Saturday, April 30, 2016

DEBATE OVER CARBON TAX VERSUS CAP AND TRADE IN WASHINGTON STATE

 
PHOTO PROVIDED BY NOW SOLAR

 
John Upton
 



The debate has spilled into the Democratic primary race, with Bernie Sanders pushing for a carbon tax. In 2007, Hillary Clinton said she opposed a carbon tax — but only because she favored cap-and-trade.

The ballot initiative is the latest effort to establish a system in Washington that prices carbon pollution. Cap-and-trade legislation by Gov. Jay Inslee was rejected last year by lawmakers, and his administration is trying to cap carbon pollution using regulatory powers.

"The differences between carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs are dwarfed by the similarities between them," said Noah Kaufman, a climate economist at the nonprofit World Resources Institute. "A lot of the differences that you hear talked about are not really fundamental differences between the policies, but what to do with the revenue."

The Washington ballot measure was crafted to be revenue neutral for the state, helping to curb pollution while reducing other taxes. A government analysis indicated those cuts substantially could reduce state revenue overall, although backers of the proposal disagree with the finding. Major winners would be low-income families, which would receive $1,500 tax rebates.

Carbon Washington is facing opposition to its ballot initiatives from corporations that use and produce energy.

"We don’t think a price on carbon is necessary," said Brandon Houskeeper, who oversees government affairs at the Association of Washington Businesses. "We think it’s the wrong approach."
The planned revenue neutrality of the measure also has sparked opposition from groups that are fighting for a system that sets aside funds for environmental initiatives.

California, European nations and some other governments earmark large chunks of revenues from cap-and-trade programs to be spent on efforts to promote clean energy and reduce pollution impacts in poor communities.

Washington’s carbon tax ballot initiative "doesn’t have a huge united coalition behind it," said Kristin Eberhard, a researcher who tracks carbon pricing for the Sightline Institute, a think tank based in Seattle.

Climate Solutions, a nonprofit in the Pacific Northwest, said it can't support but won't oppose I-732, preferring to continue to push for adoption of an alternative carbon pricing program — one that would provide funding for environmental initiatives in Washington.

"We need a more comprehensive solution," said Vlad Gutman, director of Climate Solutions’ Washington office. "We need to drive investments to clean energy."

Laura Blackwell avatar

John Upton

Senior Science Writer
Climate Central

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