Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Want to get a check from big oil every month? They think you should

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 3:37 PM

Major companies that have pushed back on carbon tax plans here and in other places took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal today to pitch an idea: tax carbon.

Yep. You read that right.

ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, and major corporations including Unilever, Procter & Gamble and General Motors, announced their support of a plan by the Climate Leadership Council on Tuesday, June 20.

The plan would tax carbon dioxide emissions starting 
click to enlarge Want to get a check from big oil every month? They think you should (2)
Climate Leadership Council
at $40 a ton.

The proceeds of the tax would go straight back to the American people on a "monthly basis via dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts," according to the council.

That could mean a family of four would get $2,000 in dividend payments in the first year, the council's site states.

The nation would agree to tax the carbon we emit, and have that rate increase over time in order to promote a decrease in emissions.

So, what's the catch?

Well, for one, the cost of that tax would be passed onto you, the consumer, in higher gas and fossil fuel prices.

Oh, and one of the pillars of the plan is "significant regulatory rollback," which, depending on where you stand, could be a good or bad thing.

Over time, the EPA would lose power and authority to regulate carbon dioxide, and the Clean Power Plan would be repealed:

"The final pillar is the elimination of regulations that are no longer necessary upon the enactment of a rising carbon tax whose longevity is secured by the popularity of dividends. Much of the EPA’s regulatory authority over carbon dioxide emissions would be phased out, including an outright repeal of the Clean Power Plan. Robust carbon taxes would also make possible an end to federal and state tort liability for emitters. To build and sustain a bipartisan consensus for a regulatory rollback of this magnitude, the initial carbon tax rate should be set to exceed the emissions reductions of current regulations."

The plan, put out in February, was authored by a group of conservative leaders that includes former secretaries of state, presidential economic advisers, businessmen and founders of the Climate Leadership Council.

At full implementation, the group estimates a family of four would get $5,000 a year in dividends, while gas would go up by $2 a gallon.

The idea is that the plan "would tip the economic scales towards the interests of the little guy, at the expense of the wealthy who will typically pay more, which could inspire a new constituency of climate advocates," the council explains on its website.

It's got the backing of physicist Stephen Hawking, a founding member of the council, as well as former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and other companies and organizations, including Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Santander, Total and Schneider Electric.

The plan's authors argue that the GOP needs to do something about climate change if it is going to appeal to younger voters and minorities.

"Increasingly, climate change is becoming a defining issue for this next generation of Americans, which the GOP ignores at its own peril," the plan states. "Meanwhile Asians and Hispanics — the fastest growing demographic groups — are also deeply concerned about climate change. A carbon dividends plan offers an opportunity to appeal to all three key demographics, while illustrating for them the superiority of market-based solutions."

The proposed starting point for the carbon tax is higher than the $25 per ton that would have taken effect if Washington state voters had approved Initiative 732 last fall.

I-732 failed to get support from environmental groups in the state — they said it didn't do enough to combat climate change and encourage a switch to renewable energy — and drew pushback from the fossil fuel industry and major companies that might have been impacted. Almost 60 percent of voters voted "no" on the initiative.

Ultimately, the plan proposed by the Climate Leadership Council would aim to get other countries on board with carbon taxes by having their products face fees on the way into the country, unless they have a carbon tax in place.

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...