Harry Hochheiser & Ray Roberts: Let’s talk about carbon fee & dividend | TribLIVE.com
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Harry Hochheiser & Ray Roberts: Let’s talk about carbon fee & dividend

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The doldrums of late summer may usually be sleepy times for our congressional representatives, with the August recess bringing a lull in legislative activity and fundraising trips back home. This year in Pittsburgh might be different, as U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, has scheduled a town hall session Aug. 14 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall to discuss a topic that couldn’t be timelier in the August heat — climate change.

This summer’s scorching heat waves in Europe, flooding in New Orleans, record-high temperatures in Alaska and even our unusually high rainfall amounts here in Pittsburgh demonstrate that climate change is not some distant reality. It is here and now. Yes, it’s clear that no single weather event can be attributed directly to climate change; but all of these events are consistent with models of a warming climate, and the trend is not in our favor.

Fortunately, there is a concrete proposal in Congress that offers a solution: the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA, House Resolution 763). This landmark legislation will introduce a carbon fee and dividend that will reduce emissions, grow the economy and benefit all Americans.

A revenue-neutral measure that encourages reductions in emissions and investments in renewable energy, EICDA provides a path to cutting greenhouse gas pollution without growing our government. The starting point is a fee on greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. Fees will start low and rise gradually, easing adjustment to higher prices while providing incentives to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and to invest in alternatives.

Added costs will provide an immediate incentive to use less fuel and to switch to renewables. Venture capitalists will see greater returns on wind farms and electric cars. A border adjustment charge on products from other countries will account for external carbon emissions, protecting U.S. industry and workers from trade partners who do not have a similar fee on greenhouse gas emissions .

But how will this investment be funded? Revenue from the carbon fee will be equally rebated to every U.S. citizen. Monthly checks will lessen costs and help families support the transition to more energy-efficiency and renewable energy. A one-time advance rebate at the beginning of the program will give rebates before prices rise. Costs of administering the program (approximately 2%) will be deducted from fees, making the overall program revenue-neutral.

By exposing the costs of using greenhouse gases, EICDA will discourage the use of dirty energy sources and spur investment and innovation in renewable energy. Returning the fees to the American people will minimize economic harms, particularly to those who can least afford added expenses.

EICDA can also bring substantial economic benefits. Demand for renewable energy production will lead to improvements in efficiency, and investments in renewable energy production, which will in turn create local jobs (possibly as many as 2.1 million over the next 10 years) in a clean-energy economy that cannot be outsourced . Dividends paid to individuals and families will spur further economic growth, including investments in further emissions reductions.

According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 56% of Pennsylvanians believe that climate change is caused mostly by human activities, and 68% support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay carbon taxes. Doyle knows this is the case, and he is stepping up to lead. Last spring, he joined the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus with Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger.

Concerned Pittsburghers should take advantage of this opportunity to discuss EICDA and other related proposals with Doyle. Other Pittsburgh-area congressman, including Reps. Guy Reschenthaler and Conor Lamb, should follow suit. We also hope that Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey will work together to champion efforts in the Senate. We encourage all of our legislators to strongly support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, #AmericasClimateSolution.

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