RFK, Jr: Washington Voters Step Up, Pass the Nation's First Carbon Tax
Alfred North Whitehead observed that "duty arises from one's capacity to influence events." By this rule, Washington state voters have a profound duty to support Initiative-732, our nation's first carbon tax.
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.
September shattered the record for hottest month ever recorded and 2016 will be measured as human history's hottest year as was 2015, and 2014 before that. Humanity is already paying a high price for carbon—melting glaciers and barren, acidic oceans, biblical droughts, famines, floods, fires, plagues and great cities drowned by newly routine superstorms. Raging forest fires in Washington state obliterate property values and spawn epidemics of asthma and premature death. Weather related disasters have cost Americans more than $1 trillion dollars in the last 30 years.
While Americans suffer, big polluters are getting away with murder and getting rich in the process. Despite last year's losses, Shell, BP and Exxon reported a decade of record earnings that exceeded the greatest profits of any industry in human history. Our federal government has failed to address the crisis. A billion dollars in campaign contributions from the carbon tycoons has paralyzed congress. Big oil's indentured servants on Capitol Hill have blocked every effort to mitigate the climate apocalypse. Pricing carbon isn't even on the table.
And so, our nation looks to Washington state for leadership. On Nov. 8, just four days after the Paris climate agreement became international law, Washington state can step boldly into the leadership breach left by federal abdication.
For the 20 percent of undecided voters, here is how I-732 works. The proposed law puts a price on carbon pollution, starting at $15 per metric ton. For reference, a typical car emits about five metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That price will steadily, and predictably increase over a few decades until it hits $100 per metric ton, adjusted for inflation.
The state will return all these payments to taxpayers in the form of a full percentage point decrease in the sales tax, plus up to $1,500 for a Working Families Tax Credit for low-income families. This makes the referendum "revenue neutral"—the government neither gains nor loses money. The scheme is one of simplest and most effective ways to reduce emissions immediately.
Some environmentalists oppose the Initiative arguing that revenues should go to green energy infrastructure. That, indeed, would be the best outcome. But we shouldn't make perfect the enemy of the good.
And a lot of good will come from this law. State sales taxes will drop. Rather than pay more to burn fossil fuels, polluters will switch to cleaner, more efficient energy and technology yielding cleaner air and water and better health for Washington's citizens.
Dirty fossil fuel polluters will finally pay the true costs that they are now imposing on America's citizens. Globally, taxpayers pay more than $5.3 trillion to subsidize the oil, gas and coal industries. By turning off this pipeline of massive socialist style subsidies, Initiative-732 will level the playing field for clean energy technologies. Wind, solar, electric vehicles and energy efficiency will finally compete head to head against filthy and expensive dinosaur fuels for which the economic rationale has expired. Those new energy sources produce abundant, high-paying sustainable jobs and democratize our energy markets.
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.
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Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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