The Conservative Case For Carbon Dividends

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Dividends, Baby!

I love cash, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one! A group of smart, conservative Washington DC dudes have proposed a plan to discourage carbon emissions and get families paid about $2,000 per year.

The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends would tax companies that produce carbon emissions (which leads to climate change and pollution) where it enters the economy (at the mine, the well or when it’s imported or exported). The tax would start at $40 per ton of carbon and increase over time.

Americans would receive dividends (payments) from the revenue, so an American family of four would receive a $2,000 check each year. The dividend is intended to help families supplement their income as the economy adjusts to the higher price of fossil fuels since gas and oil companies will pass the higher prices onto consumers. Eventually, renewable energy would become the more cost efficient option.

“We the People deserve to be compensated when others impose climate risks and emit heat-trapping gases into our shared atmosphere. The new ground rules make intuitive sense: the more one pollutes, the more one pays; the less one pollutes, the more one comes out ahead. This, for once, would tip the economic scales towards the interests of the little guy,” states the paper.

The International Monetary Fund agrees that a carbon tax is the best way to get energy prices right. The Citizens Climate Lobby supports a similar plan. These plans actually offer real solutions to climate change.

The plan reduces the need for regulations which the oil and gas companies will love. It encourages renewable energy investment and innovation. It puts money into American families pockets.

We’re Already Paying For Pollution and Climate Change

American families are already paying for the waste created by the oil and gas companies.

Outdoor air pollution is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. Drilling, smog and pollution trigger asthma. We pay for the effects of climate change when major storms (exacerbated by climate change) like hurricane Sandy cause major damage to our communities. We are already paying for this with higher taxes, higher insurance costs and medical bills. It’s time the fossil fuel companies started paying us back.

“Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right,” says Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

Subsidizing Energy

The International Monetary Fund says when you calculate externalities into the subsidies that energy companies already get, fossil fuels start to look a whole lot more expensive. Renewables that already receive federal subsidies (such as roof top solar panels and wind energy) start to sound a lot cheaper.

The federal government subsidizes most energy companies through tax credits and cash given to companies and individuals. Energy companies have gotten subsidies since 1916 and I doubt that’s ending any time soon.

Subsidies aren’t necessarily bad. Farmers get to deduct the cost of the fuel they use to run equipment. Homeowners can get tax credits for installing roof solar panels. Low income families can buy energy at a reduced price. Oil and gas companies get to write off the cost of manufacturing and exploration. It’s just a bunch of tax code.

Externalities like air pollution and climate change on the other hand are not as cut and dry. They’re not written into the tax code. Families pay for them indirectly through higher taxes and insurance bills. Which is why it’s about time that families get paid back for unnecessary health risks and climate change. It’s time for oil and gas companies to motivate toward efficiencies and to innovate in a greener direction.

A Call To Action

If you agree that it’s time for a carbon dividend and tax, contact your Senator and Representatives and ask them to bring up the plan in Congress.

This sounds hilarious to me, but you can actually tweet Congress. The part of me that still feels like a 21 year old college student thinks this is awesome! The conservative mom part of me wants to ask what this world is coming to when politicians send and receive messages in 140 characters or less on something called Twitter?

If you’re too old to tweet, call or email your representative.  I did all of the above. It took about 10 minutes. I wrote one quick email and copied and pasted that for all of my representatives, which probably saved a minute or two.

If you’re not sure who your representative is you can find out here.

Go now, and tweet your Congress person. Tell them you want your carbon dividends, please. Ask them nicely!

Update: Yesterday (3/17/17) Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Congressman Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), and Congressman Ryan Costello (PA06) and 14 other House Republicans released the “Republican Climate Resolution” which outlines their commitment to protecting the environment and ending climate change. When you call, email or tweet Congress ask them to support the Republican Climate Resolution, too!

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Climate Progress Without Support From The Trump Administration

Can We Slow Climate Change Without Government Intervention?

As we look at the next four years with a Trump Presidency, we are unlikely to see Federal support for climate change progress. The International Energy Agency states that we absolutely need government to slow the worst effects of climate change. Unfortunately, for the next four years, that simply might not happen. So how can Americans move forward with climate change progress without help from the Federal government? Nonprofits, business leaders and states will need to lead the way.

Rocky Mountain Institute

Amory Lovins, cofounder and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), offers a compelling argument that we can transform our energy system and slow climate change without government intervention.

The RMI outlines how we can do this through advancing technology in transportation, energy efficiencies and advancements in renewables, greener buildings and industry improvements.

Transportation: “Super efficient autos, trucks, and planes, far more productively used, would need three-fourths less fuel, no oil, and less lifecycle cost,” according to RMI.

