For a while now, we’ve been talking about a fee-and-dividend system (shortly to be explained) as the best public policy to combat climate change. We didn’t think it would get any real discussion in the media or in Washington. And yet, now, people are talking about plans that have significant fee-and-dividend elements! Wow!
Basically, fee-and-dividend is a price/tax on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases where all the revenue goes back equally in checks to every American (or every citizen or everyone over a certain age). Through the tax/fee, administered as far upstream (near the point of initial extraction) as possible, it prices the true cost of fossil fuel usage into market prices, creating a market-based structure that incentivizes products and modes of production that pollute less. The dividend, or rebate, resembles Alaska’s oil fund dividend except that here the money comes from a program that helps the environment, rather than the profits reaped by harming it. The money ensures that people are able to deal with the increased costs that companies will certainly pass on in large part to consumers. Even better, because everyone gets the same dividend check, those corporations and individuals who pollute more than average will pay more tax than they get back, while the majority who pollutes less will actually get more back than they pay in. In this way, those who pollute more are essentially paying those who pollute less for destroying their planet, while creating a price-structure that incentivizes the transition to a sustainable economy overall. It’s quite beautiful.
Already this year, our favorite Senator, Bernie Sanders (Ind.-VT), and Sen. Boxer (Dem.-CA) have introduced a carbon price bill that would rebate 60% of the revenue as a dividend, use $300 billion over 10 years to pay down the deficit, and invest more in green technology research and development. We’d definitely prefer a pure, 100% rebate, but this bill would certainly be a great achievement with great potential to lessen the catastrophic impact of climate change. Now, a few Democratic representatives and senators have floated a similar idea and are ASKING FOR PUBLIC COMMENT. Please read this article and write in with your opinions (before April 12!) to email@example.com. The fight for this legislation is still like pushing a rock up a mesa, but it looks like Obama’s going to bother to give a nudge this year and the rock is slowly ascending, rather than crushing our bodies at mesa-base as it has done for the last four years.
This legislation will not pass without significant popular pressure. Extremely wealthy oil, coal, and gas companies will spend millions on advertisements and lobbyists to turn public opinion and politicians against carbon pricing. You can, for free, use your voice to talk to your fellow citizens, bedmates, family unit compatriots, corporate victims, and wonderful friends about the need for a carbon price. And you can write and call your representatives… and, because they are ultimately dependent on votes to keep their power, they actually sometimes listen to what their electorate wants! If you voted for them last time, you can tell them they need to support this to keep your vote. If you didn’t, tell them you might if they do the right thing here. If you won’t vote for them anyway, tell them you’ll volunteer for their opponent. That really scares ’em. Anyway, democracy is not a spectator sport, so let’s watch it a little less and do it a little more. I love you all.
– Adam (w/Jesse)
P.S. You can check out our podcast about carbon pricing here!
P.P.S. We’ve learned an awful lot about Arkansas and the profound implications of what we’ve witnessed in impoverished rural communities of the South. We’ll be sharing soon!