New York Times: Best Way to Fight Climate Change? Put an Honest Price on Carbon

By The Editorial Board

Will voters in Washington State breathe new life into the idea of taxing carbon emissions? Plenty of people worried about the earth’s future certainly hope so.

Climate scientists and economists have long argued that the single best way to slow global warming is to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and raise that price over time, thus creating a sensible market incentive to reduce emissions and invest in cleaner energy sources. Carbon pricing was also high on the list of urgent recommendations of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned in a major report this month that without swift action to control emissions the world will begin suffering global warming’s worst consequences — including, but not limited to, the displacement of millions of people by drought and sea-level rise — as early as 2040, much sooner than previously forecast. 

It is thus encouraging that in this time of torpor and climate denial at the highest levels of the federal government, voters in the state of Washington will soon be given the chance to adopt, by initiative, a carbon pricing plan that would charge polluters like refineries a fee for emitting greenhouse gases. This would be what economists call a Pigovian tax, after the British economist Arthur Pigou. In this case, the fee would factor in the now unaccounted for costs of more frequent and intense hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and other natural disasters linked to climate change. In the words of George Frampton, a senior environmental adviser to Bill Clinton and co-founder of a group that favors carbon taxes, Partnership for Responsible Growth, it’s an overdue stab at “honestly pricing carbon,” which industry has until now been able to hurl into the atmosphere pretty much for free. 

Polling so far suggests a close vote. Opponents of the measure, including such big oil companies as BP and Chevron, have raised more than $25 million to get people to vote no; in addition, Washington voters soundly defeated a carbon tax the last time it appeared on the ballot, in 2016. But other powerful forces, including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, have ponied up in support this time.

The Hill: Energy companies praise GOP lawmaker’s carbon tax bill

A group of companies in oil, natural gas, chemical manufacturing, utilities and other industries are praising a Republican lawmaker’s legislation to impose a carbon tax.

Companies including BP America, Shell, PG&E Corp., Dow Chemical Co., DuPont, Equinor US, National Grid and General Motors signed onto a letterWednesday to Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) that stopped short of endorsing the bill, but called it a welcome development toward meaningful climate change legislation.

Time: Why Some Republicans are Rethinking Climate Change


July 26, 2018

The Republican Party questions the science of climate change and the need to address it more than any other party in the Western world. Which is what made a rare moment of dissension this week so remarkable.

On July 23, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida introduced carbon tax legislation that would require companies to pay for emitting carbon dioxide and then allow the government to use the proceeds to fund an infrastructure program. The effort, co-sponsored by GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, is going nowhere in this GOP Congress. Just four days earlier the House passed a resolution condemning a carbon tax as “detrimental” to the U.S. economy, which only six Republicans opposed.

But the dueling GOP takes on a carbon tax highlight the growing likelihood of a clash within the party. Climate change isn’t going anywhere as a political issue, as intense heat waves and storms become more frequent and voters and businesses increasingly demand solutions. As a result, some conservatives say, Republicans may soon face a choice: propose realistic conservative solutions to the problem, or lose relevance.

“The pendulum will swing,” says former South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis, a Republican who runs RepublicEn, a non-profit advocating for conservative solutions to environmental issues. “And when that pendulum swings…it may just be the solution you don’t want on climate.”

The business world may help shape the party’s internal debate. Big corporations have shifted gears in their approach to climate issues, including many in industries that traditionally support the GOP. In response to Curbelo’s proposal, three leading oil and gas companies—Shell, Equinor and BP America—joined a slew of other corporations to pen a letter expressing support for a carbon tax. “We welcome your demonstrated commitment to finding common ground on federal policies that can mitigate the effects of climate change,” says the letter.

Other significant energy players that did not sign on to the letter, like ExxonMobil and Total, have also endorsed a carbon tax as the most efficient way to address global warming. Yet most of these companies have not investing in lobbying Congress on the issue. And the most prominent trade groups —such as the influential American Petroleum Institute—have not supported such a move. “ExxonMobil has 100 things they want from U.S. Congress,” says Inglis. “A carbon tax is probably [number] 97.”

Indeed, a carbon tax is likely not something that those players want to happen anytime soon, but rather a potential compromise if climate change regulation comes to seem inevitable. Around the globe, developed and developing countries have enacted measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It may not happen during the Trump administration, but most energy experts expect the U.S. will be forced to do the same. When that happens, big businesses prefer a simple measure like a carbon tax over complicated regulation.

