Cheryl’s Blog

Carbon fee: Republicans are starting to hear the free-market message

Today was CCL’s lobby day on Capital Hill. More than 350 CCL volunteers, including 20 Canadians from BC, Ontario and Quebec, met with Members of Congress, Senators and their aides.

I could have easily felt discouraged by my first meeting. Five of us – two young ladies from Oregon, two from Wisconsin and myself – met with the energy aide of a mid-western Senator.

The office was in the Russell building, a glorious classical building with high ceilings. The aide was late. We had chatted up the legislative assistant in the waiting room. When the aide arrived, her cold reception collided with the assistant’s affable charm.

We followed the aide into a meeting room down the hall. She said nothing to us on the way to the meeting. We began with our customary time check and personal introductions. We thanked her for the work the Senator did on a particular file. The aide said nothing – total flat afflict.

We asked her what she thought was the best mechanism to help the country transition to clean energy. She mentioned biofuel, and also launched into some of her priorities, such as keeping energy rates low, which was very informative and representative of a typical concern.

We explained our policy: place a rising fee on carbon, extracted from the wellhead or point where it spills into the market, and distribute the revenue equally to American households. She told us that a carbon fee was off the table, despite supporting market solutions. We explained how our proposal was market-based: it would internalize the externalities, or societal costs associated with the burning of fossil fuel (the polluter pays); it would be revenue neutral, which would not increase the size of government; and, it would send a predictable and transparent price signal to businesses and industry to improve energy efficiency and invest in renewables.

The aide remained unmoved.

But at one point she smiled. She smiled when I said, as a Canadian, I recognize that Americans are geniuses when it comes to innovation. They have given us TV, the automobile, the airplane, the Intranet. Once we place a rising fee on carbon, we will see innovation in green energy like we have never seen before, and it is American ingenuity that will make it happen.

Who knows what will stick with her. CCL has a chapter in the state, but its members were scheduled for a meeting with their Member of Congress that same time. We will provide them with our notes and let them continue to build this relationship.

Who knows? She may be more receptive to this idea in her second meeting with CCL, or third, fourth, fifth. Some CCL members report breakthroughs during the sixth meeting.

After coming out of one of her meetings, Lyn Adamson, one of our CCL members in Toronto, bumped into exuberant CCL volunteers who felt they found a Republican Member of Congress who may be interested in introducing a fee and dividend type bill. They had provided the Congressman’s aide with informative resources for several days leading up to the meeting.

This is what happens when we build relationships.

I am hearing from others that some Republicans are more interested in the policy, coming off the heels of President Obama’s announcement today of his national climate action plan.They prefer a market-based solution rather than a regulatory approach. Obama felt he had no choice but to use the tools at his disposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, given the current climate of Congress, which has stalled on enacting any plan to address the climate crisis.

We are also hearing from aides and representatives that CCL is doing the right thing – lobbying. We just need to build more support in the Congressional Districts, and also Canadian ridings. We need more people on the ground building political will. And that means you. Yes you. We need you to write to your representative, telling them how you feel about climate change and that you support a revenue neutral carbon tax. Experts tell us it is the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a clean energy economy. British Columbia is leading the way with its carbon tax. Its economy is doing just fine.

We need you. We really do. To learn how you can get involved, visit www.citizensclimatelobby.ca

Cheryl McNamara, CCL Toronto Group Leader

Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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