Your Turn, NH - John Gage

John Gage at the Carbon Cash-Back Coalition table outside the polls at Windham High School on town election day, March 10. Windham passed the resolution.

THIS SPRING, voters in 44 New Hampshire town meetings and local elections have a chance to ask their state and federal representatives to enact cash-back carbon pricing legislation. This policy is an efficient, fair, and beneficial way to incentivize producers and consumers to favor the energy efficiency and clean energy solutions needed for a secure climate future. A vote in favor does not cost a town anything, but will help state lawmakers and Congress take action with a policy that economists say will rapidly accelerate the transition to clean energy around the world and put extra cash in most Americans’ wallets.

Of the 34 towns that have voted so far, 24 passed the New Hampshire Resolution to Take Action on Climate Pollution warrant article. Why do voters in tax-free New Hampshire like this? Because, as economist George Shultz says, “It’s not a tax if the government doesn’t keep the money”. It seems voters do want a price on carbon if it’s done in a way that protects their purchasing power.

Who is behind this? Residents in each town learned about the science, economics, and policy at carboncashback.org, then collected signatures to put the article on their town’s warrant. The goal is to drive public discussions about cash-back carbon pricing to help inform the public and enable legislators to use the most powerful lever available to reduce climate pollution. State Representative Robert Backus, chairman of the NH House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee, commended this grassroots effort:

“We are strongly encouraged by efforts to bring the climate issue before town meeting voters this spring through petitioned warrant articles. As the public becomes more engaged in the climate crisis and more informed on the issue of carbon pricing, we are confident that approach will be recognized as the most effective way to reduce carbon pollution.”

The energy market currently fails to account for the costs of using fossil fuels in their price. Economists favor leveling the playing field by putting the price of pollution into the cost of producing and importing fossil fuels to let efficient market forces reduce that pollution.

A bipartisan cash-back carbon pricing policy called Carbon Fee and Dividend was created ten years ago by leading economists, climate scientists, and politicians from both parties.

This solution has three parts:

Charge producers and importers of coal, oil, and natural gas a steadily increasing fee based on their climate pollution. The fee starts at $15/tCO2e emitted and increases by $10 each year;

Give all the money collected (net) back to all households on an equal basis each month by direct deposit, benefits card, or a check; and

Use border carbon adjustments in trade with other countries to protect US jobs and push our carbon price around the world.

Independent studies identify many co-benefits of returning all the money collected back to households. This is not an income redistribution scheme–there is no means-testing. Everyone pays for their own pollution, and everyone is compensated equally for the costs and harm done to them from all the pollution. This has a highly progressive effect: everyone with a smaller than average carbon footprint receives more money in their cash-back dividend than they pay in higher prices due to the fee, which includes most low-income households.

The delay in passing effective climate change legislation is due to a lack of political will. The New Hampshire resolution directly addresses that missing piece by giving voters an easy way to ask their elected representatives to address the main cause of the problem with an approach that benefits them.

The Select Boards of towns that vote “Yes” are directed to notify their state legislators, governor, Congressional delegation, and the president that their town wants Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation to address the costs and environmental risks of climate pollution.

Economists say cash-back carbon pricing is an effective, fair, and beneficial way to reduce climate pollution. New Hampshire voters agree.

John Gage is the volunteer New Hampshire State Coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and a volunteer in the Carbon Cash-Back Coalition.

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