By Jim Stiles
Our future is in danger, but we have a powerful solution. We have the ability to face climate change head on. A carbon compensation fee levied upon polluters can be an important tool to reduce carbon emissions. This will help nearly everyone both in their pocketbooks and with their health. And it can save the planet. Green Energy Times refers to it as a carbon compensation fee because it compensates all of us for the damage polluters do.
British Columbia (BC) introduced its carbon tax in 2008, and it has been so successful that it is now being copied by Alberta, a province that has been dependent on fossil fuel production. It is time to do it here, in the United States. Progress is being made to introduce such fees in Vermont and Massachusetts, and we hope other states will follow. Vermont’s proposed plan is based on the successful implementation in BC.
How does this work? Carbon compensation fees would be charged on fossil fuels based on their carbon content. The income from the fees would reduce everyone’s taxes and help support people with lower incomes to compensate for any extra burden they would bear. Higher cost of fuel makes energy conservation measures more attractive. When implemented in Vermont, the fees would lower taxes such as the sales and income taxes, to free up money for energy conservation.
It gets better. Since Vermont does not produce fossil fuels, it must import them, taking two billion dollars a year out of the state’s economy. Moving away from fossil fuels will result in much of that being retained in the state. This would be very good thing for Vermont’s economy.
This approach has worked so well in BC that it has become the most prosperous of all the Canadian provinces. The program under consideration in Vermont is based on BC’s. In fact the fee schedule for the first year would be identical – $10 per ton of carbon in fossil fuel imports in the first year. In BC it then increased at increments of $5 per ton for the next four years to $30 per ton total.
The proposal for Vermont differs from BC’s because Vermont would keep raising fees at the initial rate until they reach $100 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted, in ten years. So ten years out, the cost of gasoline would have increased by 88¢ a gallon, home heating fuel by $1.02 a gallon and other fuels by similar amounts.
The proposal for how Vermont would use the revenues is also similar but not identical to BC’s. In BC, 100% of revenue goes to offset taxes. In Vermont the proposal is to use 90% to offset taxes and 10% to mitigate the impact of the changes on those who are hit the hardest.
The Earth’s atmosphere is rapidly becoming a particularly tragic commons. As with any other commons, be it a village green in Vermont or the vast Pacific, abuse is their normal fate unless some means of regulating overuse is enforced.
We have seen nations try to band together and come up with a reasonable approach, most recently at the Paris Climate Conference. While Vermont’s impact on global warming may seem small, our example will be huge. The risks from failure to lead the way are far greater than the risks of failure to act.
The example that BC provides can guide us to work out whatever problems opponents are voicing. Their concerns should and will be addressed.
Global climate change is almost certainly real, and well over 99% of climate scientists agree on this. MSNBC did a survey of nearly 70,000 atmospheric scientists who published in peer-reviewed journals and found only four who were willing to deny the problem. Elon Musk and Dr. James Hansen are among the many agreeing that it would be insane to believe the four deniers. They also agree that the solution at hand is a carbon fee.
There are opportunities that will make doing the right thing attractive. In this case, a carbon compensation fee can bring new prosperity to our state. Besides reducing carbon emissions, Vermont’s payrolls are expected to grow by over $150,000,000 a year when the carbon fee program is implemented. This could also mean at least 2000 more jobs.
Even though no state can have a dramatic effect on global carbon dioxide emissions by itself, each can do its part and prosper as it does so. Vermont can provide effective leadership for other states, as it often does. If Vermont does not do it, someone else must. The alternative of no leadership from anyone is too grim to contemplate.
The editor and staff of Green Energy Times find the fundamental arguments in favor of carbon compensation fees compelling. A stronger state economy is a good thing. Doing the right thing is something Vermonters care about. Details can be worked out. We hope our readers will do their best to help find best way forward with this exciting opportunity.
For Vermonters who want to weigh in with their legislators, find contact information at http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2016. Do your best to think it through so you can make your opinions clear to them – what you like, what you dislike, and how you would like to see questions resolved, along with any other specifics you want to share.
Editor’s note: Please do keep in mind that Nature waits for no one.