Climate Corner: Back the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act

May 1, 2012

George Banziger

Parkersburg News and

            Recently in the U.S. House of Representatives the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act was re-introduced into the 117th Congress. The EI&CD Act (HR 2307) is not a tax but a fee which to be placed on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, which account for harmful carbon emissions. The fee starts low and grows over time.  As a “dividend” this fee will be allocated in equal shares every month to the American people to spend as they see fit. To protect U.S. manufacturers and jobs, imported fossil-fuel products will pay a border carbon adjustment, and goods exported from the U.S. will receive a refund of the carbon fee.

            This policy, if enacted, will reduce America’s carbon pollution by 30% in the first five years alone and is the single most powerful tool we have to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The EI&CD Act will make fossil fuels more expensive with this policy, and businesses will compete to provide clean-energy solutions. The resulting innovation will reduce our pollution quickly and efficiently, leading to abundant and reliable clean energy for the 21st century. It will also improve health and save 4.5 million lives over the next 50 years by reducing pollution in the air we breathe. This policy is also affordable to ordinary Americans because it puts money in their pockets—it does not place this revenue into the federal government’s coffers.  The money collected from the fee is given as a monthly dividend of “carbon cash back” payment to every American to spend with no restrictions. Most low- and middle-income Americans will come out financially ahead or break even.

            “Why is the EI&CD Act needed?” you might ask. There is consensus among credible scientists throughout the world that human-caused climate change is an urgent crisis. Glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate, oceans are rising, getting warmer, and more acidic. Carbon emissions are rising, the climate is warming, especially in the northern hemisphere, and extreme weather is causing extensive damage, costing human lives, and imposing huge costs of emergency relief on individuals and governments.

            A simple analogy might serve to convey an understanding of the rationale for this policy. If I, or any resident of the Mid-Ohio Valley, generates waste or trash, we need to pay a regular fee to a trash-removal service to gather up and take away our waste. The same obligation should apply to those industries that account for carbon emissions as they extract fossil fuels.  It’s only fair that they should pay a fee for the waste (carbon emissions) that they produce.

          Another question you might ask is what would happen to the industries and jobs in the Mid-Ohio Valley that rely on extraction of fossil fuels if this policy were enacted. Many people in this area are acknowledging that the days of coal as a source of energy are ending. Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers, recently acknowledged his and his organization’s support of President Biden’s jobs plan for clean energy. In their public comment the UMW stated that what is needed is “a true energy transition that will enhance opportunities for miners, their families and their communities.” This means that those workers in the coal industry should be well supported in the transition to renewable energy. This is the right thing to do under these circumstances.

            Renewable energy will bring different kinds of jobs, but these will be jobs that pay good wages and are sustainable as well as jobs that support improved health for individuals and the environment throughout the country. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor indicate that jobs in the solar and wind-energy fields are growing at a faster rate than the economy as a whole.