OP-ED, DEC. 25, 2014
Soapbox: Gardner should back revenue-neutral carbon fee
By Chris Hoffman
As someone who prides himself on empowering people by getting government out of the way and letting innovation and creativity thrive, Senator-elect Cory Gardner should be solidly behind a revenue-neutral carbon fee.
A revenue-neutral carbon fee, also known as fee-and-dividend, is a policy supported by such Republican luminaries as former Treasury Secretary George Schultz and Greg Mankiw, adviser to former President George W. Bush and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. They like it because it delivers major benefits without growing the government.
What are the benefits? For starters, fee-and-dividend (F&D) adds 2.8 million jobs to the economy and $70 billion to the GDP — with a cumulative increase of $1.375 trillion over 20 years.
These numbers come from rigorous economic modeling conducted earlier this year by the respected independent national firm Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI). (For details see: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/remi-report)
In addition to the financial benefits, the REMI study showed that F&D would cut carbon pollution in half. Regardless of whether one thinks humans have caused global warming through our carbon emissions, it is certainly a solid conservative principal not to make a bad situation worse. And the more carbon we add, the worse things will get.
A 2014 study for the Colorado Water Conservation Board says rising temperatures will tend to reduce the amount of water in many of Colorado’s streams and rivers, melt mountain snowpack earlier in the spring and increase the water needed by thirsty crops and cities, according to the 2014 Climate Change in Colorado report. This is why three out of four Coloradans say the issue of global warming is personally important to them.
Fee-and-dividend could mitigate this harm to ranchers, farmers, skiers and outdoorspeople, and also reduce harm to Colorado’s economy while stimulating clean-energy entrepreneurship.
By supporting F&D Senator-elect Gardner would also be showing respect for our military. The Pentagon says climate change is a “threat multiplier” that makes their jobs harder and more dangerous, according to the Quadrennial Defense Review published in March.
Fee-and-dividend works by placing a fee on carbon-based fuels at the source (well head, mine mouth, port of entry). All of the money collected is returned to American households on an equitable basis. Under this plan, 66 percent of all households would break even or receive more in their dividend check than they would pay for the increased cost of energy, thereby protecting the poor and middle class. With an included WTO-compliant border fee adjustment, F&D ensures that domestic manufacturers are not put at a competitive disadvantage, and provides an incentive for other countries to put a price on carbon as well.
F&D is a market-based solution to a market distortion, where the price of fossil fuels does not reflect the health, security and environmental costs that arise from their use. If we fix this distortion — through a steadily increasing fee and dividend — the market will gravitate toward cleaner energy and energy efficiency without the need for subsidies or a morass of costly regulations.
The latest report from the world’s best climate scientists warns that continued emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses will increase the likelihood of “severe, pervasive, and irreversible” harm to people and the land we love. No father wants to inflict a future like that on his children. Senator-elect Gardner could give the best possible gift to his children by being a champion for fee-and-dividend.
After a 23-year career in the energy industry, Boulder resident Chris Hoffman works as an independent consultant. He is a member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (www.citizensclimatelobby.org), a national non-partisan organization working to create the political will for a livable world.
This op-ed was published in the Fort Collins Coloradan.