Use a market approach with climate change
By Carlos Boueres
Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives is embarking on a mission that has questionable purposes.
A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing titled “The Obama Administration’s Climate Change Policies and Activities.” This is a global issue with repercussions for our local economy and our way of life.
Remember, the president made an important speech some time ago in which he vowed to strike out on his own on a path of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants by regulatory means. In other words, let the Environmental Protection Agency solve the climate crisis, just as we partially “solved” the acid rain problem by reducing sulfur dioxide emissions from plants.
But this is easier said than done for the climate change problem.
The purpose of the House hearing is not to give substance to the president’s agenda, nor to advance the goal of solving the climate crisis, but rather to attack the president’s plan. Congress is not serious about confronting the ultimate challenge of our times — how to prevent future generations from inheriting a boiling planet of our doing — mainly because the fossil fuel industry has bought influence over our representatives. But Congress cannot ignore the “white elephant” in the room much longer. The electorate will ultimately exercise its voting rights and throw out those opponents to action.
There is no need here to present the scientific evidence for a changing climate as the result of human activities. Stay tuned, because the International Panel on Climate Change will soon release its next report concerning the evidence. .
Back to what Congress can do: There is a free-market approach that should appeal to both Democrats and Republicans, which would bypass the plan for regulations — a cumbersome and inefficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is reason to believe that this free-market approach may even be supported by some progressive executives of the major energy companies and fossil fuel suppliers. There are a number of experts among conservatives who could testify at the House hearing in favor of this market-based approach: Art Laffer (former Reagan economic adviser), Greg Mankiw (economic advisor to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney), Andrew Moylan (R Street Institute), Gary Becker (Nobel laureate economist) and George Shultz (former secretary of state), among others. But they must be invited to the hearing!
This market-based approach is something that the nonprofit and nonpartisan Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) has been advocating for the past four years. It is referred to as the “fee-and-dividend” solution. The instrument is quite simple: Set a progressive fee on the price of carbon derived from fossil fuels and return all dividends to qualifying U.S. residents (primarily those tax-paying citizens). This approach works with already existing government structures and tax laws, with minimal impact on administrative operations. More details on this can be found at the CCL website (www.citizensclimatelobby.com), including an economic analysis of the approach.
Contact your representatives and ask them to use this opportunity to learn of the above alternative and to invite more people to testify, as suggested by CCL.
Carlos Boueres is a longtime resident of Tallahassee. He is a physicist, environmental expert, educator and consultant in energy, environment and architecture. He is a part-time teacher at Tallahassee Community College. He is a member of the CCL-Tallahassee chapter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WEB LINK: http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20130917/OPINION05/309170004