That’s part of the reason why companies committed early to the Paris Agreement and have sought to keep a seat at the table in international climate-change discussions. “If you’re a corporation you’re going to look at this really objectively,” says George David Banks, former international energy advisor in the Trump administration. “Climate policy is not going away. You have to factor that in. You have to plan for it.”

At the same time, Republicans face a changing political reality: younger voters are more likely than their older counterparts to say that climate change is happening and must be addressed. Polling from earlier this year released by the Alliance for Market Solutions found that more than half of young Republicans are concerned about the issue. Nearly a quarter of people under 30 who identified as Republican in 2015 have already left the party, according to the Pew Research Center.

“When you see young people signing up from both parties,” former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz said earlier this year, referring to college Republicans supporting a carbon tax, “that’s a signal that the future wants to have action now.”

None of this means Republicans are anywhere near passing meaningful climate change legislation. President Trump has called global warming a “hoax,” and many top Republicans in the White House and in Congress are skeptical about the science of climate change, raising questions about its severity or outright denying it. Many Republicans also still depend on support from business interests—such as the coal and manufacturing industries—that see climate change regulation as a threat. Those industries might not weigh in publicly, but independent groups that pour money into Congressional races have the potential to punish candidates who fall out of line.

But it’s clear that more Republicans have realized that the topic isn’t going away. Forty-three Republicans have joined the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group in the House meant to foster discussion on the issue. Right now the majority of its Republican members continue to oppose many meaningful climate measures, but they insist that climate change is real and that they want to do something about it. Even that position is inconsistent with Trump’s and those of many party elders. “We’re seeing trends in the House that should give us all hope,” Curbelo said Monday.

No one expects the party to change overnight. But a shift in political winds, like a new administration, could quickly accelerate the climate conversation, prompting Republicans to reckon with the party’s stance on the subject. “These moments can come about, as I know from my time in government, sooner than people think,” former Obama energy advisor Jason Bordoff, director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said Monday. “We want to make sure when that moment comes we’re ready.”


New York Times: Congress and a Carbon Fee

By William C. Eacho

Re “The Silver Lining of Leaving Paris” (editorial, June 2):

While everyone on the planet should be grateful that various American states and cities are taking responsibility for fighting global warming, the world’s richest country must simply find the will to enact a national solution.

The quickest, most efficient and most potent solution, according to economists, is a carbon fee. Since air pollution, climate change and other problems are caused by burning carbon, the price of carbon should include the costs that those problems impose on all of us and on our economy.

If Congress put a fee on carbon emissions, the free market would accelerate the shift toward sources like solar and wind power. And one price for carbon would make much more sense than a variety of prices set by states.

Council of American Ambassadors: An Opportunity for President Trump to Lead

By William C. Eacho, The Ambassadors REVIEW Spring 2018 Issue

Every day, in countries around the planet, government employees are working on plans that will reduce greenhouse emissions, as each nation promised to do at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Here in Washington? No one has such an assignment.

Global leadership used to be an American staple. In fact, we were in the vanguard a couple of years ago when 195 nations assembled in Paris to finalize the climate change accord. In a 180-degree reversal, President Donald Trump opted to withdraw from this pact. But since the rules do not allow that withdrawal to become official until November 4, 2020, there is time for our government to regain its leadership role as the world struggles to meet this fundamental challenge. And the President can do so in a way that strengthens the global competitiveness of the U.S. economy.

How? Ask almost any economist what is the quickest, most efficient and least expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and he or she will say, “a carbon tax.” Carbon has benefited from a subsidy from day one. Yes, fossil fuels have played a critical role in U.S. prosperity, but they also have driven up the rates and severity of lung cancer, asthma, heart disease and other ailments. In addition, they are the leading cause of climate change, which scientists have concluded is running up the frequency and intensity of wildfires, superstorms and other natural disasters. Yet the price we pay for carbon does not cover any of these costs; all of us pick up that tab.

Bill Eacho's Briefing on Climate Policy at Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business

"Bill Eacho, Former U.S. Ambassador and CEO, and Founder of the Partnership for Responsible Growth, discusses the state of climate policy and its business implications. Part of ClimateCAP: The Global MBA Summit on Climate, Capital, & Business. Hosted in 2018 at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business in partnership with 16 leading business schools."