Last week’s op-ed by Diana Bernstein (“Take it from a Southerner: We must act now on climate change,” Sept. 25-26) highlighted two bills being considered in Congress that would help mitigate the climate crisis: a Clean Electricity Performance Program to shift away from fossil fuels, and a set of clean-energy tax credits to incentivize clean energy, storage, carbon capture and other technologies. There is a third program being considered that also deserves our attention — a carbon fee and dividend.
A fee on fossil fuels would shift us to clean energy even more quickly than incentives because when something gets more expensive, we buy less of it and look for better alternatives. Secondly, a gradually rising price like the one proposed in the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would not shock the economy and it would help businesses plan their future investments in equipment and infrastructure. Thirdly, if the money were given back to each person on an equal basis then low and middle income households are not harmed by any increase in prices of the fossil fuels they buy.
A fourth component, border carbon adjustments, would protect our businesses from foreign competition. Fossil fuels and energy-intensive products like steel would be taxed at our border if they are coming from a country that has no carbon fee of its own. We are about to experience the wrong end of this plan when the E.U. starts imposing a border carbon adjustment in 2023 and we do not have one in the U.S.
How would we get our dividend? The government sends out Social Security checks to us, it sent out COVID relief checks to us, and it could send us dividend checks as well. This carbon cash-back pricing is popular among economists and other experts who say it is the cheapest and fairest way to rapidly reduce climate pollution. Many New Hampshire towns have voted that they support this policy. Let your senators and representatives know you support a carbon fee and dividend.
(This writer is co-chair of the local Citizens Climate Lobby chapter and former state representative, serving on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.)