Guest Columnist

Innovate to address climate

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Innovation drives U.S. prosperity and economic growth. During my career helping chemical and oil and gas companies address contamination, I saw innovation transform the way we manage contaminated sediment, soil and groundwater. These innovations made our natural resources cleaner, made our environment healthier for people, and reduced the cost of the cleanups.

Innovation is happening in the energy markets, too. This innovation has brought income to property owners in Iowa as the price for wind power has fallen. I would like to see that innovation continue, with a particular focus on reducing carbon emissions.

I am encouraged to see lawmakers in Congress put forward the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. It’s a solution to drive innovation, put our country at the forefront of the clean energy transition, and keep Americans healthier and safer. Co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Francis Rooney along with Democrats from Florida, California, and Illinois, the bill would put a price on carbon pollution.

The revenue from the carbon price will be allocated to Americans in equal monthly dividends. Expert economists who served Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43, are in favor of this approach. They, and dozens of other leading economists, signed a letter in the Wall Street Journal calling for a national carbon fee and dividend policy.

In addition to being cost-effective and driving innovation, the letter said, “The majority of American families, including the most vulnerable, will benefit financially by receiving more in ‘carbon dividends’ than they pay in increased energy prices.” When hard-working Americans receive the monthly carbon dividend, they will spend it in their communities. This supports communities and families as our country transitions to a clean energy economy.

It’s time to make that transition, and to take responsibility for the health, economic and environmental issues caused by carbon emissions. Wildfires on the West Coast broke records last year, causing billions in damages, killing at least 85 people, and causing negative health impacts to millions more who had to breathe polluted air. The brave firefighters in California had to contend with nearly double the acreage burning in 2018, compared with 2017. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “Going forward, we need to look at some of the underlying causes of these fires.” Our carbon emissions are a major underlying cause.

On the East Coast, Hurricane Florence dumped historic amounts of rain on my home state of North Carolina. Warmer water and warmer air contributed to those devastating conditions, which caused 53 deaths. The National Climate Assessment, released by the Trump administration last fall, made it clear that extreme weather events are driven by changes in our climate.

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Republican Sen. Thom Tillis from North Carolina called for solutions, tweeting, “The 4th National Climate Assessment report serves as a glaring reminder of the long-term risks of climate change. Both parties need to work together to deploy an innovative, market-driven strategy to combat the impacts of climate change.”

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is a market-driven policy that will motivate companies and individuals to invest in cleaner, cutting-edge technologies. Less carbon pollution, a robust economy, and many lives saved: we can enjoy these benefits if Congress implements a carbon price and unleashes the innovation of American companies.

What’s right for businesses’ balance sheets will be right for the climate, too.

• Jim Tolbert is conservative outreach director at Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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