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Monday, July 7, 2014

Easing the blow

By ecoRI News staff

Sea-level rise, storm surges, flooding and other local impacts of climate change underscore the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A new study has found that a fee on carbon pollution can reduce those emissions while also adding jobs.

The recently released report entitled “The Economic, Climate, Fiscal, Power and Demographic Impact of a National Fee-and-Dividend Carbon Tax” was commissioned by the nonprofit Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). Prepared by Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI), this study examined the nationwide economic impact of a steadily rising fee on carbon pollution that returns 100 percent of the revenue to households. See EDITOR'S NOTE at the end of this article.

The report shows such a fee will add 2.1 million jobs over 10 years while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 33 percent. Some 100,000 of those jobs would be added in New England, according to the report.

The fee would start at $10 a ton, increasing $10 a ton annually, and is based on the carbon content of the fossil fuel. Revenue from the fee would be returned to households in equal shares as direct payments. In addition to jobs creation, the report finds that carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by 33 percent by 2025, and 52 percent by 2035.

Since electricity generation from coal could be phased out by 2025, air quality would improve as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants were reduced.

There also would be other important results, according to report. For example, rebates would return nearly $400 billion to households — or nearly $300 a month for a family of four. The impact to the total cost of living is less than 3 percent from the baseline, and gross domestic product (GDP) increases between $80 billion and $90 billion, according to the report.

Electricity prices peak in 2026, and then start to decrease, according to the report.

Local members of the Rhode Island Citizens Climate Lobby chapter will travel to Washington, D.C. this month to meet with members of Congress to present the study.

“What this study shows is that by giving the revenue back to the people, a carbon fee and dividend will actually stimulate the economy,” said Mark Reynolds, CCL’s executive director. “The big knock on a carbon fee has been that it would kill jobs. That assumption is now blown out of the water.”

Last month, the National Climate Assessment reported that the impact of climate change is already being felt across the nation. According to the assessment, the Northeast has experienced a greater recent increase in extreme precipitation than any other U.S. region.

“The situation in Rhode Island will get much worse if we fail to curb our carbon dioxide emissions,” said Jamestown resident Mary Jane Sorrentino, one of the co-leaders of the Rhode Island chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. “We don’t have to make a choice between protecting the climate and protecting jobs. This study shows we can do both, by enacting a fee on carbon pollution and returning the money back to households.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: While I do believe there will be significant offsets from the switch from dirty energy to green energy - that green jobs will grow while jobs in dirty industries will decline, it's not just about economics and math. 

I suggest it is a BAD idea to try to say it's just a simple shift because it's a lot more complicated than that.

I had to deal with these issues upclose and personal when I worked for the Citizens Coal Council which helped local citizens groups curb the abuses of coal mining operations. When mining jobs in Appalachia are lost, new jobs created in green industries do little good for unemployed miners. 

As Springsteen sang, "those jobs are going, boys, and they ain't comin' back."

Tony Mazzochi (1926 - 2002)
Retraining a 55-year old miner in West Virginia to take a job as a solar panel installer in New Mexico is just not practical. 

Visionary labor leader, the late Tony Mazzochi proposed more than 20 years ago that what this country needs is a "Superfund for Workers." That when it is in the public interest to eliminate an industry, like fossil fuels, that cannot be reformed or sustained, there needs to be a plan to provide lifetime relief to the thousands of workers who will otherwise be left behind.

- Will Collette