Things to Consider for the 2020 Election

How the House Can Use a Select Climate Committee

By William S. Becker With Democrats organizing to take over the House of Representatives in January, there are already reports of a kerfuffle about who will be in charge of energy and climate issues. Intra-party power struggles are neither unusual

The Good Tax

For some Americans and their elected representatives, there is no such thing as a good tax. Even when it is clearly in the public interest, a new tax is considered one of those “third rails” that many politicians are afraid to touch.

But some types of taxes can be necessary, beneficial and fair. Now there is fresh evidence that a properly structured carbon tax is in that category. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory have concluded that a carbon tax can be structured to be effective in reducing carbon dioxide pollution as well as equitable to all Americans, including low-income households. Their study was published April 5 in the journal Climate Change Economics.

This is a report that policymakers here and in Washington, D.C., as well as candidates in this year’s midterm elections, should heed.

The research supports the position that whether we call it a surcharge, fee or pollution penalty, a tax on carbon-rich fossil fuels would have multiple benefits for the economy, the environment and public health. The MIT and NREL researchers also found that a fair and effective price on carbon, even if it is relatively low, could lead to reductions of carbon dioxide emissions sufficient to meet the U.S. near-term commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

The climate benefits alone are important to people of both political parties who are concerned about the increasing severity and cost of weather disasters in the United States.

Last year, several distinguished Republicans, including former Secretary of State George Shultz and Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson and James Baker III, launched a media blitz to support a carbon tax. The Niskanen Center, a libertarian think-tank, climbed on board, too.

A key reason for conservative support is that carbon-pricing aligns with free-market principles. The prices consumers pay at the pump or on their electric bills are nowhere near the full costs that these fuels impose on the economy, the environment or society. A price on carbon, many fiscal conservatives reason, would help “level the playing field” for all fuels that compete in energy markets — and they’re right.

Leaders left and right of center are listening to the nation’s top Defense officials and military leaders who have advised for several years now that climate change poses significant risks to national security. It is already threatening key U.S. military installations and operations both here and abroad. It is also disruptive enough to cause the collapse of less-stable but strategically important nations.

In the absence of action by Congress, several states have acted on their own. For instance, in California, the state’s cap-and-trade program has simultaneously reduced carbon emissions while pumping over $1 billion into the economy, generating a net increase in jobs and economic activity. While other states have considered pricing carbon, it is infinitely better for us to set the price at the federal level. Carbon pollution is a national and international concern that transcends state borders.

I do not mean to suggest that pricing carbon is a simple issue. Even if we get past the question of whether a price on carbon is necessary, there are strong differences of opinion on what that price should be and how its revenues would be used.

Unfortunately, Congress missed an opportunity to resolve those issues and to include a carbon fee in the tax reform bill President Trump signed into law last December. The next chance for a conversation on this important issue is during this year’s congressional campaigns.

Yet, due to the stigma associated with the mere idea of a new tax, we may find that few candidates will talk about carbon pricing unless they are prompted. It will be up to the media and voters, including us in Colorado, to make sure that the need for a federal price on carbon is an important and visible issue in this year’s elections.

Bill Ritter Jr., former governor of Colorado, is the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

What’s New?

Restoring the Presidency

The Brennan Center for Justice has launched a bipartisan task force to identify how fundamental norms and rules can be restored in the American presidency after the tenure of Donald Trump. Former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a member of PCAP’s National Advisory Committee, is one of the task force co-chairs. Here, she and co-chair Preet Bharara explain what they have in mind. Their op-ed first appeared in USA Today.

The First Climate Election

Bill Becker posts a series of blogs on the importance of this year’s midterm elections to climate action in the U.S.

Part 1: The Big Issues

Donald Trump’s performance,  the flaws in our democracy and climate change should be among the issues in the 2018 midterm elections.

Part 2: Unrigging Democracy

Democracy is being sabotaged, and not just be the Russians. Here’s how and what we can do about it.

Part 3: No More Nice Days.

Why 2018 and 2020 should be America’s historic climate elections.

We can fight climate change without Washington.

By Bill McKibben
A frontal approach to climate action in the United States may not be successful, but the flanks are wide open

U.S. Military assesses its climate vulnerability

In its latest vulnerability assessment, the Department of Defense says half its facilities are vulnerable to climate effects.

This map from the Department of Defense shows the military sites in the lower 48 states that are vulnerable to flooding, extreme temperatures, wind, drought and/or wildfires.

Antidotes to the Poison of Campaign Finance

By Timothy E. Wirth
Secret and corrupting funding will always try to find a way into politics, but as in the past, our democracy can survive and succeed if citizens and their..

Finding Freedom in Restraint

By William D. Ruckelshaus Whether you believe it a moral obligation to care for other living things or an intelligent instinct for self-preservation, we need collectively to constrain our conduct so we…

GOP Alienates Young Conservatives on Climate Change

Commentary by Kiera O’Brien and Ben Zollinger published originally in February by CNBC

The Republican Party is alienating an entire generation of young conservative voters by continuing to downplay climate science and sidestep solutions.

Among the many internal battles over the heart and soul of the GOP, the most overlooked yet consequential may center on energy and environmental policy. Here, party leaders risk driving away the millennial generation that is the future of both parties, and already the largest voting bloc

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Climate & Energy

New developments in climate science and the transition to clean energy.

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Latest news along with blogs by PCAP’s Bill Becker and other prominent commentators.

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Kindred Groups & Resources

Other groups working on climate change and the clean energy transition, regardless of political affiliations, along with resources climate activists can use.

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PCAP Archive

The most important of PCAP’s previous reports and studies.

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“As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
“We have, I hope, finally put to rest the false choice between the economy and the environment, for we have the strongest economy perhaps in our history, with a cleaner environment.”
President Bill Clinton
“The great question of the seventies is, shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land, and to our water?”
President Richard M. Nixon
“I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”
Barack H. Obama
“Laws change; people die; the land remains.”
President Abraham Lincoln