil fuels — coal, oil, and gas — at their source — well, mine, port of entry/refinery. There are about 2,000 entities involved at this point on whom the fee is placed. The fee rises $10/ton/year annually in a predictable manner until we reach a safe level of emissions. 100 percent of the revenue is returned to every American household. Not one dime goes to the government; administrative costs are less than 1 percent and no new bureaucracy is created. Domestic manufacturers and producers are protected through a border tax adjustment.

The American people get a monthly dividend check or automatic deposit in their bank account. This provides cash to pay for any price hike in fuel costs. Those who also use less fossil fuel will also have more money to spend on food, insulation, a more fuel-efficient vehicle, health care, etc. If this system were to be implemented in 2015, by 2025 each four-person family would have $300 a month as a steady dividend. A study commissioned by CCL showed that the economy would grow more with the CCL plan, millions of more jobs would be created, thousands of lives saved, U.S. emissions would be reduced by 50 percent in 20 years, and we would begin the gradual transition off of fossil fuels onto low- or zero-carbon energy sources that will eventually help us stabilize our climate system.

Each of us would have an incentive to reduce emissions because the taxes we pay decrease as we use less carbon energy. Other countries would have an incentive to reduce emissions because the border adjustment depends on whether they tax carbon energy.

In 2008, British Columbia began a carbon tax, with the revenue returned to citizens through lowered income taxes. A new peer-reviewed study reported on how BC’s emissions and economy have done through 2012. The results are impressive. Polls show that public support for the British Columbia carbon tax has grown to 64 percent.

We can do the same in the U.S. Because CCL’s carbon fee and dividend is revenue-neutral, it offers the most effective first step for us to both stabilize our climate and stimulate our economy. It beats cap-and-trade and government regulations. Please contact our representatives: in the 4th Congressional District, Doc Hastings; the 5th CD, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The 8th CD, David Reichert. Ask them to enact the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Carbon Fee and Dividend legislative proposal now. We reap what we sow.


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