Curtail regulations by pricing carbon

As might be expected, opposition to the EPA’s new rules to limit carbon emissions at power plants has been swift and forceful, particularly among Republicans. But if the GOP is hoping to turn that opposition into political advantage, the polling numbers look discouraging.

Three national polls – Wall St. Journal/NBC News, Washington Post/ABC News, Bloomberg – report that at least two-thirds of the public support the new EPA rules, even if it means paying higher utility bills. Increasingly, Republicans are noticing the conversation around global warming has shifted. Politicians who profess skepticism or feign ignorance on the science of climate change find it hard to maintain credibility, particularly those who have national aspirations, as Marco Rubio recently learned.

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The credibility problem extends to young Republicans. Last year, a survey of voters under the age of 35 found that, among Republicans, 52 percent would describe a politician who says climate change is not really happening as out of touch, ignorant or crazy. By taking no action on global warming, the GOP risks alienating the people who represent the future of their party.

I totally understand why Republicans would oppose a regulatory solution to global warming. It runs counter to conservatives’ desire for limiting the role of government in our lives. But as more and more Americans begin to feel the impact of global warming through droughts, heat waves, floods and rising seas, support for action to limit that impact is approaching a tipping point.

In short, we’ve reached a juncture where Republicans cannot reject solutions to global warming without offering solutions of their own.

To those who find themselves in this dilemma, allow us to help.

On Tuesday, nearly every office on the Hill will receive a visit from volunteers with Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). I assure you, we come in peace, and we offer the opportunity to move the dialogue on global warming in a direction most folks will find more appealing.

As many conservatives will tell you – from George Shultz to Greg Mankiw – we must act now to minimize the risk of global warming, and the best way to do that is through the marketplace. But those same conservatives will also tell you that the market has failed to solve the problem, because the true cost of fossil fuels is not reflected in its price. Fix that failure by pricing carbon, and the market will work its magic.

Of course, every time the solution of carbon pricing comes up, detractors say it will kill jobs and be a drag on the economy. But that’s where we have some really good news for you.

Earlier this month, CCL released a study from Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) that examined the impact of a steadily rising fee on the carbon-dioxide content of fossil fuels. Revenue from the fee was refunded to all households in equal portions. Border tariffs were factored in to protect American businesses and prevent carbon leakage. The REMI study found that, after 10 years, greenhouse gas emissions dropped 33 percent and 2.1 million jobs were added to the economy. This happened because a huge amount of revenue was put into the pockets of people who are likely to spend the money, creating an economic stimulus.

So, back to the EPA regulations, which have overwhelming public support and are likely to withstand judicial challenges, given that EPA is currently currently batting 1.000 in the Supreme Court. Whatever metaphor you want to use – the train is leaving the station; the clock is running, etc. – regulations to limit carbon emissions at power plants are going to be implemented unless Congress can deliver a better solution.

We think the better solution is to put a fee on carbon and give the money back to the people, which will unleash the power of the marketplace to develop and bring to scale clean sources of energy and modes of transportation that reduce emissions.

When our volunteers visit you, with a smile on their face, know that we’re here to help. We don’t care who gets credit for saving the world – Republicans or Democrats – as long as we save it.

Reynolds is executive director of Citizens Climate Lobby.