Benefits of carbon pricing outweigh the costs

Benefits of carbon pricing outweigh the costs
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The 2018 legislative session has seen a surge of momentum around state-based carbon pricing across the country. More than one in five states have introduced a carbon pricing bill, including our bill in Maryland.

This movement demonstrates that people understand — contrary to a recent op-ed from Texas Public Policy Foundation — that climate change is real and we need to address carbon emissions. 

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Economists almost universally agree (unless they come from a huge fossil fuel driven economy) that there is a direct cost to the environment and our health being paid by all of us as a result of emissions from dirty fossil fuels burned to generate energy.

 

The authors fail to mention the billions of dollars being generated by the 21st century’s green energy economy. Rather, they tout the economic success of the Industrial Revolution as rationale for refusing to address the unnecessary burden that carbon emissions place on the backs of every resident in our nation. 

They assert that our nation’s future economic growth and vitality will be jeopardized unless carbon polluting sources are left unabated and free from efforts to charge them for the costs of their harmful emissions. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. By pricing carbon emissions, states can ensure a stronger local economy, improved public health for its citizens and health care cost savings, as well as help the communities that will be most impacted by the threats of climate change.

Carbon pricing will help to spur the growth of renewable energy. For many states, dollars spent on fossil fuel energy flow outside of state borders. Investments in renewable energy will mean more local jobs and increase the money staying within the state. 

Beyond that, a carbon price can help spur innovation, allow renewable energy to compete fairly, and provide businesses with longer-term certainty for energy fuel costs. There is also broad business support for the idea of a carbon price. Worldwide nearly 1,400 businesses have implemented a carbon price or will within two years. These companies together represent about $7 trillion in annual revenue.

Carbon emissions are also linked to worsening public health, as they have a major impact on quality of air we breathe. Implementing carbon pricing would improve air quality, thereby reducing the rate of respiratory issues and the number of asthma attacks. 

In the United States, 6.2 million childrencurrently suffer from asthma and Americans also face higher chances of premature death due to poor air quality. By putting a price on carbon, we can reduce the rate of these public health issues while simultaneously reducing health care costs for Americans.

In January, we joined legislators working on carbon pricing policies from nine states across the country to form the Carbon Costs Coalition. The Coalition is built around key principles such as market-based solutions and ensuring equity rather than prescriptive policies, in recognition that each state will take a tailored approach to fighting climate change.

In addition to joining the coalition, we introduced Maryland’s first carbon pricing bill. The legislation will ensure the cost of carbon is properly accounted for without burdening residents, low-income communities, or businesses.

The revenues from the collected costs will be returned to the residents of our state, to offset any increases in fossil fuel costs and to help pay for energy efficiency upgrades to reduce the demand for energy. Of those rebated revenues, a larger portion will be returned to low-income residents, who often bear the largest burden from environmental injustices, and businesses with higher energy demands.

Contrary to the assertions of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, carbon pricing initiatives will not be crippling. They will, in fact, provide a financial incentive to reduce our nation’s dependence on oil, gas and other fossil fuel energy while increasing demand for renewable energy and facilitating much needed energy efficiency.

It is ludicrous to believe that our economic future will be driven by the ozone depleting, sea-level rise causing, fossil fuels of the Industrial Age. This nation’s economic vitality and the future of our children’s health, and survival of our planet, will be predicated on renewable energy sources and reducing our demand for energy. 

Ben Kramer and David Fraser-Hidalgo are state delegates from Maryland and members of the Carbon Costs Coalition and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.