Lawmakers reintroduce bipartisan carbon fee bill

By Nick Sobczyk

GREENWIRE, Jan. 24, 2019

A group of House lawmakers today reintroduced a benchmark bipartisan carbon pricing bill, giving the legislation a few fresh faces for the new Congress.

The "Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act" would put a $15-per-metric-ton fee on carbon, rising by $10 per year, with net revenue given back to households as a rebate.

Climate Solutions Caucus Chairman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) is the lead sponsor of the bill, joined by his expected Republican co-chairman and fellow Floridian Rep. Francis Rooney.

The measure was the first bipartisan carbon pricing legislation in a decade when it was first introduced in November of last year, and it quickly got a companion in the upper chamber, led by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and then-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Supporters see it as a landmark, a sign the Republican Party is inching toward climate action after years of science denial driven by industry and conservative politics.

"Climate change is an urgent threat that demands urgent bipartisan action," Deutch said in a statement. "With this legislation, we are making clear to our colleagues that bipartisanship is possible — even necessary — to address climate change in this Congress."

Still, the bill currently has just one GOP co-sponsor — Rooney — and the Republican Senate still appears unlikely to take any major action to address climate change.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, one of the House Republican leads on climate and environmental issues, told E&E News this morning he would likely hop on as a co-sponsor.

But Fitzpatrick is also taking the lead on reintroducing the "MARKET CHOICE Act," the carbon tax bill first floated by then-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) last year.

The other co-sponsors on the "Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act" are Reps. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.).

The bill is largely the product of years of work by Citizens' Climate Lobby, the group behind the Climate Solutions Caucus, which has long lobbied for its vision of carbon fee and dividend legislation.

With Democrats in control of the House, the group thinks its bill actually has a shot at passing in this session, said CCL spokesman Steve Valk, though the Republican Senate remains a hurdle.

There have been a few technical changes to the measure since it was introduced just a few months ago (E&E Daily, Nov. 28, 2018).

For one thing, the emissions targets have been updated, in part to reflect projected enactment in 2020, and the annual increase in the carbon fee will now be adjusted for inflation.

Supporters say the current version of the bill would reduce carbon pollution by up to 45 percent by 2030 and more than 90 percent by 2050, all compared with 2016 levels.

The current measure, as it did last year, would also exempt agricultural fuels and toss out certain EPA greenhouse gas regulations for stationary sources. But vehicle fuel efficiency standards and methane regulations would stay in place, and regulatory authority would be restored if cumulative emissions targets aren't met after 10 years.

EPA regulatory authority has been a sticking point for conservative climate change groups such as the Climate Leadership Council, which argues for a market-based approach to climate change.

Those organizations have coalesced around the "Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act," though they're expecting a handful of other carbon pricing bills to be introduced in this Congress.

Regulatory reform has been a sticking point for Rooney, too, as he looks to take the Republican reins on climate change.

"I am supportive of a carbon fee as a non-regulatory, revenue-neutral and market-driven incentive to move toward natural gas and away from coal, and to support emerging alternate sources of energy," Rooney said in a statement.

"There are many proposals being suggested as to utilizing monies a carbon tax might generate, each with its own strengths and weaknesses — there are several favorable options, and this bill provides a method of ensuring that any fees are rebated back to the public."

Are Electric Cars Worth the Taxpayer Charge?

Letter to editor of The Wall Street Journal (published Jan. 7) in response to editorial (“The Electric Kool-Aid Subsidy Test,” Dec. 31) :

It is fine to suggest that the tax credit for electric vehicles should be given an end date, but let’s remember that the purpose behind it was to invest in innovation to speed the transition to a cleaner economy. In that sense it has been a big success: Last August EV manufacturer Tesla passed General Motors to become America’s most valuable carmaker, and finished 2018 with a market capitalization of $57 billion compared with $47 billion for GM. Tesla’s recent growth has been driven by sales of its Model 3 vehicle, which is America’s top-selling car by revenue.

Why should we cut off the incentive to buy Teslas and other EVs while we continue to subsidize fossil fuels so massively? Oil Change International estimates that the U.S. spends more than $20 billion annually to support oil and gas exploration and production. As long as the price of fossil fuels fails to cover their external costs to society—such as higher rates of lung cancer, heart disease and asthma, in addition to the costs of climate change—we will be subsidizing the energy system of the past.

We need incentives that will enable our country to lead the world in producing the cars of the future. That means continuing to invest in EVs.

William C. Eacho

Partnership for Responsible Growth

More Republicans Than You Think Support Action on Climate Change

New polls suggest Republicans’ views on global warming may be at a tipping point.

By Arlie Hochschild and David Hochschild

Arlie Hochschild is a sociologist. David Hochschild is a member of the California Energy Commission.

The New York Times, Dec. 29, 2018

Democrats and Republicans have clashed fiercely on many issues — the Mueller investigation, immigration, gun control — but can the two parties come together on climate change, the biggest issue of all?

