Author: billboyd

Haven’t voted yet? All ballots must be postmarked today or put in a drop box by 8 p.m. this evening. (Find your nearest drop box.)

Haven’t made up your mind about Initiative 732? Here are a few articles to read:

Whatever your political persuasion, today’s your day to celebrate democracy and exercise your franchise. Your vote is valuable. Please use it!

P.S. If you want to join us to watch the election returns you’ll find us — starting at 6:30 p.m. — at Peddler Brewing Company (1514 NW Leary Way, Seattle). If you’re on Facebook, you can find the event here and invite other supporters.

YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY is back for another must-see season. In the video posted here, Don Cheadle, Nikki Reed, Ian Somerhalder (who have all endorsed I-732) and others make the case to “Put a Price on Carbon.”

Watch YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on the National Geographic channel. Each YOLD correspondent – including top Hollywood stars recognized for their commitment to spotlighting and acting on the biggest issues of our time – delves into a different impact of climate change. In the show’s second season, they cross the globe not only to discover the devastating impacts climate change is already having, but to also find the solutions that can solve the crisis.

 Initiative 732 puts a strong price on carbon emissions. Adopting a carbon fee is one way for states to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Passing I-732 should enable Washington State to meet the requirements of this rule.

  • The EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) rule requires states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electrical power generation to specified levels by 2030.
  • The rule gives states the option to adopt “a fee for CO2 emissions from affected [Electricity Generating Units]” as one path for them to comply with the plan. A recent article by the Brookings Institution discusses this approach.
  • As a result, adopting I-732 should be sufficient for Washington State to meet its obligations under this rule.

Photo by Giovanni Arechavaleta via

 By putting a price on carbon pollution, Initiative 732 creates a strong financial incentive for Washington utilities to reduce their emissions and enables our state to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The new Clean Air Rule exempts power plants covered under the federal Clean Power Plan. Passing I-732 should put utilities in compliance with both rules.

  • The Washington State Department of Ecology recently issued a Clean Air Rule (CAR) limiting greenhouse gas emissions from large pollution sources in the state, such as industrial facilities, power plants, landfills, and fossil fuel importers.
  • Initiative 732 would work in tandem with this regulatory cap by creating a financial incentive for large polluters to reduce their emissions.
  • The Clean Air Rule exempts any electrical power plant that is regulated under the state’s implementation of the federal EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).
  • As a result, adopting I-732 would put power plants in compliance with the state rule as well, provided the CPP goes into force.
  • For generation plants not covered by the CPP, and therefore regulated under the state CAR, adopting I-732 would create a financial incentive to invest in efficiency measures to reduce their emissions. These reductions will help them comply with the Clean Air Rule.

Photo by Matthew Henry via

 By putting a price on carbon pollution, Initiative 732 creates a strong financial incentive for manufacturers to reduce their emissions. But the measure also gives manufacturers the resources to invest in greater efficiency and clean energy by cutting their existing state tax burden. These incentives will help manufacturers comply with the new state Clean Air Rule.

  • The Washington State Department of Ecology recently issued a Clean Air Rule (CAR) limiting greenhouse gas emissions from large pollution sources in the state, such as industrial facilities, landfills, and fossil fuel importers.
  • Initiative 732 would work in tandem with this regulatory cap by creating a financial incentive for large polluters to reduce their emissions.
  • But unlike the new rule, I732 cuts other taxes in exchange for placing a tax on CO2.
  • In particular, manufacturers would have their B&O tax virtually eliminated, which would help maintain their competitiveness with out-of-state producers.

Photo by Rob Lambert via

Famed environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has weighed in on I-732. Writing in EcoWatch, Kennedy says “Washington state voters have a profound duty to support Initiative 732, our nation’s first carbon tax.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Supports Initiative 732, carbon tax in Washington

“By making Washington the premier American government to place a price on carbon, Evergreen voters will pioneer the trail away from our deadly carbon addiction and its murderous offspring: climate chaos . . .”

Kennedy also emphasizes the national importance of I-732: “By voting yes on I-732, Washingtonians will not just preserve the environment for children. They will pave the way for a national transition to the clean energy future.

“I hope Washington voters will step up and show the federal government that the visionary, idealistic, can-do leadership is alive and well in America and it’s living in Washington state.”

Read his complete column in EcoWatch. (You can also help share the article via Facebook and Twitter.) (more…)

I-732 puts a price on carbon-polluting products that makes collection of many waste products competitive with fossil energy costs.

