Action 19. Kiss and hug Senator Bernie Sanders.

Ok fine not really. I only WISH I could kiss and hug Senator Bernie Sanders for his massively important legislation he has just put forward with Senator Boxer to address climate change. What does this proposed legislation do? Well, the most important thing it does is establish a carbon tax (ok, they are calling it a fee, not a tax, probably for good political reasons, but its the same thing as I read it) which would be levied on the manufacturing and production of GHG-emitting forms of energy (in other words, stuff like fossil fuels that emits carbon; and not stuff like solar and wind, which doesn’t). The bill calls for the money collected from this tax to be used for several critical purposes, including:

  • helping communities plan for and adapt to climate change
  • establish a funding mechanism for research into alternative fuel and energy technologies
  • provide a sustained, comprehensive source of funding for federal weatherization programs, which have the potential to significantly reduce energy use and help people lower their energy bills
  • providing a funding mechanism for retraining fossil fuel industry employees to move into clean tech and other sectors.

Another critical aspect of this bill is that it provides a mechanism for refunding We the People for the costs that will quite likely be passed on to us from the fossil fuel industry as a result of this tax by providing a residential rebate using 3/5 of the carbon tax revenue. The regressiveness of the carbon tax- that is, its propensity to unduly hit low-income groups when costs are passed on- has been one of the major arguments against it, so using this approach to offset some of those costs is a very good move.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates this bill could generate $1.2 trillion dollars in revenue over ten years and reduce GHG emissions by 20 percent of 2005 emission values by the year 2025. Is that enough? No, not even close. Several estimates put the needed rate of reduction at 80% or higher by 2050 to avert the most horrendous of climate effects. But is it a major step in the right direction from one of the world’s highest emitters of GHGs? You bet it is. So, while I can’t kiss Bernie, I will send him a HUGE thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting this legislation on the table.

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