A Tax By Any Other Name…

There has been an ongoing discussion about carbon tax and fee & dividend on the OB CASEJ discussion list. The acronym stands for Climate Action, Sustainability & Environmental Justice, so it comes as no surprise that most comments are in support. While many have brought up the national impact, the argument below addresses potential international consequences. It comes from Milton Takei an activist and scholar living in Eugene, Oregon:

I would like to make some comments on the need for the U.S. Congress to

put a price on carbon.  Under the Kyoto Accord, not all countries had the

same targets, with the poorer countries exempt.  In December 2011, the

poorer countries agreed to have their greenhouse gas emissions limited

under a new treaty, but the question still remains: what should be the

legally binding goals for each country?  For example, China is not as poor

as India, so the two countries should have different targets.

The international global warming negotiations seem to be deadlocked

because of the attitude of the United States, which is unwilling to make

enough concessions to India, China, and other poorer countries.  The

question is: what legally binding target would the U.S. be willing to

accept for itself?  If the U.S. Congress were to pass a carbon tax,

President Obama might have an indication that the U.S. Senate would ratify

a treaty that the poorer countries could accept, breaking the deadlock in

the negotiations.  Hence the need in the U.S. for action in the U.S.

Congress.  National regulation or action below the national level will not

provide the signal to President Obama that his hand are no longer tied.

                                          –Milton Takei

For more information on the international global warming negotiations:


In related news, the Boston Globe recently published Sage Radachowsky’s reasons for supporting carbon tax. It  was the product of persistent submissions, a good lesson for advocates. An excerpt:

 Phil Flynn suggests that renewable energy technologies are obsolete, and that “If they can’t compete, maybe they shouldn’t” (interview with Erin Ailworth, 30 December). A carbon tax would correct the price of fossil energy to account for the social and ecological costs, and would enable renewable energy and conservation to flourish, creating millions of jobs. The reason we don’t pass a carbon tax is because it would hurt the oil and gas companies who exert far too much control over our government. Fracking is toxic to the environment, and all fossil fuels accelerate global warming. We can let the market lead innovation, and avert the fiscal cliff, with a simple carbon tax, an idea favored by economists both left and right.


If you are looking for a local group working on these issues, check out the local chapter of Citizen’s Climate Lobby , check out 350MA‘s local campaign or bring up it up at the GA. You can also give a quick call to your congress people to find out where they stand on the issue.

To contact Boston CCL chapter email: ccl.boston@citizensclimatelobby.org

Click here to join the OB CASEJ mailing list:


~ Nuevaspora


Massachusetts volunteers tell Congress to price carbon

[Submitted by Gary Rucinski, of CCL which works with individuals and elected representatives from all parts of the political spectrum to find ways of mitigating climate change. They are currently working to build support for the Save Our Climate Bill as a means of establishing a Carbon Fee and Dividend.]

Citizens Climate Lobby in D.C.

CONTACT: Gary Rucinski, gary@rucinskis.com, 617-803-8038

F O R    I M M E D I A T E    R E L E A S E

WASHINGTON, July 30 – As the worst U.S. drought in half a century grips much of the nation and experts point to climate change as a factor, volunteers from Massachusetts came to the nation’s capital last week to ask that Congress put a price on carbon that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Massachusetts residents Susan Labandibar, Gary Rucinski, Jack Thorndike, Karen van Hoek, and David Gordon Wilson joined volunteers from the U.S. and Canada attending the Third Annual Citizens Climate Lobby International Conference in Washington, D.C. They visited the offices of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation to make their case for a progressive, revenue-neutral tax on carbon. Legislation for such a tax has been introduced in the U.S. House as the Save Our Climate Act (H.R. 3242). (Massachusetts Representatives Michael Capuano, James McGovern, and John Olver are co-sponsors of HR 3242.) They thanked Rep. Capuano personally for signing on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 3242.

For Gary Rucinski, the group leader of the Boston area CCL chapter, the visits on Capitol Hill left him hopeful that the U.S. could start reducing greenhouse gas emissions before it’s too late:

“I was energized by how we doubled the number of conference attendees and meetings on the Hill compared to last year’s conference. Congressional aides listened to our position and demonstrated their respect for CCL’s work by asking detailed questions about our proposal for putting a price on carbon. They are striving to find solutions and grateful for citizen involvement.”

At a packed reception held at the end of their first lobbying day, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), co-sponsor of the Save Our Climate Act, told volunteers, “This is about future generations more than it is about us, because things are going to get worse if we don’t dramatically alter the political and legislative trends of this country.”

Former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), who introduced a carbon tax bill in the previous Congress but lost his bid for re-election, spoke to an appreciative crowd about making the case for a carbon tax: “What you’re here to do is to help people in Congress to see that there are people willing to see the true costs [of fossil fuels]… The conservatives can get into this thing if we can show that this is about free enterprise and accountability. It’s about fixing market distortions so that true costs are accounted for.”

A few days before CCL’s conference, Inglis launched his Energy & Enterprise Initiative to talk about the conservative rationale for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. An introductory video on the Initiative’s home page features former Reagan economist Art Laffer.

CCL Executive Director Mark Reynolds came away from the week of lobbying buoyed by the prospects for a carbon tax in the next Congress.

