Wash­ing­ton re­jects car­bon tax, but back­ers un­de­terred

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Wash­ing­ton’s car­bon tax ini­tia­tive was billed as a bi­par­ti­san ap­proach to curb­ing car­bon emis­sions. But vot­ers in this pro­gres­sive state roundly re­jected the mea­sure that drew op­po­si­tion from the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try and, more sur­pris­ingly, many ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal groups. The pro­posed tax on car­bon emis­sions from fos­sil fu­els such as coal and gaso­line would have been the first in the US, and spon­sors hoped it would serve as a model for ac­tions across the coun­try.

The mea­sure failed by a vote of 59 to 41 per­cent, but back­ers said their ef­forts spurred ur­gent con­ver­sa­tions about cli­mate change in an elec­tion year where the is­sue got lit­tle na­tional at­ten­tion. “Our cam­paign all along said, ‘We’re go­ing to take a swing at the ball,’ and we did that. But the game is not over,” said Yo­ram Bau­man, an econ­o­mist who founded Car­bon Wash­ing­ton, the grass­roots group be­hind Ini­tia­tive 732. “Our group and other folks will look for other op­por­tu­ni­ties to try to take ac­tion.”

A state group rep­re­sent­ing busi­nesses said vot­ers re­jected a flawed pro­posal that would have driven up en­ergy prices for fam­i­lies, work­ers and em­ploy­ers. Ini­tia­tive 732 would have started tax­ing car­bon emis­sions at $15 a met­ric ton in July, gone up to $25 the next year and grad­u­ally in­creased un­til it hit a max­i­mum of $100 a ton. Money from the tax, which would be paid by power plants and fuel im­porters, would have been used to re­duce the state sales tax, vir­tu­ally elim­i­nate busi­ness taxes for man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­turn a re­bate to many work­ing fam­i­lies.

It had the sup­port of many econ­o­mists, cli­mate ac­tivists, state Democrats and sci­en­tists such as James Hansen, the for­mer NASA cli­mate sci­en­tist of­ten con­sid­ered the god­fa­ther of global warm­ing re­search. “Among econ­o­mists, one of the most frus­trat­ing parts of the elec­tion was the fact that en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists didn’t seem to get be­hind this as much as we hoped that they would,” said Christo­pher Knit­tel, pro­fes­sor of ap­plied eco­nom­ics at MIT’s Sloan School of Man­age­ment.

Left-lean­ing groups that op­posed the mea­sure said they sup­port cli­mate ac­tion, but I-732 was a “false so­lu­tion” that would hurt the poor. They said it wrongly fo­cused on tax cuts rather than in­vest­ing money in clean en­ergy projects and com­mu­ni­ties hard­est hit by cli­mate change. “The bur­den would be on those who can least af­ford it,” said Re­becca Sal­dana, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Puget Sound Sage, part of a coali­tion that has been work­ing on a par­al­lel ef­fort in the state.

“Wash­ing­ton will con­tinue to lead. We led by hav­ing some­thing on the bal­lot, and now we’ll lead by get­ting some­thing that works.” Sal­dana’s group and oth­ers in the Al­liance for Jobs and Clean En­ergy are plan­ning to bring a sim­i­lar tax on car­bon pol­lu­tion to the Wash­ing­ton Leg­is­la­ture next year - though their ver­sion would redi­rect money to clean en­ergy projects and low-in­come and mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties. The ini­tia­tive was billed as “rev­enue-neu­tral” but many, in­clud­ing Gov. Jay Inslee, wor­ried about its fis­cal im­pact on the state bud­get. A state anal­y­sis es­ti­mated the car­bon tax could cost the state about $800 mil­lion in lost rev­enues over the first six fis­cal years, though spon­sors dis­puted that. Wash­ing­ton state has been on the fore­front of cli­mate pol­icy as Inslee pushed mea­sures to curb green­house gas emis­sions blamed for global warm­ing. In Septem­ber, the state passed reg­u­la­tions to limit those emis­sions from Wash­ing­ton’s large car­bon pol­luters. “The pub­lic wants to act on cli­mate change, but it wants to have a pol­icy that cuts pol­lu­tion and in­vests in clean en­ergy so­lu­tions,” said Greg Small, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cli­mate So­lu­tions, which didn’t sup­port I-732. It’s al­ways an up­hill bat­tle to pass mea­sures with the word “tax” in it, said Gail Gat­ton, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Audubon Wash­ing­ton, the only ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal group in the state to sup­port I-732. — AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.