“Houston, we’ve had a problem”…but for not much longer!
With every election held in America, citizens come together to compete at the ballot box for their chosen candidates and proposals. More insistent and on a far larger scale, the economy and society our representatives are elected to govern cooperate in a spirit of opportunity and enterprise to rapidly forward a better future. Increasingly fierce competition in ideas and projects has ever perfected our union, bringing us solutions to problems once feared intractable. The population explosion, formerly deadly diseases like typhoid, yellow fever and smallpox, clean water, food, public education, a national highway system, air travel, even landing on the moon proved solvable when citizens of good will have come together around a real solution.
This work is not over! There remain externalities that prevent our economy and society from solving some very real and pressing problems. Our next common-sense solution, emerging over this next year, addresses the most challenging problem not only for America, but around the world. For the past 157 years, Houston’s mainstay industry, producing energy from oil and other fossil fuels has not internalized the costs of disposing its waste products into the open atmosphere, clearly causing climate to change in unprecedented ways. Instead, mounting costs of severely damaging and crazy weather, rising and acidifying seas, melting permafrost, rising extinctions and reduced biodiversity from shifting climate zones, greater competition for fresh water with less snowfall and retreating glaciers, advancing wildfires and diseases, failing crops…are all currently left for public funding sources to clean up, or simply ignored and punted into an unknown future.
Amid calls for solutions ranging from dire – like geoengineering – to ineffectual – like cap-and-trade, there is one clear stand-out. It is the carbon fee-and-dividend. It is revenue-neutral, unlike a tax. The substantial and slowly rising fee is charged directly at the source to each company that generates fossil-carbon-based fuels – on the order of a thousand entities in the US – and is directly proportional to the amount of carbon these fuels contain. This means that coal will bear about 1.6 times the carbon fee that natural gas will bear, with gasoline sandwiched somewhere between, with cleaner fuels charging less. It is the missing incentive that the free market and its consumers – we –need to make reasonable choices among, and beyond, fossil fuels.
Because a carbon fee is charged at the source – the wellhead, mine or international port of entry – it will inevitably be passed on to the consumers of fuels produced from these natural resources. The second half of the carbon fee-and-dividend solution becomes so important. A direct dividend is put back into the pockets of consumers on a straight per-capita basis. All of the fees collected during a given period – say a month or a week – will be evenly distributed to all legal residents of our nation at the rate of 1 share per adult, and half-shares per child up to two children total. Those persons who do better than average mitigating against climate change will see their outlays for the increased cost of fossil fuels returned to them, with a small premium for their trouble. Those who do better than average at mitigating fossil fuel use will include most of the people – over 80% – because as the richest quintile will soon discover, they consume vast amounts of fossil fuel! These dividends become a convenient way for the common person to save and invest in personal solutions that further limit their exposure to carbon fees – say a photovoltaic solar system, organic and better-tasting locally-grown fruit, a fully-electric vehicle, a more efficient air conditioner, low-e windows or simply better insulation and weather sealing.
This solution works. It uses the free market to the greatest of its strengths! An upper bound is the current price of physically scrubbing carbon and returning it to solid earth reservoirs! It rises reliably and imperceptibly as a fractional portion of natural market price increases that occur! The anger at rising fossil fuel prices will remain where it does the most good – against the fossil fuel industry! All incentives will align to boost consumer action toward ever-greater fossil fuel independence just as corporate America is kick-started to innovate to meet this increasing consumer demand! Those with the greatest exposure to fossil fuel expenses can reasonably be expected to exert themselves to reduce this liability as quickly as possible!
All the collateral benefits of reduced fossil fuel use will also accrue to the public – lower levels of toxic air pollutants and the health risks these present, healthier foods and the health benefits these represent, gradual retirement of fossil fuel infrastructure and the safety and environmental risks these represent! All without increasing government agency, nor entanglement with government coffers! A carbon fee and its direct dividend distributed to the public are the kind of carbon price signal that is proven most effective at quickly reversing our trend toward ever-greater fossil fuel burning in the most natural – and comfortable – way possible! Even fossil fuel companies, now led by Exxon-Mobil, will gain public permission to operate as consumers transition from begrudging expenses sent down a black hole, to receiving a regular dividend! Carbon fee-and-dividend incentivizes forthright action across the US and global marketplace!
If you want to find out more about the carbon-fee-and-dividend proposal, please visit http://citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-fee-and-dividend/ to get answers and to find other people just like you who are discovering that what once seemed impossible to solve in fact has found resolution. It’s a solution we can unite around as people from every sector and strata. And with protection against nonconforming states, we can even unite around a fee-and-dividend across nations and the globe. It’s a simple and elegant solution that properly reflects conservative values of our center-right majority, AND the urgent direct action demanded by the center-left minority to solve our most encompassing and complex issue in greatest clarity.