My view: An economic benefit of a fee-and-dividend carbon tax

By Gerald Elias

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, June 11 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Let us no longer use the disingenuous excuse of “I’m no scientist” to prevent us from stabilizing our future. Rather, let us take decisive action based upon the political and scientific realities facing us.

Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News

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In 1839, scholar-scientist Peter Mark Roget (author of the famous Thesaurus) wrote an exquisite two-volume treatise, “Animal and Vegetable Physiology, Considered With Reference To Natural Theology.”

“The object of this treatise,” he said, “is to enforce the great truths of Natural Theology, by adducing those evidences of the power, wisdom and goodness of God, which are manifested in the living creation.” Pre-dating Darwin’s “On the Origins of the Species” by 20 years, Roget’s tome was a noble attempt to understand the teeming diversity of life on earth and reconcile it with the act of creation, using reason and intellect rather than revelation or dogma.

One of the standard arguments against climate change legislation is that “the science is not settled.” As the above example demonstrates, science is never settled. We are just beginning to understand the brain’s intricacies, yet successful brain surgery is commonplace. We are just beginning to understand the nature of dark matter, yet Voyager I, launched in 1977, still beams us messages from interstellar space. We learn. We act upon what we learn. And then we try to learn more. We call this progress.

In two recent editorials (“Without compromise,” June 4, and “Advanced energy,” June 5), the Deseret News overlooks two glaring realities.

The first reality is climate change itself. We support the Deseret News’s call for civil discourse, but must recognize that while government postures, economic and personal devastation wrought by historically ferocious fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and polar vortexes continues unabated. One year ago, 100,000 people in Calgary were displaced by unprecedented spring rains and flooding, yet it barely made a dent in the news. Why? Because catastrophes like this have become daily occurrences. Global warming is real. And it is here.

The second reality is political. The Deseret News is troubled by the way “the Obama administration approaches controversial subjects: avoid Congress and charge full stream ahead,” yet it turns a blind eye to the intransigence of the House of Representatives, which has thwarted virtually every legislative initiative by the President since his first inauguration. The President’s State of the Union addresses have continually called upon Congress to enact energy legislation. If, after six years, the best reply Speaker John Boehner can come up with is, "I'm not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” where is the basis for compromise that we and the News long for?

In the June 4 editorial, the Deseret News says, “Instead of…crafting a compromise, this administration dismisses his opposition as illegitimate and barrels ahead anyway.” Yet in the very same editorial, the Deseret News tacitly acknowledges a significant compromise that the Obama administration itself devised for the EPA regulations: “The EPA chose to use 2005 as the baseline year, allowing utilities the ability to take credit for strong gains in reducing pollution over the last decade.”

The June 5 editorial goes on to state: “Above all, what the energy policy debate needs most is a sound sense of balancing costs with benefits.”

The Citizens Climate Lobby applauds and echoes that sentiment. For precisely that reason, the CCL commissioned a just-completed, independent study to evaluate its long-standing call for Fee and Dividend legislation to create a market-based solution to the climate change impasse. The exhaustive study, called “The Economic, Climate, Fiscal, Power, and Demographic Impact of a National Fee-and-Dividend Carbon Tax,” was researched by Regional Economic Models, Inc. and Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. The results show probable benefits of a Carbon Tax and returning this money to consumers through FAD. Here are the study’s basic findings:

2.1 million more jobs under the FAD carbon tax than in the baseline

33 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from baseline conditions

13,000 premature deaths saved from improvements in air quality

“The FAD rebates return nearly $400 billion to households — or almost $300 per month for a family of four – and the carbon tax aids in retirements of coal plants and accelerates investments in wind, solar and nuclear power. The impact to the total cost of living is less than 3 percent from the baseline, and gross domestic product increases between $80 billion and $90 billion.”

In a nutshell, millions more jobs, thousands of lives saved and a significant step in addressing climate change.

Let us no longer use the disingenuous excuse of “I’m no scientist” to prevent us from stabilizing our future. Rather, let us take decisive action based upon the political and scientific realities facing us. Those who still question the need for climate legislation should heed the prescient words of Roget: “The passive emotion of astonishment, in which inferior intellects are content to rest, serves but to awaken, in him who has learned to think, a desire of farther knowledge.”

Gerald Elias is a Salt Lake City author and musician, and a member Citizens Climate Lobby.

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