Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we have enjoyed the benefits of fossil fuels. Today, we understand that there are health, environmental, and economic costs associated with fossil fuel use.
The growing burden of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), is changing our climate and increasing the risk of catastrophic climate events. We want our children and grandchildren to have clean air, safe drinking water, and a healthy environment as we did. To do that, we need to cut our fossil fuel use and shift to renewable energy sources in a way that does not damage our economy.
Wanting to help make this a reality, a group of Wichita citizens formed a chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. We are a bi-partisan, non-profit organization working to build relationships with members of Congress. We work to build the political will for Congress to pass legislation to reduce carbon emissions and create job opportunities in renewable energy.
CCL supports the carbon fee and dividend proposal as co-authored by Secretary George Shultz, Republican statesman and secretary of State, Labor, and Treasury. The proposal would collect a fee on carbon at the point it enters the economy, initially at $15 per ton of CO2.
A border adjustment protects American workers, businesses and agriculture. The carbon fee is not a tax as it would be rebated 100 percent to American households.
The fee will initially increase the price of gasoline about 9 cents per gallon in the first year and about 6 cents each succeeding year. Other fuels will see a similar price increase. Rising energy costs will be offset by the carbon dividend which, for a family of four, will be about $30 per month the first year and grow to over $200 per month after 10 years.
People who reduce their fossil fuel use, or choose renewable energy, will be able to increase their disposable income by saving more of their dividend. The monthly dividend check will also remind every family that they have a stake in reducing carbon emissions.
To see the effect of the carbon fee and dividend on the economy, CCL commissioned a research study by the nonpartisan Regional Economic Models. The study found that the carbon fee and dividend approach would reduce the carbon emissions to 50 percent of the 1990 levels in just 20 years. During that time, it would add 2.1 million jobs to the American economy, increase the gross domestic product by $75 billion, and save 220,000 lives by reducing lung and heart diseases.
We have confidence in our work because we see progress. Seventy-two members of Congress (36 Republicans and 36 Democrats) now sit on the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus we promote. This caucus explores policy options that address the challenges of our changing climate.
There you have it. CCL’s carbon fee and dividend proposal will allow us to avoid the cost and risks of climate change. It provides the certainty needed for long-range planning and lets consumers and markets determine winners and losers, not regulators. It sends a market signal to entrepreneurs that there is profit in adopting energy-saving technologies and offering innovative energy-saving or low carbon products. And it assures our children and grandchildren will have clean air, pure water, and a healthy environment.
Darrel Hart and JC Moore are with the Wichita chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.