By Mark Aulman
Recent well-publicized reports from the United Nations, the U.S National Climate Assessment and Pentagon consultants all point to the growing risks of climate change around the globe.
The overwhelming scientific consensus is clear: Effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions must happen soon if we are to maintain a livable planet for our children, our grandchildren and unborn generations.
The urgency surrounding global warming was underscored this month when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered U.S. power producers to cut CO2 emissions 30 percent by 2030.
Critics of the Obama administration’s new rules are already lining up in opposition, citing higher energy costs for consumers, and loss of jobs.
But a new in-depth study from Regional Economic Models Inc. turns that notion on its head.
Since 1980, REMI has provided detailed economic impact studies for private-sector clients, universities and government agencies at all levels.
The current REMI study looks at the economic impact of a steadily rising national tax on carbon that returns revenue in equal shares to all American households.
The tax, based on the amount of carbon a fuel emits when burned, would start at $10 per ton of CO2 and increase by $10 per ton each year.
As you might expect, the impact of such a tax on CO2 emissions was dramatic, adding up to a 33 percent reduction by 2025 and 52 percent by 2035. And note that the tax limits CO2 from all sources, including transportation, a source the recent EPA regulations don’t cover.
What about the charge that a carbon tax would “kill jobs”?
The REMI study found that when revenue gets recycled back to households, the carbon tax actually would stimulate consumer spending and drive job creation, adding as many as 2.2 million new jobs in the first 10 years.
The big takeaway message is that fighting global warming and stimulating the economy do not need to be mutually exclusive choices.
Politicians who oppose EPA regulations now have the chance to support an alternative that stimulates the economy by returning hundreds of dollars annually to American consumers, while helping to drive new markets for energy innovation.
The simplicity of this market-driven approach probably explains why a revenue-neutral carbon tax is now being supported by leading conservative leaders including former Secretary of State George Shultz and Greg Mankiw, economic adviser to President George W. Bush and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
These commentators point out that a free market normally gravitates to things that are good for us, but sometimes the price of a commodity does not reflect the true costs that result from its use. For fossil fuels, such costs can be measured in rising seas, lives and property lost to more intense storms, oil spills and the mounting threat of armed conflicts over dwindling resources.
Who will ultimately pay the price for these events? The answer is you, me, our families, our kids and their kids for generations to come, unless we take action now.
If we can correct this price distortion through a steadily increasing carbon tax with dividends paid to American households, the market will move toward cleaner energy and greater energy efficiency, while creating millions of new jobs in the process.
That should be something we can all agree on.
The REMI report is available on the Web at www.citizensclimatelobby.org.
— Mark Aulman is a computer, communications and semiconductor industry consultant and a member of the Yolo Citizens’ Climate Lobby.