Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Sen. Whitehouse Proposes Carbon Tax to Repay Citizens for Pollution Costs

Climate

Delivering a keynote address at the New York University Institute for Policy Integrity's fall conference, in which he noted "The world has just set some dubious records. 2014 is on pace to tie or become the hottest year on record," U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse announced that he plans to introduce legislation creating a carbon pollution fee next month. He said he will reveal details in the next few weeks.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gives one of his weekly addresses on climate change. Photo credit: Sheldon Whitehouse

It was an appropriate announcement to make at the conference whose theme this year was “The Future of U.S. Climate Policy: Coal, Carbon Markets and the Clean Air Act.”

"Pollution-driven climate change hurts our economy, damages our infrastructure and harms public health," he told his audience. "However, none of these costs are factored into the price of the coal or oil that’s burned to release this carbon. The big oil and coal companies have offloaded those costs onto society. Economics 101 tells us that’s a market failure; in the jargon, that negative externalities are inefficient. If a company participates in an activity that causes harm, it should have to compensate those harmed.”

"By making carbon pollution free, we subsidize fossil fuel companies to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars annually," he continued. "By making carbon pollution free, we fix the game, favoring polluters over newer and cleaner technologies that harvest the wind, sun and waves.  Corporate polluters, not bearing the costs of their products, are in effect cheating their competitors."

The Rhode Island Democrat, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, has long been an advocate for climate change action. His official website features a page called "Climate Change: Time to Wake Up" and he has made more than 85 speeches in the Senate on the topic, giving one per week.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse at the People's Climate March in New York City last month. Photo credit: Stefanie Spear

Whitehouse praised the Obama administration's limit on carbon emissions from power plants, announced in June, saying "It will change the way polluters think." But he'd like to take the next step of making polluters pay for their cost to society. He said that not only would it reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality, it would generate significant new revenue for the federal government, perhaps as much as a two trillion dollars in the first decade. He pointed to some of the positive uses that money could be applied to, including cutting taxes, relieving student debt, increasing Social Security benefits and providing transition assistance to workers in fossil fuel industries.

"It’s win-win-win," he said. "We can use this revenue to do big things; repair a marketplace failure; and guide the economy toward lower emissions, enhanced productivity and a sustainable future."

Whitehouse also drew a direct line between the Republican party's increasingly stubborn climate denier stance and the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed a gusher of corporate money into campaigns.

"Not long ago, Republicans joined Democrats in pushing for action on climate," Whitehouse said. "Leading Republican voices agreed that the dangers of climate change were real. Leading Republican voices agreed that carbon emissions were the culprit. And leading Republican voices agreed that Congress had the responsibility to act. Then the heartbeat flatlined. Republican calls for climate action fell silent. Something happened, right around 2010. It was the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission—one of the court’s most disgraceful decisions. Improper fact-finding by the five conservative activists on the Supreme Court concluded that corporate spending could not ever corrupt elections—just couldn’t do it. By some magic, it’s pure."

He says that although his Republican colleagues represent many states ravaged by its effects, "Most won’t even utter the words 'climate change' on the floor of the Senate at all.  It’s not safe to, ever since Citizens United allowed the bullying, polluting special interests to bombard our elections with their attack ads and their threats."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Obama and EPA Release Historic Carbon Reduction Plan to Fight Climate Change

Why a Carbon Tax Is Absolutely Essential to Combating Climate Change

Top 20 'Dirty Denier$' Who Accept Big Bucks from Big Polluters

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A pangolin at a rescue center in Cambodia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Malavika Vyawahare

China has banned the trade and consumption of wild animals in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 2,700 lives and infected more than 81,000 people, most of them in China, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Read More
A man carries plastic shopping bags in Times Square on May 5, 2018 in New York City. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis / Getty Images

Nearly one year after New York became the second state in the nation to pass a ban on grocery store plastic bags — the law is going into effect on Sunday.

Read More
Sponsored
White gold man-made diamond solitaire engagement ring. Clean Origin

While keeping track of the new trends in the diamond industry can be hard, it is still an essential task of any savvy consumer or industry observer. Whether you are looking to catch a deal on your next diamond purchase or researching the pros and cons of an investment within the diamond industry, keeping up with the trends is imperative.

Read More
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (C) chants with housing and environmental advocates before a news conference to introduce legislation to transform public housing as part of her Green New Deal outside the U.S. Capitol Nov. 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) took to the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday to chide Republicans for not reading the Green New Deal, which she introduced over one year ago, as The Hill reported. She then read the entire 14-page document into the congressional record.

Read More
Anti Ivan Duque's demonstrator is seen holding a placard with the photos of social leader Alirio Sánchez Sánchez and the indigenous Hector Janer Latín, both killed in Cauca, Colombia during a protest against Ivan Duque visit in London which included a meeting about fracking, environmental issues, the peace process implementation, and questioning the risk that social leaders in Colombia face. Andres Pantoja / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

Colombia was the most dangerous nation in 2019 to be an environmental activist and experts suspect that conditions will only get worse.

Read More