600 Citizen Lobbyists Take Carbon Proposal to Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, DC, JUNE 27, 2014 – After meeting with 500 congressional offices on Capitol Hill, close to 600 Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers departed Washington this week with the strong sense that the conversation is shifting on climate change solutions, a shift that might lead to bi-partisan legislation that prices carbon.
The solution CCL volunteers took to the Hill is a carbon tax that gives all revenue back to households. Against the backdrop of new reports about the severe impact of global warming and the release of new EPA regulations on carbon emissions, CCL’s proposal gained traction as a way to bridge the partisan divide on dealing with climate change.

“CCL has been giving me hope. Now, after this conference, I have confidence,” said Jon Clark, Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for CCL.

Volunteers attending the 5th Citizens Climate Lobby International Conference (June 22-24) spent the first two days of the conference attending plenaries and workshops to prepare for meetings with House and Senate offices. They took to those meetings a study from Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) that examined the impact of a steadily-rising fee on carbon with revenue returned to households. Among other findings, the study shows that, after 20 years, a fee on carbon dioxide rising $10 per ton each year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 52 percent while adding 2.8 million jobs to the economy.

“The REMI study generated a lot of buzz on Capitol Hill,” said Danny Richter, CCL’s legislative director. “We heard back from a lot of our volunteers who met with Republican offices that there was a great deal of interest in the REMI study. We turned some heads.”

The CCL meetings on the Hill began the same day that a bi-partisan coalition released the Risky Business report on the high cost that global warming will have on the U.S. economy if left unchecked.
“When people like former Treasury secretaries Hank Paulson and George Shultz, both Republicans, start talking about the extreme risk of taking no action on global warming, it increases the pressure on Congress to come up with solutions,” said Mark Reynolds, CCL executive director. “Members of Congress and their staff were listening to our proposal in a way they hadn’t before, and the Risky Business report certainly helped to pique their interest.”

Just weeks before CCL’s conference, the EPA announced new rules aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from U.S. power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Republicans have denounced the new rules as an overreach by the administration and have vowed to block them. Three national polls, however, have given EPA’s proposed regulations overwhelming public support, even when people are told it will raise their utility bills. On June 23, the Supreme Court once again upheld the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon.
“We’ve reached a juncture where Republicans cannot reject solutions to global warming without offering solutions of their own,” said Reynolds. “We’re offering a market-based alternative to regulation that puts money in people’s pockets and adds jobs to the economy. It comes as no surprise, then, that Republicans are interested.”

JD Sullivan

JD Sullivan is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Green Action News. He has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism/Mass Communication. JD is passionate about journalism & sustainable living.

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3 Responses

  1. Jean-Louis says:

    The benefits of carbon taxing completely baffles this person. Either Elon Musk is far above my pay grade (no doubt) or I’m missing the whole point. But then it’s aid in this article that some politicians are really gung-ho in promoting the idea. And that’s where I’m perplexed the most. If some politicians understand the principle enough to promote it, and I think politicians are as close to the negative scale on an intelligence as it gets, tyhen where does that leave me? I’m afraid I’ve lost it all.. But in the end, isn’t the cost of paying more dollars through taxes paid by producing something, which is then itself responsible for ever-more carbon usage… ???

    • JD Sullivan says:

      Jean-Louis, the proposal by Citizen’s Carbon Lobby is not a tax. It is a “fee & dividend” structure. The difference between tax and a fee is often lost on people, but it is crucial, because Congress can spend tax revenues as they see fit. As a fee, the revenues will be required to be used in a particular way. And, the way they are used is… to go back into your pocket. Here’s a simple breakdown of how it works and why it is genius:

      Step 1. Carbon has a fee when it is generated at each stage of manufacturing based on international measurements.
      Step 2. Obviously, the company is going to pass the cost of the fee onto the consumer. But this is not where it ends.
      Step 3. We live in a highly competitive market. WidgetsRUS is motivated to keep their prices low, otherwise WidgetsXYZ might get their customers. So WidgetsRUS can reduce the cost of production by reducing their carbon emissions. This gives them an edge over WidgetsXYZ. WidgetsXYZ may in turn reduce their carbon emissions so as to be able to offer widgets that doesn’t pass the cost onto consumers. WidgetsGalore might come along and have the incentive to have low emissions, and so on. The producers are motivated to remove or reduce the carbon cost because consumers by and large make purchse decisions based on price.

      Step 4. So where does the fee end up? It ends up going back to you. Administered through the IRS, the big pool of money collected from fees is divided up near equal amoung all U.S. citizens with a slight proportion more going to low-income individuals.

      Step 5. Then the fee money is over with the consumers.
      a. Say you bought a low carbon widget. The price is lower than a higher carbon widget because the fee attached to it is lower.
      b. Plus, you are keeping your share of the dividend.
      c. Meanwhile, a neighbor, who buys the higher carbon widget, not only pays more for it due to the fee, their purchase contrbutes a greater proportion to the monthly pot ‘o fees than others are. You neighbor can still choose to continue making these sorts of purchases, but if they want to save money, they may be persuaded to make better choices.

      IOW – by making the lower carbon footprint purchase, you save money on the widget, you are contributing less to the dividend pool but still get your share. Your neighbor, pays more on the widget itself and is contrbuting more toward the dividend.

      The fee/dividend structure is what makes this unique from carbon tax schemes which have proven themselves in Europe to not work well, because the electric companies for example get a certain number of carbon credits – which they end up trading as a commodity, which does nothing to offset the carbon emissions, it just trades credits over to the bigger polluters. Plus Congress cannot touch it. The fees goes back to the consumer.

      Overall, it creates an incentive to produce less carbon at the production stages and an incentive to consume less carbon at the consumer level.

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