Five members of Congress have proposed new legislation that would create a revenue neutral fee structure for carbon emissions. What is unusual about the proposed bill is that it is sponsored by three Democrats and two Republicans. The Democrats are Ted Deutch and Charlie Crist of Florida and John Delaney of Maryland. The Republicans are Francis Rooney of Florida and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.
The bill is called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. “To call this legislation a breakthrough is an understatement,” says Mark Reynolds, executive director of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “Any long term solution needs buy-in from both Republicans and Democrats. And now that their constituents are feeling the negative effects of climate change firsthand, both sides are more willing to cooperate on a solution that brings about real change. Unless steps are taken to dramatically reduce heat trapping emissions, climate change will do irreparable harm to Americans. This bipartisan solution comes not a moment too soon.”
Reynolds claims the legislation will create 2.1 million new jobs over the next 10 years. That is based on estimates from a 2014 Regional Economic Models, Inc. study on the effect of a revenue-neutral carbon price on the American economy.
The new legislation would set a nationwide price on carbon emissions and return the revenue generated by that fee each month to all American households. One of the strongest objections to putting a price on carbon is that it will place an economic burden on those already struggling to make ends meet. By distributing the proceeds from the carbon fee to every American family, that objection is eliminated. It also means the money doesn’t just go into the general treasury where it can be used to support a larger government.
The Citizens Climate Lobby says such an approach is favored by economists and climate scientists as the simplest, most effective approach to reducing carbon emissions. The plan seeks to lower carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% in the first 12 years.
Economist Noah Kaufman says the legislation “would provide a substantial boost to low carbon generation sources including solar, wind and nuclear energy, and virtually eliminate the use of coal in the U.S. electricity system by 2030. The rebates received by the average low and middle income households would exceed the additional expenditures of these households due to the higher prices caused by the carbon tax.”
“This aggressive carbon pricing scheme introduced by members from both parties marks an important opportunity to begin to seriously address the immediate threat of climate change,” said Congressman Deutch. “The status quo is unsustainable; the time to act is right now.”
The legislation faces an uphill battle in a Congress controlled by fossil fuel interests who are bitterly opposed to any idea that might interfere with their obscene profits. After all, most carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels. Even assuming the legislation passes both houses of Congress, there is little hope it would be approved by the current president.
Still, with the onslaught of natural disasters aggravated by rising global temperatures, the idea that climate action has to be taken seriously is beginning to gain traction with voters. It would help if elected officials actually represented the people who elected them rather than special interests. These five members of Congress are making a valiant attempt to chart a course for their colleagues to follow.
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