Washington State Pushing For Strongest Carbon Tax In The World

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

The idea of a “carbon tax” is still a relatively controversial one in the US, but that isn’t stopping some states from considering the option — with legislators and citizen groups in a fair number of states now working towards the implementation of the heavily debated idea.

Washington state, in particular, has seen the emergence of a string of grassroots carbon tax campaigns — one that is now circulating a petition to put the carbon tax on the voting ballot.

Car exhaust emissions

The “Carbon Washington” campaign was founded by the environmental economist (+ standup comedian) Yoram Bauman, and is arguing for a carbon tax of $15 per ton of carbon emissions (to be increased to $100 per ton of carbon emissions slowly over the next 40 years). Such a pricing scheme represents the highest yet proposed anywhere.

“I think it’s a relatively new idea for a lot of people,” noted Bauman. “When you talk about climate change, they think they’re going to have to spend money on solar panels or stuff like that.”

“Once we qualify, it goes to the legislature in January, and the legislature essentially has two choices. Pass it and it goes to law, or it goes on the ballot in 2016.”


The Washington Post provides more:

But the idea is catching on. Washington requires citizens’ initiatives to raise 246,372 signatures via petition to qualify for the ballot. So far, Carbon Washington has raised 304,000 signatures, according to Bauman, and is hoping to reach 330,000 before it submits the petition at the end of the year to have a buffer of about 25% of the needed number of signers.

…Washington state isn’t the only one. Citizens and legislators in a handful of other states around the country, including Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island and Oregon, are in various stages of introducing similar proposals to their own state legislatures.

Many are inspired by British Columbia’s carbon tax, which was introduced in 2008 and is widely considered by economists a prime example of a successful carbon pricing scheme. Currently the only carbon tax in North America, the tax — which is revenue neutral, meaning funds are returned to the public rather than kept as revenue by the state (in this case, in the form of other tax breaks) — charges $30 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions and has so far reduced fuel consumption by more than 16% without harming the Canadian province’s economy.

“I think the experience from BC shows that a climate policy like this, a smart well-designed policy, can work,” Bauman stated.

Proponents in Massachusetts are also working towards implementing a carbon tax, though, so Washington state may not be the first state in the US to successfully implement one. Across the country, a coalition by the name of “the Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future” having been formed for the purpose.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

17 thoughts on “Washington State Pushing For Strongest Carbon Tax In The World

  • Yes I totally agree, since I live in BC and the tax has (in my opinion) helped the economy.
    But one thing I disagree on, the proposed time frame of 40 years to reach $ 100 per ton, 10 years yes, again, my opinion.

  • The carbon tax in Sweden is currently $129/ton. And there has been serious talks about increasing it up to $230.

    I don’t really see how $15 per ton and aiming for $100/ton 40(!) years from now would be “the strongest in the world”. It’s (barely) better than nothing, but could and should be pushed a lot harder.

    • It maybe because sometimes the world ends at the US borders.
      I hope I did not offend any of the readers, residents of the US, but to me that appears to be the case at times.

      • Perhaps you did not read the “About the Author” section.

        • Yes I know that James was born in Germany, just like me.
          But the article says the strongest carbon tax in the world and I did not know about Sweden tax as in the first comment above.
          And I stated it before, I personally would like to see an increase in the carbon tax of BC, were I live now, raised to up to $ 100/t.
          Our tax is not perfect, a lot more of it should go towards RE and not to lower taxes for business (as per our government, about 60 % of it).

          • OK. If you knew that then yeah, I’m a bit offended. At least you could have waited until someone North American-centric commented before you jumped all over us for it. BC with it’s carbon tax has traded with California under it’s cap and trade plan, and each would like especially Oregon and Washington included in a carbon payments scheme along with other western states and provinces. I agree with No Way, that Washington’s proposals are in no way world leading.

          • I am sorry if I offended you,even a bit. Maybe the headline could have read the strongest carbon tax in the US.
            But I still think that we need carbon taxes in the whole world and made so that low income people get a benefit (reduced taxes) while mostt of such a tax should go towards RE.
            Once we, the planet,runs on RE, for almost all energy, say 90 % +then we can think about reducing taxes for everybody.
            I do have a problem with our provincial government , in regards to the carbon tax.

          • Just a little tiny bit, nothing big!

          • In the 1970’s when small towns wanted to keep influence and control from being overwhelmed by large central utilities – not so many thought that the costs would drop so fast for renewable energy. And that huge amounts of renewable energy would mean not just local energy sources would be exploited, but that huge amounts of the taxes generated would go to the large businesses that opposed the plans.

            BC with it’s carbon tax has traded with California under it’s cap and trade plan, and both would especially like to see Oregon and Washington adopt carbon pricing in a trade zone along with other western states and provinces. I agree with No Way that there is no way the proposal by Washington is of world leading proportions.

      • That is 20 year old information. Current level is as I wrote. =) But it’s an interesting history lesson to see what was going on 20 years ago and that the carbon tax is 25 years old. Some have been working on this problem a lot longer than others.

        There are still tax reductions (up to 40%) for some industries. But from Jan 1st 2016 some of the last possible tax reductions are going away. Then it’s just some small reductions for the heaviest process industries (pulp and paper, mining, steel production) left.

        • Do you know what it is in SEK so I can convert it into dollarydoos?

          • It’s at 1,08 SEK per kg (or 1080 SEK per ton). So about $174 kangaroonies at current rates.
            Worth nothing is that the Swedish crown is weak right now compared to for example the US dollar, so at a more normal exchange rate it would be maybe 20-30% higher.

          • Thank you very much. You even converted it into Bonza Bucks for me. Very kind.

  • Hopefully they will apply that tax to any crude oil exports leaving from Washington State ports too

  • The tax outlined here is not high enough fast enough. Exxon has had a $60/ton assumption baked into its business plan for several years (reported in New York Times in 2012).

  • The Washington State initiative actually taxes the carbon content of fossil fuels sold in the state and of electricity imported from out of state; the rate would be $25/ton after the first year, followed by a gradual ramp up. (Those are short tons, not metric tonnes, so it’s a little more in comparison with European or Canadian levels than it sounds.)

    It’s a revenue neutral tax swap proposal. It would cut the sales tax 1%, essentially eliminate the B&O tax on manufacturing, and provide an annual rebate of up to $1,500/yr to 400,000 working families. It would leave state revenue the same, but it would shift some of the tax burden off the sales tax and working families, and get that money for state programs by making CO2 pollution more expensive instead.

    40 years is how long it would take for the tax to reach $100/ton in real dollars; it will reach $100/ton in inflated nominal dollars in about 25 years.

    We have 333,000 signatures as of last week, and expect the initiative to be on the ballot along with the Presidential election next November.

Comments are closed.