Whitehouse-Schatz bill opens serious discussion to price carbon

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Whitehouse-Schatz bill opens serious discussion to price carbon

JUNE 10, 2015 —  The revenue-neutral carbon fee bill introduced by senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) on Wednesday should open up a serious dialogue in Congress about climate change solutions, Citizens’ Climate Lobby said today.

Schatz and Whitehouse at AEI

Sen. Brian Schatz (left) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse unveil their bill at the American Enterprise Institute.

The Whitehouse-Schatz bill, The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act, would assess a fee on the carbon content of fossil fuels, starting at $45 per ton of carbon dioxide, and increasing 2 percent above inflation each year. Revenue from the fee would be returned to households and corporations in a variety of ways. About $2 trillion in revenue is expected to be raised over 10 years. A portion of the revenue would be used to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 29%. The remainder would be returned to households through payroll tax refunds, social security and disability programs, and per capita block grants given to states.

“This is not a problem that will be solved by one party,” said Mark Reynolds, Executive Director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). “All sides need to come together, and Sen. Whitehouse is proposing a solution that invites Republicans to come to the table. We don’t have to choose between the economy and the environment. There are solutions that benefit both.”

Whitehouse and Schatz unveiled their bill today at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that has previously broached the discussion of carbon pricing in the context of broader tax reform.

“There’s much to like in this legislation,” said Danny Richter, Legislative Director for CCL. “It’s a market-based solution that’s revenue neutral, which should be enticing for Republican lawmakers. While the price starts out strong at $45 per ton, we’d like to see a more aggressive rate of increase, which would send a stronger signal to the marketplace.”

CCL has been lobbying for a proposal known as Carbon Fee and Dividend, a steadily-rising fee on carbon-based fuels with all revenue given back to households.

“In less than two weeks, we’ll have 800 volunteers blanketing Capitol Hill to lobby for our proposal,” said Reynolds. “The Whitehouse-Schatz bill will certainly prime the pump for those discussions, and we’ll be looking to find Republicans who will step up for this type of legislation.

“Regarding the revenue return, we prefer giving all the money back as a dividend. As one of our board members, former Secretary of State George Shultz, says, this is ‘the most transparent, hardest to rig treatment of the revenue.’ ”

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Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Director 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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