A solution in search of a hero

Appearing on-line in the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 Opinion column by Jim Probst, state coordinator of West Virginia Citizens’ Climate Lobby

We have been through an awful lot in the past 12 months and, as we begin to see some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, we are being reminded of the one overriding crisis that is not going away anytime soon — climate change.

But, after four years of inaction and denial from our leadership in D.C., our members of Congress and our new president at least appear to be coalescing around one thing: the need to do something.

Many that have studied the various approaches to tackling climate change believe that the most effective first step is to put a price on carbon and to include a dividend to be paid to the American public to offset increases in energy costs.

In a statement published in The Wall Street Journal in December, 2019, 28 Nobel laureate economists, four former chairs of the Federal Reserve and 15 former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers came out in favor of just such an approach. Recently, The Business Roundtable, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have come out in support.

In Congress, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican of the fossil-fuel state of Alaska, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and our own Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., have expressed that they would consider supporting carbon pricing.

One thing about carbon pricing is that it has the potential to raise a lot of money. A bill like the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (House Resolution 763) that was introduced in the last Congress, would raise $3 trillion over the first 10 years.

Carving out just under 1% of those funds would provide $26 billion for coal miner and coal community support. Details for this approach have been laid out in a plan, A New Day for the Coalfields (Newday4.com). This approach not only serves to begin a rapid reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions, but also helps to ensure that states like West Virginia are not left behind as we continue the inevitable transition away from coal fired energy production.

There are other approaches in development that would address the needs of other fossil fuel workers and utility workers.

Now, what we need is for someone to take the lead on this.

I truly appreciate the actions that have been taken by our two senators. Capito has co-sponsored legislation to incentivize carbon capture and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was instrumental in working with Murkowski to pass what some have called the most significant climate legislation ever passed, the American Energy Innovation Act.

I applaud these first steps, but that’s just what they are, first steps. The climate emergency is going to require bold and dynamic leadership, and Capito and Manchin are uniquely positioned in the new Congress to influence what climate legislation is ultimately passed. I call on our senators to rise to the occasion and take the lead on ensuring that climate change is addressed in a significant and enduring fashion.

I call on them to be climate heroes.

Jim Probst is the state coordinator of the West Virginia Citizens Climate Lobby.