Washington alone can’t fix climate changes. National approach is needed

As Gov. Jay Inslee begins his presidential run, his long-term goal to turn Washington into a carbon-free, 100 percent clean energy state appears to be gaining traction among Democratic legislators.

This, despite the fact that the majority of citizens have demonstrated time and again they are not sold on the effort.

Last November voters soundly defeated Initiative 1631, which contained battle plans similar to the carbon reduction package Inslee is hoping to push through the Legislature this session. In 2016, voters opposed I-732, which was a close relative to I-1631.

Lawmakers are making the wrong choice if they approve a carbon tax plan the citizens of Washington clearly don’t want.

While we believe climate change is a serious threat to our world, we don’t believe a piecemeal, state-by-state approach is the solution. To be effective, this issue must be addressed in a uniform manner at the national level.

And no, we are not talking about the New Green Deal.

That’s an extreme, attention-grabbing plan by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, and Sen. Ed Markey, D-MA.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants to impose a carbon emission tax to fund projects that would help reduce greenhouse emissions. Opponents say it would be a burden on the middle-class and small businesses. Thinkstock Images thinkstockphotos.com

Instead, we are more impressed with another effort that has quietly been gaining bipartisan support among federal lawmakers.

Promising clean energy plan

It’s the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, and is the most promising clean energy plan we’ve seen to date.

This is a revenue-neutral, market-driven plan, and its backers have worked hard to address the economic concerns that beset other carbon-reducing bills.

Steve Ghan, a renowned Richland climate scientist, and other members of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby met recently with the Tri-City Herald Editorial Board to discuss the innovative proposal.

Ghan has retired from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is now spending his time on climate change policy. The bill he supports, HR763, would drive down America’s carbon pollution gradually.

Carbon fees

It puts a fee on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas but the money collected would go directly to American citizens in equal shares every month to spend as they like. Adults would get a full share and children would get a half.

The government would not keep any money from the carbon fee.

That bears repeating: The government would not keep any money from the carbon fee.

This is the primary reason the Carbon Dividend Act appeals to economists and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Inslee’s proposal for the state, however, would not work that way.

Under his plan, the carbon tax placed on business and industry would go right back into government coffers to purportedly support clean energy projects and help low-income communities harmed in the transition.

Inslee also suggested early in the year that the carbon tax could be used on a one-time basis to help cover a projected $1 billion shortfall for education.

This is where the flares need to come out.

Revenue-neutral approach

Taxes can be too easily diluted in the state general fund once they are imposed, and that’s why we prefer a revenue-neutral approach to reducing carbon pollution.

Inslee’s carbon tax proposal surely will burden businesses and consumers with an increase at the gas tank and on power bills.

It also could lead to what’s known as “carbon leakage,” where company heads decide to pack up and relocate to a state that is cheaper for them to operate.

We believe something must be done to reduce carbon emissions, but the effort must be made nationwide.

Washington residents cannot fix climate change alone, and it will be a hardship if we are forced to try.

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