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Gerry Gross is a volunteer with the Bangor chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
A few months into the new administration, the federal government is off to a roaring start on climate change. President Joe Biden signed executive orders related to climate change in his early days in office, and the White House just introduced a proposal that elevates climate solutions alongside infrastructure and job goals.
The latest exciting development in climate policy is the introduction of legislation called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. The bill hit the House of Representatives on April 1, led by Florida Democrat Rep. Ted Deutch and 28 original cosponsors, including Representative Chellie Pingree. Thank you to Pingree for her leadership on climate action.
This policy would quickly slash our climate-changing emissions and save American lives by reducing pollution. It will also spur business innovation and lead to affordable clean energy, and it will do all of this while putting money in people’s pockets.
First, the policy puts a steadily rising price on carbon pollution. This price signal will steer our economy away from fossil fuels, leading to a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions in just five years. With this policy in place, America will be on the path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a critical target, according to scientists. That deadline comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s game-changing 2018 report, where the authors also specified that carbon pricing, such as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, is “a necessary condition of ambitious climate policies.”
As fossil fuel use drops and emissions decline with this policy, public health will also benefit. We could save 4.5 million American lives over the next 50 years by reducing air pollution. That’s why the Lancet Commission endorses carbon pricing, calling it “the single most powerful strategic instrument to inoculate human health against the risks of climate change.”
While driving these massive benefits, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act will also provide economic benefits to Americans. Each month, people would receive a carbon dividend or “carbon cash back” payment. In other words, the carbon fee revenue will go into people’s pockets to spend with no restrictions. With this policy in place, 85 percent of Americans, mostly low- and middle-income folks, come out ahead or essentially break even.
You can use the Carbon Dividend Calculator to see how your family will benefit. Take a family of four living in Bangor with an annual income of $40,000, two cars, and LP/propane to heat their home. On average, they would pay out an additional $28 per month in carbon fuel costs in the first year of the act. They would receive $55 in cash back, resulting in a net gain of $27 a month to spend as they wish.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is a longtime supporter of this approach. She affirmed in her January confirmation process that she is “fully supportive of effective carbon pricing,” adding, “I know that the president is as well.”
This policy is better for business. With this bill, the government simply sets a predictable direction for businesses to move: away from carbon emissions. It’s up to businesses to decide how to move in that direction. Economists expect a policy like the Energy Innovation Act would drive technological innovation, and businesses will provide abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy in response. Businesses seem to recognize the value of this approach. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently announced its support of a “market-based approach to accelerate emissions reductions,” and the Business Roundtable has explicitly endorsed a carbon price.
It’s not every day that Congress considers a policy that can reduce emissions, save lives, benefit business, and put money in people’s pockets. We ask that Rep. Jared Golden and every member of Maine’s congressional delegation take a serious look at this bill. The Energy Innovation Act is a good step forward to put America on the fast track to a healthy, prosperous future.