Campaign News

Get the details behind the nation’s first carbon tax swap

This fall, Washington voters will decide whether to pass I-732, an initiative that tackles the root causes of climate change while making our tax system fairer overall. The world is warming at an alarming rate, and putting an effective price on carbon emissions is the single most important thing we can do to reverse this trend. These news stories will help you understand why voting Yes on I-732 will move the state toward two goals: cleaner energy and fairer taxes.

There’s a cheap, proven fix to the world’s biggest problem

  • Washington’s Initiative-732 would make a bad thing — pollution — more expensive by putting a tax on each ton of carbon dioxide created by cars, power plants and the like.

More importantly, doing so would throw economic muscle behind clean energy, shorter commutes, cleaner air and smarter cities. It would use the market, not regulations, to choose winners and losers in the clean tech race. It would help Washington state, in the apt words of the initiative’s promoters, fulfill its moral responsibility to leave a livable planet for future generations. And it plans do so without wrecking the economy or growing government.

“Carbon Washington’s proposal is a brilliant first step.”

  • “This is an example of what a carbon tax ought to look like,” said Shi-Ling Hsu, associate dean for environmental programs at Florida State University’s law school and author of “The Case for a Carbon Tax.”
  • “It’s a well-designed policy,” said Adele Morris, senior fellow and the policy director for the Climate and Energy Economics Project at the Brookings Institution. “It makes a lot of sense for Washington — and I hope voters give it a chance.”

It could be the nation’s first carbon tax. And environmentalists are fighting over it

  • While support from individual politicians has come largely from Democrats in the legislature, the initiative has garnered endorsements from a few key Republican state senators as well. It’s also gained substantial support from the scientific community. Last week, more than 50 climate scientists from the University of Washington published an open letter expressing their support for Initiative 732.
  • “The message that we heard over and over from people was one of urgency,” she said. “People felt like they did not have time to wait for another solution. This is the only initiative on our ballot. It does what we need it to do, which is reduce the carbon emissions that are causing climate change. …I think for Audubon, climate policy isn’t really about money. It really is about what will reduce the carbon emissions.”
  • As crunch time nears, a group of millennials from the I-732 campaign have published an open letter to the leaders of some of the national groups that have failed to support the initiative, calling on them to change their stance. Should the initiative pass, Bauman hopes that it will lead to similar measures on a national scale.
  • “We think we have a great shot at winning a policy that’s not only going to make a big difference in Washington State, but that can potentially set the stage for bipartisan action nationally,” he said.

Time for a carbon tax? A former Bush official says yes

  • Voters in Washington state may show the way  Nov. 8 when they decide on a referendum that would assess a carbon tax on coal, oil and natural gas, a move aimed at lowering emissions that contribute to climate change without digging deeply into people’s wallets.
  • Backed by a campaign called Carbon Washington, the initiative is designed to be revenue-neutral, gradually increasing the carbon tax while reducing sales and other state taxes. A similar levy was established by neighboring British Columbia in 2008.
  • Clay Sell, a former top energy official under President George W. Bush … told a Washington, D.C., audience the other day that it’s time to end  the political debate over the cause of climate change and address the phenomenon with a business-friendly policy.

“I think there are some lessons that could be learned from the initiative in Washington state about a revenue-neutral carbon tax.”

  • “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.”
  • “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.”