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By Philip Jones and Howard Behar
Taxing the sources of carbon pollution is a pragmatic, bipartisan, common-sense solution.
CLIMATE change is real and happening before our eyes. We are already being forced to adapt to the tangible consequences of a warming climate. These actions are caused by more extreme variability in weather resulting in flooding, coastal erosion, dramatically reduced glaciation in the Olympic and Glacier National Parks, as well as observed acidification in our shorelines and the Puget Sound estuary.
As a moderate Republican and an independent, we don’t always see eye to eye on how to solve some of society’s biggest challenges. But on climate change we agree: Taxing the sources of carbon pollution is a pragmatic, bipartisan, common-sense solution.
A carbon tax allows private companies in the marketplace to respond to a predictable, sustained price of carbon and react accordingly with innovative, cost-effective solutions. A steadily rising price on carbon appeals to conservatives as a smart alternative to government agencies controlling market-based forces. For progressives and liberals, a carbon tax holds appeal because it will reduce local pollutants and make Washington a national leader in the collective imperative to reduce greenhouse gasses and improve public health. For all of us, a price on carbon will hasten the decline of emissions that will imperil our environment and economy for future generations.
The main concern we hear about a carbon tax is economic. How much will it cost families and businesses? This is a fair concern, but we believe that enacting a pragmatic carbon tax will attract new industries, including clean-energy startups, and talented younger employees who place a high value on environmental stewardship and intergenerational equity.
We have seen signs of this already with the building out of renewable-energy sources, mainly utility-scale wind farms, including those of Avista, Pacific Power and for Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Recently, Microsoft announced an innovative agreement with PSE, mirroring similar corporate deals around the country, in which it will take responsibility for procuring carbon-free energy (most likely wind) while PSE delivers it to its campuses and offices in the Puget Sound.
BMW’s carbon-fiber plant in Moses Lake and Avista’s program to build out electrical vehicle charging infrastructure in the Spokane/Pullman area, as well as energy-storage projects in our state, are demonstrating Washington’s emerging leadership in the new-energy economy. Yet we need to do more in this dynamic economic environment, and putting a predictable price on carbon will accelerate our leadership.
Many other advanced industrial economies around the world have already put a price on carbon, or are starting to do this. Both the provinces of coastal British Columbia and oil-sands-rich Alberta have implemented some version of a carbon tax or a hybrid carbon pricing scheme. Their economies continue to grow and prosper while greenhouse-gas emissions are declining.
We recognize that certain trade-offs will have to be made in order to pass a carbon tax in the Legislature. This includes helping the agricultural community and energy-intensive industries make this transition to clean energy, and funding climate adaptation projects to make sure our water supplies and forests are prepared for a warming world. We would also not oppose a certain part of the carbon-tax proceeds to temporarily help the state fund vital services like K-12 education, while the Legislature works to resolve the longer-term funding issues.
Addressing climate change is the critical issue of our generation. The current session of the Legislature should not punt on this issue, and should instead demonstrate strong, bipartisan leadership. Although we supported Initiative 732 last fall, we believe the best opportunity now is for the Legislature to take decisive action to put a price on carbon. It’s time to show the nation and world what we can do in the Evergreen State. Our economy, our environment and future generations will be better for it if we do.