Oped: Where's my carbon dividend?

Jon Clark
Citizens' Climate Lobby

I’ve been an advocate for action to address climate change for quite a long time. It’s always been important for me to walk the talk when it comes to doing my part to reduce my fossil fuel usage. 

I’ve driven 66,000 miles in my all-electric car since 2012. My wife and I just bought our second electric car, upgrading the car with another with a 310-mile range. We’ve always made sure we chose 100 percent renewable energy from our electric utility (visit www.papowerswitch.org/ to do this). We capped the gas line to our clothes dryer and installed an electric dryer instead. We did the same with our natural gas water heater and switched it for a super-efficient electric heat pump water heater. We replaced all the incandescent light bulbs in the house with CFL or LED light bulbs. We’re on a waiting list for a new solar roof which would power our house and fuel our car entirely with solar.  

Don’t get me wrong, we can certainly do more, but I think we’ve done our fair share to reduce our carbon footprint.  

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2018, file photo, fishing trawlers sit on the frozen harbor of Lake Montauk surrounded by thin sheets of ice in Montauk, N.Y. A quick study of the brutal American cold snap found that the Arctic blast really was a freak of nature. Climate change wasn’t a factor but it is making such frigid weather spells much rarer. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

York County is full of people like myself who have done similar things out of a sense of responsibility for our climate, a desire for energy independence, the desire to have the latest and coolest technology, to save money in the long run or for other reasons.  

However, the latest clean energy technology can be expensive. Therefore, the early adopters of such technology are important. Our actions have collectively made a difference for our climate and for our local air and water quality. Our investment dollars have advanced the technology, making it more efficient and more affordable for everyone.  But given so many of us have done our part, we’re long overdue to be rewarded for our efforts.  

Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to do my part and I will continue to do more, but the fossil fuels industry should do theirs as well. Humanity’s burning of fossil fuels has been heating up our planet with increasingly dire consequences, yet incredibly it’s still acceptable to pump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the atmosphere at no additional cost to consumers or industry.

In this photo taken Monday, May 21, 2018, workers trim leaves on Pinot Noir vines in the Azaya vineyard of the McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, Calif. From South Africa's drought-stricken vineyards, to France’s noble chateaus, to sunny vineyards in Australia and California, growers and winemakers say they are seeing the effects of climate change as temperatures rise, with swings in weather patterns becoming more severe. They are moving to cooler zones, planting varieties that do better in the heat, and shading their grapes with more leaf canopy. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

 Climate change is increasingly becoming a bridge issue uniting Democrats and Republicans rather than a wedge issue dividing us. The Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus is testament to this with 6 new members joining recently, making the total count at 84, 42 Republicans and 42 Democrats.  

Furthermore, the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) is a coalition of Republicans building conservative support for a revenue-neutral carbon tax to reduce our carbon emissions. The CLC has a new political action committee called Americans For Carbon Dividends (AFCD) which is supported by former Senators Trent Lott (R-MS) and John Breaux (D-LA) to lead their lobbying efforts.  

In this Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 photo a customer returns a keg at the state-of-the-art, energy efficient Smuttynose Brewery in Hampton, N.H. The brewing facility includes solar tubes that allow more natural light into the brewery and a high-tech milling system that gets more yield out of the malted barley. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

AFCD is advocating for the Carbon Dividends policy rolled out by the Climate Leadership Council in 2017, which would put a $40/ton price on carbon emissions and return 100 percent of the revenue to households. The AFCD policy would also roll back regulations. AFCD’s policy has several differences from the carbon fee and dividend policy Citizens Climate Lobby has been advocating (our plan starts at a lower price $15/ton and doesn’t roll back regulations). Still, it’s heartening to me that Conservatives are actively pushing for a market-based solution to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  

York Countians are already doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint. According to Clean Energy Progress, there are 604 residential solar and wind installations in York County and they estimate York Co. homeowners invested over $11 million in these projects. 

These investment dollars are cleaning up our air and water and creating jobs locally.  

Clean Energy Progress estimates 1,499 jobs in clean energy in the County. These 604 homeowners and thousands of York Countians who are doing things like insulating their homes, driving electric and fuel-efficient cars or carpooling, biking, walking or telecommuting to work, buying energy star appliances and switching to LED lightbulbs would ALL benefit from getting a carbon dividend. These York County residents should be rewarded for their efforts and by doing so, many thousands more will join them in reducing their own carbon footprint, cleaning up our poor air quality, creating more clean energy jobs and putting money in the pockets of York County residents who are doing their part.  

I urge Rep. Scott Perry to join the Climate Solutions Caucus to look for market-based solutions to climate change such as carbon dividends. Also, I’d like to thank George Scott who is running against Rep. Perry in the November election for pledging to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus if elected and supporting fee and dividend legislation. Fee and dividend would put a fee on carbon emissions and return the revenue back to York County households, an increasing number of which are asking “where’s my carbon dividend?”

Jon Clark is Mid-Atlantic regional co-coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby and lives in Lancaster.