According to the Weather Channel (and NASA), 2016 is the hottest year in recorded history with record breaking droughts, floods fires and billions of dollars in extreme weather damages. These life-threatening changes in our climate are caused in great part by the burning fossil fuels. At our last General Synod, UCC delegates approved a resolution calling for a complete transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy by the year 2040. Included in that resolution was a call for a carbon tax. Recently, the Legislative Assembly of the State of California passed its own resolution calling for a carbon tax at the federal level. The proposed tax would be in the form of a “progressive fee and dividend” similar to the one proposed by an organization called Citizen’s Climate Lobby. According to the highly respected Regional Economic Models Inc.(REMI), a progressive fee and dividend form of a carbon tax in the United States, if implemented in 2017, would not only cut our atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions 33% in the first 10 years, but it would also add an estimated 2.1 million jobs to the US economy and provide every American household with a monthly dividend of $288.00.
How does this Carbon tax work? The Federal Government thru existing agencies would place a fee on all carbon entering the economy at the lowest point on the supply chain - wellhead, mine, port-or-entry, etc. In the case of gasoline, a $1.00/ton fee costing the consumer about one penny per gallon would be taxed at $15.00 per ton in the first year and an additional $10.00 per ton every year thereafter until the goal of a 80% reduction of the 1990 levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide was attained. According to the REMI study, this should happen by 2050. 100% of the income produced by this carbon fee would then be distributed thru existing government agencies (IRS etc.) to all American households (the “dividend” portion of the plan). This revenue neutral solution to dangerously accelerating climate change is simple, transparent, market based, minimally disruptive to the economy and surprisingly favorable to the fossil fuel industry because it sends clear predictable price signals and does not grow big government. It can be researched in great detail on the Citizen’s Climate Lobby’s webpage.
If other states were to follow the lead of the California State Legislative Assembly, by enacting similar legislation calling for a federal carbon tax in the form of a progressive fee and dividend, it is entirely possible that we as a nation could decisively address the problem of climate change and at the same time position ourselves for entrepreneurial economic growth and leadership among the nations. Now is the moment for concerned United Church of Christ members to act decisively by writing Letters to the Editors of newspapers in their area and handwritten letters to their state legislators calling on their state’s legislature to follow the lead of California in demanding that the federal government enact a carbon tax. UCC members can make the difference.
The Rev.William Thwing is a retired UCC pastor and a member of the Bennington, VT chapter of 350.org.