Most analysts say no. After all, since President Trump took office, the terms “global warming” and “climate change” have been expunged from some government websites. Mr. Trump says his “very high level of intelligence” has led him to reject the findings of 13 federal agencies, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization.

But how many of his fellow Republicans agree? If we compare the extremes in each party — liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans — as the media often does, the split is clear. But if we compare all Republicans with all Democrats, we see a new and encouraging overlap.

In March, well before the most destructive wildfires in California history, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication polled 1,067 registered voters on climate change. The study found that while they disagree on the cause, majorities in both parties agree that the world is experiencing global warming and call for government action to address it.

The poll asked whether the United States should “set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public heath,” even if “the cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase.” Eighty-seven percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans said yes.

Should the United States require fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax and use the money to reduce other taxes (such as income tax) by an equal amount? Eighty-four percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans said yes.

Asked, “When there’s a conflict between environmental protection and economic growth, which do you think is more important?” 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans said that environmental protection should come first.

The survey also found that majorities in both parties think the government should fund research into solar and wind energy, offer tax rebates to those buying energy-efficient vehicles and solar panels, and encourage schools to teach children about the causes and consequences of global warming, and potential solutions. A majority of Democrats and Republicans believe the United States should participate in the Paris climate accord and reduce greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do.

A study conducted in June by Stanford, ABC News and Resources for the Future uncovered a similar trend. It found that 66 percent of Republicans believe the increase in temperature is “mostly or partly caused by humans.” Another poll, released last month by Monmouth University in New Jersey, found that most Republicans now support action on climate change.

To be sure, not every poll shows the same thing. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll recently asked people if they believed climate change is “serious” and requires “immediate action.” Only around 15 percent of Republicans said yes compared with 71 percent of Democrats. It’s notable that the poll did not ask, as the Yale study did, for views on specific remedies — which is where the two parties seem to find more common ground.

On a trip to rural Louisiana in 2016, we visited Mike Schaff, a Trump and Tea Party supporter who recently retired from a career in the oil industry. He had lost his beloved home to an enormous sinkhole caused by a reckless drilling company and become an active board member of Louisiana’s GreenArmy, a small but remarkable environmental group. But about climate change, Mr. Schaff shook his head. “I’ll worry about global warming in 50 years,” he said.

Out fishing on the bayou in the late-afternoon mist, he told us: “We’re running out of oil anyway, so I’d love to rely on clean energy. Wouldn’t have to drill. And as soon as it’s as cheap as fossil fuel, and feasible, I think we should switch. It would make us independent.” He continued, “It’s time for a modern-day Manhattan Project to effect a major change in the way humans use and produce energy.”

Climate change activists would do well to embrace Americans like Mike Schaff, even if they don’t agree on everything.

Many conservative Republicans feel that frightening news of climate change usually comes from alarmist liberals who belittle their religious faith, elitists who condescend to them and a federal government that, until Mr. Trump, had forgotten them. Curiously, Americans who live near extreme flooding and fires are no more likely to worry about climate change than those far from the threat of such disasters. But that doesn’t mean they can’t change their minds.

Studies by a University of Colorado psychologist, Leaf Van Boven, and two colleagues points to a “party over policy” effect, in which people’s views on a carbon tax depend less on the content of the proposal than on the party they believe proposed it. This is true for both Democrats and Republicans. So maybe Republicans just need to hear from messengers they trust.

A talk by an evangelical climate scientist, one study shows, altered the views of climate skeptics studying at evangelical colleges. Similarly, we need to find ways of showing science-doubting Republican oil workers that the leaders of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP have acknowledged the risk of climate change and that steps must be taken to address it. Republicans who greatly admire the military could learn about the ways the Pentagon has already acknowledged the risk of climate change as a security issue and has quietly set about installing renewable energy projects on bases across the country.

Democrats should celebrate Republicans who are out front on climate change. The Republican mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, recently announced, as a “nonpartisan issue,” his city’s commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 — a goal that is 10 years sooner than the one that California’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, set for the state. Twenty-nine states have renewable energy mandates in place; 13 were signed into law by Republican governors.

Two Republican former secretaries of state, George Shultz and James Baker, have called for a gradually increasing carbon tax, with all revenue rebated directly to the American people. A family of four would get about $2,000 a year in “carbon dividends.” The idea is similar to one backed by the nonpartisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which has more than 100,000 members and chapters throughout the country. It helped form the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus and has supported the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act now before Congress.

So while Americans have been focusing on the split between Democrats and Republicans, the more important gap may now be between Republican voters and the leaders they elected.

Unpredictable weather is not new, of course, but recent events are making climate change harder than ever to ignore, let alone deny. Over the past two years, wildfires have burned nearly three million acres in California, while hurricanes have battered the Southeast with increasing intensity.

The smoking ruins of Paradise, Calif., and Houston’s flooded homes, are as shocking and devastating, in their own ways, as the tragedy of Sept. 11. Climate change is a different kind of emergency. It does not occur on a single day, and no one person gave the order. But in the long run its impact will be greater. It’s time for us to join hands across party lines to address it.

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.”