Government Taxes Carbon, Money Goes to Households

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Some folks from the Citizens Climate Lobby stopped in this morning to tell  our editorial board about two new chapters of the group being formed in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

The CCL is building a network of local groups with hopes that those local voices will have a better chance of catching the attention of individual members of Congress. The group believes climate change is happening, that the scientific consensus points to man-made causes and that federal action is needed to address it.

Executive Director Mark Reynolds outlined what CCL thinks that action should look like. I'm no expert on this stuff. I'm just your typical carbon-burner. But I thought it was an interesting idea. So I'm throwing it out there.

Basically, the federal government would place a $15 per-ton tax on CO2 emissions, charged at the mine, rig or other facility where the commodities enter the economy. That tax would go up $10 per-ton each year.

Here's the intriguing part. Every dime raised by the tax would be rebated to Americans to offset any increases in energy costs caused by the tax. Reynolds claims that 70 percent of households would see bigger dividend checks than rate increases.

The government would pretty much wipe out all other energy subsidies. And goods coming from overseas, from countries without a carbon tax, would be assessed a fee to level out any cost advantage.

Reynolds contends the rising carbon tax would send a clear signal to budding entrepreneurs that their alternative energy ventures will eventually be competitive and profitable alongside traditional energy sources. Investors would like that certainty.

The flip side, of course, is that coal, and to a lesser extent oil, would be big losers under this scenario.

This sounds a lot less complex than cap and trade, which is pretty much dead and buried. Maybe, in this political climate, this idea is also dead. My first thought about stuff like this is that it can't possibly be this simple.

But it's worth chewing over. Here's the CCL's proposed legislation, in more detail:

Fee and Dividend Leg Proposal New 

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