We can cure our fossil fuel addiction and in the process reduce emissions that cause climate change. It requires that we take actions for the public interest, not for special interests.
What we need is an approach that addresses the fundamental fact that keeps us addicted to fossil fuels: they are the cheapest form of energy, provided their prices do not have to include the damage they do to human health, the environment, and the future of our children.
For the sake of the people, especially young people, there should be a rising price on carbon emissions. The price should rise at a known economically sensible rate, so that businesses have time to plan their investments accordingly. The money collected should be put in the hands of the public, so they are able to make the purchases necessary to reduce their carbon footprint.
The money collected should not be used by Congress to invest in energy R&D. It has been shown time and again that Congress does not invest efficiently, and certainly not compared to the private sector. Private sector investments will be made if a rising price of carbon emissions is legislated through a carbon fee that makes the rising price explicit. The government already has resources to support research — it should not steal fee‐and‐dividend money from the public.
Contrary to claims of mainstream environmental groups and others politically invested in cap‐and‐trade, the legislative train has not left the station. There is time to negotiate and pass a simple transparent bill that is in the interest of the public. It should be a bi‐partisan bill that can be supported by conservatives.
Congress is accustomed to working with special interests. There is a revolving door between Congress and lobbyists. Ex‐members know the Washington ropes. The lobbyists wrote most of the pages in the 2,000‐page bills in Congress.
We, the public, cannot allow politics‐as‐usual to steamroll this topic. It is too important for the health of our economy, our children, and the other life on the planet. Fortunately, there are members of Congress who are beginning to understand the problem and move in the direction to address it.
Rep. John Larson’s with a rising carbon fee, addresses half of the task. The rate at which the fee rises in this bill is perhaps too slow, but the important point is to provide the business community and the public some certainty that carbon prices will rise so they can make decisions and investments accordingly.
Sen. Maria Cantwell’s also addresses half of the solution — distributing 100 percent of the proceeds to the public as a dividend. However, it is just as important to dispense with the “cap” approach, still present in the Cantwell bill, as it is with the “trade” aspect.
A cap is more complex than a fee (dollars per ton of CO2, applied uniformly at the source), so a cap is more subject to jerry‐rigging by special interests. But the fundamental reasons to remain dead‐set against the cap approach are these:
(1) Caps inherently cause prices to fluctuate wildly. Even if legislators attempt to outsmart the market by building in limits on the fluctuations, there is still uncertainty in the impact on energy prices. Business people need to have confidence about how prices will change in the future. Ditto, the public. If they expect prices to be fluctuating they are not as likely to make the lifestyle decisions that are needed to move us toward the cleaner future beyond fossil fuels.
(2) A cap‐and‐dividend approach is not a route to a global agreement. There is no way that developing countries such as China can accept a cap, given their state of development. The United States should be a global leader. The way to do that is to demonstrate an understanding of the global problem and provide a leadership example in solving it.