By Jacob Abel and Tyler Gillette
Columbus OH- A carbon tax is an idea that is gaining steam as a possible policy to address emissions in the United States. As Republicans, we have seen during conversations with congressional staff and with our peers that they often have three big questions when the possible implementation of a carbon tax is brought up. They are: Why is a carbon tax needed? How is a carbon tax not simply the government picking winners and losers in the economy? Finally, why should we address emissions in the first place when China, India, and much of the developing world still emit so much carbon dioxide? These are good questions, but their answers show why a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the most effective policy.
The question of why a revenue neutral carbon tax is needed is perhaps the most important. Making sizeable gains in cutting emissions is vital according to the most recent National Climate Assessment. A revenue neutral, dividend based carbon tax is the least disruptive policy that we can use to lower emissions. It puts a per metric ton price on emissions at the source of these emissions, fossil fuel companies. The government would not keep the revenue from this tax but would rather return these revenues to the American people in the form of a dividend. This would help offset the rising energy prices from the implementation of a tax and would spare those who are most affected by rising energy prices—working class Americans—from undue financial harm.
Surprised to hear two Republicans advocating for a carbon tax? You shouldn’t be. A growing number of young Republicans, including us, are increasingly worried about the effects of climate change. It’s clear to us that the effects of climate change are already hitting Americans and our economy hard, making it all the more imperative to deal with the issue now before it becomes even more expensive. Effective policy to address climate change is something we will be looking for when we head to the polls.
Additionally, we have to look at where the market is already heading. Coal production in the United States in quickly falling, and automakers are heavily investing in electric vehicles. A carbon fee would help incentivize companies to innovate and lower their carbon footprint. It would also help bring emissions down faster since time is not on our side. Small impacts help but a carbon fee would make a large impact to reduce emissions and help make the change to a cleaner energy portfolio.
Even if you do not believe in climate change, a revenue neutral carbon tax is perhaps the best policy to address air pollution. Today, 114,000 American lives are lost each year due to air pollution. In the future due to this bill, 295, 000 lives could be saved through 2030 because of better air quality.
A carbon tax is seen by some as the government picking the winners and as a massive upheaval of the U.S. economy. The carbon fee levels the playing field and gives the market the chance to pick the winners and losers. It also incentivises innovation and rewards those who do, which is far better than government picking the winners.
The carbon tax does have some historical precedent within the Republican Party. Republican presidents have taken actions in the past which supported conservation and contributed to the overall welfare of society. Theodore Roosevelt, a father of American conservation, pushed for the establishment of our National Parks System and for anti-trust law. President Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol, which reduced CFCs and helped the ozone layer. President Nixon signed into law the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and created the EPA. Republicans have a great history of working to protect the environment, and this is something that we must continue to uphold. As Boy Scouts, we were taught to always leave a campsite cleaner than we found it, and we think this simple rule is one that the Republican Party should own.
The last question regarding India and China is one which, while it may be a challenge, should not be as big a road block as it currently is. Addressing massive global issues such as climate change takes leadership and, more specifically, American leadership.Refusing to address emissions because another nation is also a very large emitter sounds like America is taking a back seat, and waiting for other countries to lead. This way of thinking has no place in the United States. We find it hard to believe that if the United States, along with our European Allies, worked with China and India on a multilateral basis, to truly address their emissions that we could not come to serious solutions. Addressing climate change presents a very good opportunity for cooperation and the development of new technologies which the US could both apply at home and export abroad. The biggest step in addressing the other major CO2 emitters in the world is for the United States to make the issue an absolute priority.
Currently, Congress is considering a bipartisan bill, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763). It has 73 House members now signed on, including Republican Francis Rooney of Florida. This legislation would initiate a fee of $15 per metric ton of carbon, rising by $10 per ton each year. All revenue would be paid out equally to every household.
A carbon tax is one of the solutions that Republicans can offer up as policy to address climate change. A carbon tax is by no means the end all policy to address climate change policy, but it both encourages and coincides with innovation better than any policy. These are the conversations we must have within our party. They’re the conversations we have with members of Congress each time we visit Capitol Hill. We’re ready for more conservatives, whether you’re a voter or an elected official, to join the conversation with us.