  • Collecting forest residuals made economically attractive by I-732 can displace coal used in electric utilities or natural gas for heat reducing fossil emissions.
  • Collecting demolition wastes displace natural gas for industrial heating or district heating (such as serving downtown Seattle).
  • Many landfills currently do not capture their released gases for energy. The higher price on fossil emissions will motivate landfills to more completely capture the gases from decomposition of buried wastes, which can then be burned (both consuming the gas and creating economic value).
  • The increased value of biofuels resulting from I-732 will promote co-product use of biofuels and existing fossil fuels. This also avoids the capital losses resulting from a complete shutdown of the infrastructure currently used solely for fossil fuel plants.
  • The increased value of biofuel feedstocks applies to a wide range of agricultural wastes as well as forest wastes. This will increase the scale of energy-producing facilities (and decrease the share of fossil fuels consumed) making the energy more cost-effective and better mitigating carbon emissions.
  • Collecting wastes for recycled products or biofuels to displace fossil-intensive products and fuels also reduces particulate emissions from other disposal alternatives.

Without I-732’s fossil carbon tax, there is no motive for companies to collect waste products that can displace fossil energy products.

By Bruce Lippke, Professor Emeritus, U of WA, Environmental and Forest
Science; President Emeritus, CORRIM, a national Consortium for Research on
Renewable Industrial Materials

Photo: Forest slash ground into a uniform feedstock for boilers

Clean energy is just one of the reasons to vote for I-732Talking to your friends and neighbors about what to vote for? Here’s why everyone should vote for Initiative 732:

  1. Makes polluters pay: I-732 includes the strongest price on carbon anywhere in the U.S. No more “polluting our skies for free.” It changes the math so that clean energy becomes even more attractive and we can make the switch to clean energy more quickly.
  2. Makes our tax system fairer: In Washington, the less you earn, the bigger share of your income goes to taxes. I-732 gives our tax system a push in the direction of greater fairness. It uses money that polluters will pay to cut the sales tax by a full point. That’ll put hundreds of dollars each year in the pockets of everyone in the state.
  3. Helps households hardest hit by climate change: I-732 will fund a 25% match of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which has been called the country’s best anti-poverty program. With I-732 some 460,000 households will receive direct checks of up to $1,500 every year.
  4. Will inspire other states to put a price on carbon pollution: Washington can lead the way to a clean-energy future. Groups in other states are also working on pricing carbon — but none have gotten this far. They tell us that I-732 inspires them. Let’s pass it and lead a national movement.
  5. Leaves a better world for our children: The world is warming at an alarming rate. Audubon’s recent Birds and Climate Change report says half of bird species in the U.S. and Canada are seriously threatened. Climate scientists and economists agree that putting an effective price on carbon is the single most important thing we can do to reverse this trend. By voting Yes on I-732 we’ll be able to tell our kids and grandkids that we did the right thing.

You can read a lot more reasons why I-732 deserves your support in this column by Ramez Naam in The Stranger, and this column by climate scientist Richard Gammon in Yes! Magazine.

Photo from Drew Hays via

Carbon storage in Washington’s forests is too small and too risky to play a serious role as a climate change mitigation tool

Carbon sequestration in forests is not a viable long-term solution to climate changeThe eyes of the nation are on Washington state as we vote on a policy that can help fight climate change. Initiative 732 could be the first carbon tax in the U.S. — one that independent Sightline Institute says “would launch Washington to a position of global leadership on climate action.” The scientific community almost universally agrees that climate change (and ocean acidification) are severe threats that demand a rapid response, with putting a price on fossil fuel CO2 emissions being a top priority.

Far and away the single biggest contributor to climate change is CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Indeed, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel emissions in recent years have been roughly 10 times higher than emissions from the next largest global source, land use change, including deforestation (Le Quéré et al., 2015). I-732 is designed to make carbon polluters pay for emitting CO2 into the atmosphere, a simple, important step in driving down those emissions.

Despite the small size of carbon fluxes from forests, enhancing carbon storage in forests is often discussed in Washington state as a tool to fight climate change. There was one such claim in a Seattle Times OpEd from October 21 by Mathew Randazzo. We challenge these claims that forest carbon sequestration should be part of the solution. Randazzo does not spell out in any detail what he means. As always, details matter in such discussions, as the science is complex. We focus here on some of the best available science on the climate and carbon storage impacts of forests, and provide references at the bottom of this article from some of the premier scientific journals in the world.

We also point out that the claims by the Randazzo piece and the Seattle Times editorial board position that I-732 would undermine the state budget have been thoroughly debunked, and we direct you to for a detailed analysis.

It is easy to understand why many wish carbon storage in Washington’s forests to be a viable tool to fight climate change. Such a solution, at first glance, seems like it could support the local forestry industry and create local jobs. However, mitigating climate change requires responses that make scientific sense. Devoting resources to forest carbon sequestration is largely a distraction from the real work needed to mitigate climate change, which is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, most importantly of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion.

Before we explain the counterintuitive science, we wish to acknowledge at the start that there are many excellent reasons to support planting trees in our state and to support the local forestry industry. However, mitigating the threat of climate change is not among those reasons, based on the available science.

