It was a relief to listen to President Barack Obamas inaugural speech and hear him say, We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.
By LYNATE PETTENGILL
Special to The Star
Now the question is how exactly will America address the threat of climate change? Without much hope of Congress quickly passing effective climate legislation, President Obama will probably be forced to use his executive powers and ask the EPA to implement more stringent guidelines regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Republicans, who are likely to find this option unattractive, might want to consider leading the way to another solution: a revenue-neutral tax on carbon. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, could play a crucial role in this effort.
This market-based solution places a tax on carbon directly at its source, at the gas/oil well, coal mine or port of entry. Starting at $15/ton, this tax would increase $10 each year. Within a decade clean energy would be cheaper than fossil fuels, even accounting for the billions in subsidies, which the fossil fuel industry currently enjoys.
All the money collected from this tax is then distributed back to the American people on an equitable basis through a monthly bonus check.
Under this scenario, 70 percent of Americans would earn as much or more as they would pay for the increased cost of energy and associated goods a crucial selling point as it does not create an undue burden for the poor or middle class.
With a clear, consistent market signal, entrepreneurs and investors would jump into the green economy, helping us to pull ahead in world renewable energy rankings.
In an Aug.12, 2012, article on Bloomberg.com, Ernst & Young awarded China No. 1 ranking with a score of 70.2, while the U.S. and Germany tied for second place, both with scores of 66.
An on-again, off-again wind energy production tax credit policy is partly to blame for our countrys position in these rankings.
Uncertainty regarding the future of renewables would be eliminated with the passage of a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and we would create millions of new, green jobs as we move forward to become the world leader in renewable energy rankings.
Any cries you might hear of, This will kill jobs! is simply untrue.
In his book Building a Green Economy, Joseph Robertson reports the following: Direct job creation for oil and natural gas is 0.8 jobs per $1 million in output, and coals is 1.9 jobs per $1 million in output. Compare that to building retrofits for energy efficiency, which directly create seven jobs per $1 million in output. Mass transit services create 11 and the smart grid creates 4.3. Wind, solar and biomass power generation create 4.6, 5.4 and 7.4 jobs per $1 million in output respectively.
So back to the Republicans. Whats not to love about the revenue-neutral tax on carbon? It does not increase the size of government. It provides a market-based solution to the climate change crisis. It encourages innovation and entrepreneurial efforts. And it creates jobs!
America is a can-do nation. We just need a little nudge in the right direction; then our inventors, investors, and technicians can take it from there.
Mr. President, thank you for your commitment to addressing climate change this term! Now I ask the Republican members of Congress to take the lead by passing a revenue-neutral tax on carbon. Our children and future generations are counting on you.
Lynate Pettengill lives in Lawrence and is a regional coordinator with the Citizens Climate Lobby.