Multiple US States Mulling Carbon Tax Options

The idea of a “carbon tax” is still a relatively controversial one in the US, but that isn’t stopping some states from considering the option — with legislators and citizen groups in a fair number of states now working towards the implementation of the heavily debated idea.

Washington state, in particular, has seen the emergence of a string of grassroots carbon tax campaigns — one that is now circulating a petition to put the carbon tax on the voting ballot.

Car exhaust emissions

The “Carbon Washington” campaign was founded by the environmental economist (+ standup comedian) Yoram Bauman, and is arguing for a carbon tax of $15 per ton of carbon emissions (to be increased to $100 per ton of carbon emissions slowly over the next 40 years). Such a pricing scheme represents the highest yet proposed anywhere.

“I think it’s a relatively new idea for a lot of people,” noted Bauman. “When you talk about climate change, they think they’re going to have to spend money on solar panels or stuff like that.”

“Once we qualify, it goes to the legislature in January, and the legislature essentially has two choices. Pass it and it goes to law, or it goes on the ballot in 2016.”


The Washington Post provides more:

But the idea is catching on. Washington requires citizens’ initiatives to raise 246,372 signatures via petition to qualify for the ballot. So far, Carbon Washington has raised 304,000 signatures, according to Bauman, and is hoping to reach 330,000 before it submits the petition at the end of the year to have a buffer of about 25% of the needed number of signers.

…Washington state isn’t the only one. Citizens and legislators in a handful of other states around the country, including Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island and Oregon, are in various stages of introducing similar proposals to their own state legislatures.

Many are inspired by British Columbia’s carbon tax, which was introduced in 2008 and is widely considered by economists a prime example of a successful carbon pricing scheme. Currently the only carbon tax in North America, the tax — which is revenue neutral, meaning funds are returned to the public rather than kept as revenue by the state (in this case, in the form of other tax breaks) — charges $30 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions and has so far reduced fuel consumption by more than 16% without harming the Canadian province’s economy.

“I think the experience from BC shows that a climate policy like this, a smart well-designed policy, can work,” Bauman stated.

Proponents in Massachusetts are also working towards implementing a carbon tax, though, so Washington state may not be the first state in the US to successfully implement one. Across the country, a coalition by the name of “the Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future” having been formed for the purpose.

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