A Market-Based Climate Solution Conservatives and CEOs Can Love
Is a nationwide tax on carbon a real possibility? It is if Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has his way. Whitehouse is sponsoring federal legislation that would charge a fee for carbon emissions and return the revenues to the American public.
To gain support for his revenue-neutral carbon tax, Whitehouse is reaching out to business leaders, saying the best way to get Republicans to buy in is to “get the corporate sector to stand up for climate action.”
Putting a price on pollution isn’t a new thing – in fact, as this article in The Hill points out, the idea of using market-based solutions to reduce emissions actually came out of the Reagan administration. The George H.W. Bush administration successfully used cap-and-trade to reduce the effects of acid rain. Though conservative politicians have resisted the idea of a carbon tax in recent years, a major opportunity exists right now for businesses to take the lead on market-based solutions. Business leaders have already thrown their support behind carbon pricing initiatives in several states – this may be their opportunity to broaden their influence to the federal level.
By Michael Green, contributor to The Hill
On Sept. 25, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) detailed his plan for combating climate change in the United States: put a price on the main instigator, carbon dioxide.
Whitehouse is the sponsor of legislation that would put a fee on greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. This bill, the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act, would charge the equivalences of the Obama administration’s estimated “social cost of carbon,” $45 per ton of carbon dioxide/equivalent emitted. The beauty of this proposed legislation is that it would not increase the size of the federal government. All revenue collected from this fee, around $2 trillion in 10 years, would be returned to the American public through corporate tax cuts and rebates to consumers, making it revenue neutral. The goal here is to make polluting industries more accountable for their impact while giving the incentive to reduce emissions.
Speaking to a group of CEOs and leaders of businesses groups in Boston, the senator spoke on the importance of businesses engagement for getting Republicans to support climate action: “How do we break Republicans free from the [oil sector]? You get the corporate sector to stand up for climate action.” Since the Citizens United ruling, Whitehouse argued, “it has been impossible to get the GOP involved in climate action.”
Image credit: Greg Nash