The Biden administration is offering decidedly mixed signals on the issue of climate change. Even as the evidence mounts on the increasingly dire effects of the ongoing change in the Earth’s climate, President Biden is making matters worse by continuing to feed America’s addiction to fossil fuels.
Even before the ink was dry on the agreements coming out of the Glasgow climate conference last month, the Biden administration was taking steps to violate the spirit of Biden’s own campaign promise to bring an end to oil and gas leasing on federal lands. Instead, in the wake of the climate conference, the Biden administration approved the largest sale of offshore oil and gas rights in U.S. history. A government analysis predicts the sale could yield as much as 1.1 billion barrels of oil and 4.42 trillion cubic feet of natural gas if those projects are developed over the next two-to-three decades. Apparently, voters should have read the fine print on Biden’s campaign promise.
Just a week later, he ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in order to bring down the price of gasoline at the pump. Which, if Biden’s effort proves successful, will lead to more consumption of fossil fuels.
One thing is certain. President Biden is talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to climate change. On one side, he mouths pretty platitudes about the need to address what climate scientists insist is an existential threat. On the other side, he’s telling the oil and gas industry that it’s more-or-less business as usual.
That’s not the message that the country needs.
We need a solution to the climate crisis, not lip service. During his campaign, President Biden promised to make polluters bear the full cost of the carbon pollution they are emitting, and there’s a way to do that with legislation that’s already been proposed in Congress. It’s called a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and it’s designed to use financial incentives to get all of us to kick the fossil fuels habit. It’s been called “the immaculate solution,” because it has something that should appeal to sensible people on both sides of the political aisle.
Under the plan, the tax would apply to companies based on the number of tons of carbon they emit. The tax would start out modestly and escalate over time.
A 2019 study of the plan by Brookings found that it would be one of the most effective policies the U.S. could adopt to reduce carbon emissions. A carbon tax would generate a massive amount of new revenue for the federal government, yet the legislation would be revenue neutral because the money raised would go right back to Americans in the form of a monthly refund check. Those checks would grow over time, more than compensating the vast majority of consumers for higher prices they would likely pay for their own use of fossil fuels, whether at the gas pump or by continuing to heat their homes with fossil fuels.
The tax would give Americans a financial incentive, and more financial means, to make greener choices in their own lives. That would cheer Democrats. At the same time, it would provide an effective climate change solution that doesn’t grow the size of government, impose new regulations, or add to the federal debt, things at least some traditional Republicans still care about.
We know such carbon pricing regimes work because they’re already in place in many other countries, including all of Europe. According to Brookings, a carbon tax of $50 per ton (which is well below the $75 per ton already in place in the EU), would reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by as much as 46 percent by 2030, which would put the country within striking distance of meetings its commitments under the Paris Climate Accord.
In normal countries, that aren’t hopelessly hamstrung by wealthy special interests, infantilizing social media, and partisan rancor, a carbon tax is a no-brainer solution to climate change.
President Biden also promised to get Washington functioning again. Advancing a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the best path forward if the administration wants to demonstrate it is willing to walk the walk when it comes to climate change.
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Friday, December 3, 2021 Report this