This month, Sens. Shaheen and Hassan joined other senators in sponsoring the Clean Energy for America Act, which would provide a much-needed overhaul of tax incentives for clean energy investment while repealing subsidies for fossil fuels. I applaud them for their efforts, but challenge them to take bolder action.
Tax incentives will not get us to the emissions reduction goals necessary to avert the worst effects of climate change as described by the 2018 IPCC report (45 percent below 2017 levels). Tax incentives for clean energy have been around for nearly 40 years yet, as of 2019, Americans are emitting more greenhouse gases than ever before.
The Clean Energy for America Act gets us closer, but we need to go further by recognizing greenhouse gases as pollutants and attaching a cost to them. Why is littering a crime in New Hampshire, fined at $2,000, but emitting greenhouse gases, which detrimentally impacts life across the entire planet, is scot-free?
In January, the House of Representatives introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (www.energyinnovationact.org). This bill is bipartisan and has 37 cosponsors. In short, fossil fuel companies would pay a fee based on the ton of greenhouse gases emitted by the extracted fuels, the government would collect the money and then re-distribute it to American households. Yes, all of it. Innovation and investment in clean energy would follow as market forces exerted their pressure.
But the bill doesn’t stop with the United States, which accounts for 15 percent of the greenhouse gases currently being emitted. By taxing imports based on their greenhouse gas contribution other countries would also be incentivized to reduce their pollution. Border adjustments, which are not addressed in the Clean Energy for America Act, are crucial to ensuring that emissions decline globally.
More than 3,500 of the world’s top economists support this fee and dividend model as the fastest, most economically sensible way to meet the goals outlined in the IPCC report. (The Wall Street Journal Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends)
Politicians are understandably wary of espousing a tax/fee of any kind, but we have boxed ourselves in. Eleven and a half years is a short time to achieve such ambitious global emission goals. In times like these we should not waver, but stand up boldly for what is most effective.
P.O. Box 267