Electricity: “Dramatically increased energy efficiency could flatten or even modestly decrease total electricity use, despite a 158 percent bigger 2050 economy and electrified autos,” according to RMI.

Industry: “Just two purposes—running motors and heating materials—account for more than three-quarters of U.S. industry’s primary energy use,” according to RMI. This can be done more efficiently.

Buildings: Buildings use a lot of energy. Through building and remodeling methods developed by organizations such as LEED (developed by the U.S. Green Building Council) and Net Zero Homes, buildings can significantly reduce energy consumption and decrease their environmental impact.

 

Industries Leading The Green Revolution:

These businesses and industries are leading the green revolution and changing how business as usual gets done:

Tesla – Always on top of the green companies list. They make electric cars and energy storage, just in case you hadn’t heard. Soon they will merge with Solar City, the market leader in residential solar power according to PV Magazine.

Vivint Solar – Never heard of this one? I hadn’t either, but it’s the second largest residential solar power provider after Solar City.

Ikea – The worlds largest furniture retailer: “We’re working towards 100% renewable energy – producing as much as we consume in our operations – and sourcing all of our wood from more sustainable sources by 2020,” according to the Ikea website.

Unilever – Their mainstream products such as Axe, Dove and Lipton are not usually synonymous with green living, but they are a global company with sustainability plan.

We believe that business must be part of the solution. But to be so, business will have to change; there is not ‘business as usual anymore’. Sustainable, equitable growth is the only acceptable business model. Our vision is to grow our business, whilst reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our positive social impact.

Low Carbon USA – American companies such as HP Inc. and even Monsanto (a company often under serious scrutiny by the environmental community) have signed the Low Carbon USA pledge and open letter to the Trump administration and members of the US congress:

“Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness. We pledge to do our part, in our own operations and beyond, to realize the Paris Agreement’s commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius,” states part of the Low Carbon USA letter.

Cities, States and Regions

Although the Trump administration may not be on board with a climate action plan, cities and regions throughout the world are showing their commitment to becoming carbon neutral:

Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance – Lists cities that have committed to cutting greenhouse emissions 80% by 2050.

Under 2 MOU – California, Connecticut and Washington are a few states that have signed on to “The Under2 Coalition’s shared goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions to 2 tons per capita, or 80-95% below 1990 level by 2050,” according to Under2MOU.

Palo Alto, Ca – Cities such as Palo Alto, California, not associated with either of the above organizations, have long had sustainability plans dedicated to carbon neutrality.

Moving Forward

Although it’s frustrating that the climate action community probably won’t have support from the Trump administration, we can’t loose hope and we certainly can’t give up. It’s just an obstacle, not a dead end. Let’s build on the ideas endorsed by the Rocky Mountain Institute and continue to support companies and communities that are committed to changing business as usual.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

 

Opinion: Trump and The Environment

The Day After

It’s the day after the election and I’m feeling a bit nauseated. Maybe depressed is a better word? Grasping for words today. I’m overwhelmed by the thought of a Trump Presidency and all that it might mean. Saddened that so many people felt compelled to vote for him.

But for me, optimism prevails. I love America. Born in Sweden, I could certainly uproot my family and move back there. But running away won’t solve the problems we face. I will not let fear rule my life. Fear is what got us into this mess in the first place. Fear of other people, fear of other peoples opinions and lifestyles. Fear can not get the better of me today.

So lets move forward and work with what we have

A few key bullet points from President Elect Trump’s website:

  • “Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and clean water. We will conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources. We will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.”
  • “Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.”
  • “Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.”

As much as I oppose continuing and strengthening an energy policy that is basically business as usual (shale, oil, natural gas and coal) I see why this message appeals to some Americans. Americans want to keep energy jobs in America. I get it. I want energy jobs to stay in America as well. And just for the sake of argument, why not keep getting our dirty energy from American sources instead of importing it from other countries (lets just disregard the environmental impact at this point)? I see the appeal! I know lots of people who agree. Why import what we already have at home? We’re using the energy whether it comes from the middle east, mid west or off the California coast.

Can We All Grow Together?

The question for me becomes, can we keep and grow the business as usual energy jobs that currently exist (cole, natural gas etc) and ALSO grow renewable energy? Whether the Trump administration wants it or not, the solar power industry is booming along with the entire renewable energy industry. So can we all work together to promote green energy jobs while still keeping the jobs that currently exist?

If the Trump administration really, truly wants to “Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and clean water,” then lets do this. Lets all work together to get it done. Democrats and Republicans working together.

Today, I truly hope that Trump will stand by this statement on his own website:

 “We will conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources. We will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.”

Donald J. Trump’s website