In temperate parts of the world (mid to high latitudes), such as the Pacific northwest, the impacts of forests on climate are complex. Forest growth does take up CO2 from the atmosphere, which is the impact on climate many think of. However, forests have other, lesser known impacts on climate as well, including trapping moisture below the forest canopy and altering the way sunlight is reflected off the landscape (termed albedo). In temperate regions such as Washington state, forests can actually warm the climate via these impacts on trapping moisture and reflectivity (albedo) more than they cool the climate by taking up CO2. This has been pointed out in a recent article on reforestation and forest management in Europe over the last 250 years that caused a net warming, not a net cooling (Naudts et al, 2016).

It is in the tropical and subtropical latitudes, far south of Washington state, where science indicates carbon storage in forests could have the most beneficial effect on the world’s climate and could possibly help to buy time until society reduces fossil fuel emissions substantially (Houghton et al, 2015). Even in the tropics, relying on forest carbon storage is risky. Carbon stores could be re-released back into the atmosphere at any point in response to fire or disease, each of which can be made worse by climate change. Indeed, one recent study of forests in the Amazon region concluded that forests there went from taking up CO2 to releasing it during one dry year (Gatti et al, 2014). Furthermore, there have been suggestions that tropical forest may become a source of CO2 even in the tropics, in response to greater extremes of rainfall (Gatti et al, 2014). In order for carbon storage even in tropical forests to be beneficial, it must remain stored essentially permanently (for many hundreds to thousands of years). No one can guarantee that future climate change, disease, and/or land use change won’t cause release of this forest carbon back into the atmosphere, which would bring us back to the starting point, before any forest carbon storage efforts were even attempted.

It is urgent that society act quickly to minimize the risks posed by both climate change and ocean acidification. However, any solution must stand up to the rigorous test of the best available science. We quote from some journals cited below.

  • “Considering carbon storage on land as a means to ‘offset’ CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels (an idea with wide currency) is scientifically flawed” (Mackey et al, 2013).
  • “Today’s forest management is more of a gamble than a scientific debate” (Bellassen and Luyssaert, 2014).
  • “Above-ground carbon in forests represents a vulnerable pool of carbon, subject to droughts, fires, insects and other disturbances. Thus, the management of forests to accumulate carbon must not delay or dilute the phasing-out fossil fuel use. On the contrary, the deliberate accumulation of carbon on land may be of little long-term benefit” (Houghton et al, 2015).
  • “Relying on biospheric sequestration is not without risk, because such sequestration is reversible from either climate changes, direct human actions, or a combination of both” (Pan et al, 2011).

The best science tells us that relying on storage of carbon in Washington state forests is risky at best, and quite possibly counterproductive. It is also in many ways a distraction from the essential efforts to reduce emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels.

Passing initiative 732 would represent one important step that Washington can take right now to begin to reduce fossil fuel use and address climate change. Vote yes.

John Crusius, Ph.D.

Richard Gammon, Emeritus Professor, UW Department of Chemistry, UW School of Oceanography

Steven Emerson, Professor, UW School of Oceanography


Bellassen, V., and S. Luyssaert (2014), Managing forests in uncertain times, Nature, 506(7487), 153-155.

Brienen, R. J. W., et al. (2015), Long-term decline of the Amazon carbon sink, Nature, 519(7543), 344-+, doi:10.1038/nature14283.

Gatti, L. V., et al. (2014), Drought sensitivity of Amazonian carbon balance revealed by atmospheric measurements, Nature, 506(7486), 76-+, doi:10.1038/nature12957.

Houghton, R. A., B. Byers, and A. A. Nassikas (2015), COMMENTARY: A role for tropical forests in stabilizing atmospheric CO2, NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE, 5, 1022-1023.

Le Quéré, C., et al. (2015), Global Carbon Budget 2014, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 7, 47-85,

771 doi: 10.5194/essd-7-47-2015.

Mackey, B., I. C. Prentice, W. Steffen, J. I. House, D. Lindenmayer, H. Keith, and S. Berry (2013), Untangling the confusion around land carbon science and climate change mitigation policy, Nature Climate Change, 3(6), 552-557, doi:10.1038/nclimate1804.

Naudts, K., Y. Chen, M. J. McGrath, J. Ryder, A. Valade, J. Otto, and S. Luyssaert (2016), Europe’s forest management did not mitigate climate warming, Science, 351(6273), 597-600, doi:10.1126/science.aad7270.

Pan, Y. D., et al. (2011), A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests, Science, 333(6045), 988-993, doi:10.1126/science.1201609.

PHOTO: Abigail Keenan via

The policy was developed to de-politicize the climate debate and start a national movement

I-732 encourages renewable energyOur latest news release is helping to generate nationwide news coverage. It notes that I-732 has bipartisan support and is endorsed by over 50 University of Washington climate scientists, Audubon Washington, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and numerous other groups and individuals who believe we must take big action now on climate change. The New York Times says I-732 “could well set an example for other states.”

Other recent articles have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post, Bloomberg View and the Washington Post.

Read the press release on BusinessWire.

Photo: Jason Blackeye via