Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Could Washington Pave the Way for Carbon Taxes?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Could Washington Pave the Way for Carbon Taxes?

Article excerpt

Washington state is seeking to curb carbon emissions by posing a ballot initiative to voters that will allow them to decide whether or not polluters should pay for the greenhouse gases they produce. If passed, the tax would become the first of its kind in the nation.

The question, which will appear on the state's November ballot, asks residents if the state should levy the first direct carbon tax, which would apply to the burning of fossil fuels like coal and gasoline. As officials seek ways to cut back on pollutants and delve into the world of clean, independent energy, some have floated the idea of a carbon tax as a way to curb pollutants.

"The great challenge for the next administration using the bully pulpit will be to end this fiction, act upon the science and design a carbon pricing scheme that will provide the certainty and efficiency that energy investors desire," Clay Sell, who served as a top energy official in the George W. Bush administration, told a forum held by the U.S. Energy Association last week. "I hope both [political] parties will take that up, as it will allow the benefits of all clean energy technologies to be properly valued in the marketplace."

If passed, the tax could pave the way for other states, and the nation, to combat carbon emissions in a similar way. But not everyone thinks a carbon tax is the answer.

Those in favor of the proposed tax say it would cut back on greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging businesses to conserve or switch to clean energy. But businesses, and some environmental groups, say the tax will create a competitive disadvantage for local companies by driving up fuel and energy costs, and the state has estimated that such a tax could cause Washington to lose some $800 million over a six-year period.

"It's not a path that makes sense for our communities," Rich Stolz, executive director of OneAmerica, which works on social justice issues, told the Associated Press. He argued that the initiative's approach wouldn't be nuanced enough, saying that it ignores climate justice and didn't take into account communities of color. …

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