“We’ve had some great conversations on the Hill this week with a number of Republican offices, which makes me optimistic that we can get a bi-partisan bill introduced early in the next Congress. The big topic of the moment right now is the fiscal cliff, but the climate cliff will make that look like a picnic if we don’t put a price on carbon soon.”


Three Mass. Representatives Co-sponsor Climate Bill

The following Contribution is from Gary Rucinski at Citizens Climate Lobby:

CONTACT: GARY RUCINSKI: gary@rucinskis

While most members of Congress sit and ignore warnings from the scientific community about worsening climate change, three Massachusetts congressmen have demonstrated their commitment to a livable world by co-sponsoring the Save Our Climate Act, said Gary Rucinski, founder of the Boston chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.

In the past month, Representatives Jim McGovern, John Olver and Michael Capuano – all Democrats – have signed on to H.R. 3242, introduced by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA). The bill would place a steadily-rising fee on carbon-based fuels – coal, oil and gas – which would motivate an economy-wide shift from fossil fuels to clean energy. Revenue from the carbon fee would be returned as equal shares to the public in order to protect consumers from rising energy costs stemming from the fee.

“It only stands to reason that congressmen from Massachusetts – the cradle of our democracy – would step forward to declare our independence from the tyranny of fossil fuels,” said Rucinski. “Citizens Climate Lobby in Boston is proud of the stand our representatives have taken to reduce the greenhouse gases that are heating up our planet.”

Stark’s legislation, which has 18 co-sponsors, awaits action in the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Climate change is a serious environmental challenge,” said Rep. Capuano. “We must work to address it and better understand it so that our environment and our economy will not be negatively impacted. I am supporting the Save Our Climate Act because it will give us some of the tools we need to take on climate change.”

Man Overlooking Coast: Photograph by Ana Ortega

Michael Mershon from Rep. McGovern’s office laid out the reasons for the congressman’s co-sponsorship of H.R. 3242: “Jim McGovern strongly believes we must protect our air, water, and natural resources for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations of Americans. He also believes that our economic security depends on reducing our dependence on foreign oil, improving energy efficiency, and creating new, green jobs here at home.”

Rep. Olver pointed to the revenue-neutral approach of the Save Our Climate Act, which would “return money to overburdened taxpayers.  Additionally, it empowers our green energy technology sector – one of our country’s brightest prospects for re-asserting our leadership in the global economy.”

“That’s the real beauty of this bill,” said CCL’s Rucinski. “It motivates the private sector, rather than the government, to be the primary driver of the green economy. And that’s how it should be.”

Citizens Climate Lobby is an independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to creating the political will for a sustainable climate. It supports the fee-and-dividend policy endorsed by NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen as a means of reducing the multiple risks of climate change. For more on CCL and fee-and-dividend, visit: citizensclimatelobby.org.

May 18: Vermont Bans Fracking; Green Party In French Cabinet

There are a couple of things to add to the last post. First, for anyone wondering, Gary estimates that if the Save Our Climate Act were enacted, individuals would receive approximately $172 the first year, $933 on the 5th and $1298 in year 10. Clearly, the reason to enact this bill is not to provide people with more cash, but gives an idea of what the offset would be for any price hikes. Second, the program is Civil Science on Occupy Boston Radio (Wed. 6pm).

Sorry for the scant posts, we are still getting organized and some of our most active bloggers were in transit (and we are actively looking for contributions!). For now I’ll leave readers with some breaking news…

Vermont has just become the first state to ban fracking. Vermont governor Peter Shumlin was quoted as saying the following as he signed the ban into law:

“Human beings survived for thousands and thousands of years without oil and without natural gas…We have never known humanity or life on this planet to survive without clean water.”

Next week, we’ll delve into the appointment of a Green party leader and clean water advocate as Minister of Territories, Equality and Housing in the French Cabinet, and our own complex relationship to fracking here in Massachusetts as the plans to expand Spectra Energy’s Algonquin pipeline continue.

How We Use Energy…

[Sorry for the delay, our “blog team” has been traveling and having a hard time getting to the internet.]

No doubt about it, solar power is hot. At least it is in Europe, where last year 21.9 gigawatts of photovoltaic paneling was installed, surpassing that of gas and wind plants connections combined.

While the threat of climate change is be alarming, raising awareness is can be fun

On this side of the pond, Obama is pressing congress to extend tax breaks for wind power projects* (now gaining bipartisan support), while on Wednesday memos were leaked that implicated John Droz and others in organizing to “cause subversion in message of [the wind] industry so that it effectively becomes so bad no one wants to admit they are for it”. Their strategy included efforts to create a movement that should “ appear as a ‘groundswell’ among grass roots.” John Droz is best known know for is involvement in the law suit targeting climate researcher Dr. Michael Mann.

On the same day, Dr. James Hanson, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, condemned the use of another new fuel source, this one emitting more greenhouse gas than conventional fuels. Tar Sands can be processed into a very crude oil, but it requires much more work  (it starts out as gritty bitumen rather than a liquid). Dr. Hanson explains in his New York Time’s op-ed:

“But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically. President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground.”

We are not yet locked into the future Dr. Hanson is describing, however we could be if we don’t change the way we use energy soon (read: less than 5 years). The panning necessary will have to come before that, so timing is crucial. If all this leaves you wondering what options the average citizen has in trying to reduce national emissions, check out Wednesday night’s interview with Gary Rucinski on carbon fee and dividend.