The Conservative Case For Carbon Dividends


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!