The bill is backed by Citizens' Climate Lobby, which has lobbied in support of a carbon dividend system since 2007. Above the CCL Texas delegation in D.C. in June. Courtesy of CCL DFW.
Dec. 20, 2018
A long-awaited bill for U.S. action on climate change was introduced in the House at the end of November.
Since then, momentum continues to grow.
This week, a bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware). It has the same name and mostly the same text as H.R. 7173. Both are expected to be reintroduced in 2019.
The goal is to hasten a transition to renewable energy, in the face of worsening climate disruption.
H.R. 7173, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, marks a breakthrough in decades of congressional stalling, despite the majority of Americans favoring climate action in numerous polls. The last successful attempt to mount a carbon bill was in 2009. This is the first to have Republican co-sponsors.
As of mid-December, there are three Republican and five Democrat co-sponsors.
“This policy puts a fee on fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. It starts low, and grows over time,” explained Citizens' Climate Lobby executive director Mark Reynolds, in a webcast after the bill’s announcement.
The nonprofit advocacy group, CCL for short, has been a major force in advocating for carbon policy and negotiating the bill’s provisions
“It’s very exciting,” said Joanna Suh, leader of CCL’s Dallas North group, in a recent phone interview. “I think, because it’s been drafted in a way that makes it a bridge issue and not a wedge issue, it really will have more broad appeal…based on how it’s been introduced and that it’s revenue neutral,” said Suh. “It's not increasing taxes or anything like that.”
“This will drive down carbon pollution because energy companies, leading industries and American consumers will move toward cleaner, cheaper options,” said Reynolds. The measure was calibrated, based on independent economic studies, for several major benefits:
•Reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent within 12 years [of enactment.]
•Improve health and save lives by reducing pollution Americans breathe.
•Create 2.1 million new jobs over the next 10 years.
•Allocate all fees collected to Americans, in equal shares, to spend any way they choose.
Suh responded to GreenSourceDFW's questions about H.R. 7173, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act:
GS: “How does it work?”
JS: There is a fee put on carbon so the price of gasoline, for example, goes up. And the fee is collected by the government and redistributed to the people.
The price on carbon is very minimal at first… $15 dollars a ton, with an additional $10 per ton each year.
GS: What happens to poor people who are paying the increased fuel costs and can’t afford solar panels or an electric car?
JS: This policy actually provides a dividend check...before prices start to rise. This is really important to protect low income populations from rising energy costs...it’s actually [an even amount] per capita. So, income of an individual will not be taken into account.
GS: What greenhouse gases are covered by the fee?
JS: Greenhouse gases includes carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride. So it’s more encompassing, not just carbon dioxide.
GS: What’s next?
JS: The bill will likely be reintroduced in the next Congress at some point, because it’s so late in this Congress.
GS: Have you gotten a feel for how many CCL people are working on building support, like writing letters to their representatives and to news editors?
JS: There were 1,300 lobbyists in D.C. during CCL's June Lobby Day. Locally, we have seven CCL chapters in North Texas.
CLIMATE LEGISLATION FORECAST
In 2009, the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act passed the U. S. House of Representatives by a vote of 219-212.
“It got eight Republican votes,” said Reynolds.
When the 2009 bill reached the Senate, Democrats, lacking the votes to pass it, called off the effort.
Fast-forward 10 years. Factors favorable to passage have grown. Democrats in the 2019 U.S. House have regained a majority. The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus of pro-climate-action House members has worked toward shared climate protection proposals for three years, and now has two carbon pricing bills.
It’s too soon to tell if those efforts will make a difference in the fate of the new Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R. 7173. Or in the prospects for transitioning to a low-carbon economy in time to avert ongoing disasters of a broken climate system - spelled out dramatically in major recent announcements by the United Nations climate scientists’ panel, 13 federal agencies and Harvard University.
CCL leaders pointed out that this plan would surpass the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals “We’re very hopeful,” said Suh. "We really encourage individuals to, first off, call and write their representatives to encourage them to support H.R. 7173, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act."
“It’s our job to shower the sponsoring members of Congress with so much visible love and support that even more of their colleagues will want to co-sponsor when it gets introduced in the new year. As we’ve always said, politicians don’t make political will, they respond to it.”