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How does a pair of middle-aged conservative Republicans, one a former reconnaissance Marine and the other a professional engineer, become “climate activists”? Neither of us has a history of environmental activism, but both of us are moved by the compelling scientific evidence emerging from multiple, independent lines of study implicating human industry as the driver of worldwide climate change.


A recent Portland Tribune article identified the need to reduce the world’s carbon emissions by 80 percent to avoid the worst of climate change’s potential consequences. We believe that viewing climate change through partisan lenses only impedes our ability to recognize practical solutions: the emergence of a conservative solution to the problem has galvanized us into action.

Despite claims from Republican leaders, the truth is that most of us don’t deny basic science. What we fear is a political cure that is worse than the disease. A visceral distrust of government solutions screams louder to most Republicans than does the descriptive analysis and predictive modeling from climate scientists. This is unfortunate, because a conservative solution to the international threat of climate change is available. It is called “carbon feed and dividend” (CF&D), or “revenue-neutral carbon tax,” because it limits government’s role to bookkeeper instead of bank and regulator. It works like this.

? Apply a gradually increasing annual tax on carbon wherever it is mined, pumped, or imported into the United States - initially, at $10/ton. This is roughly equivalent to an increase of 14 cents per gallon of gas.

? Increase the tax in regular $10 increments every year for 10 years.

? To protect American industries, apply a border tariff on the equivalent carbon content of all imports. Remove the tariff only when the exporting country applies an equivalent carbon tax.

? Here’s the kicker — return all proceeds from the tax back to American households monthly, on a straight per-capita basis

Why tax the carbon, then give it all back, you ask? This point is crucial: you the consumer are not taxed — carbon is. Americans are given the revenue from the tax to spend how they wish. Anything using carbon in its manufacture or distribution will get more expensive due to annual increases in the tax. Gasoline, coal, and natural gas usage will inevitably decline as carbon’s cost advantage over alternatives lessens or disappears. With CF&D, government don’t pick “winners and losers” by subsidizing select energy sectors and EPA regulations won’t provoke years of legal wrangling. CF&D is simple and transparent. The collective buying decisions of individual Americans, which constitutes 70 percent of all U.S. economic activity, will drive the outcome.

Many Oregonians are familiar with Alaska’s “permanent fund,” where each year, every Alaskan resident receives a portion of the state’s annual oil revenues. In recent years that share was about $2,000. The CF&D revenue to be returned to every American household would exceed this: current projections are over $300/month within five years, and over $400/month in 10 years. For approximately two-thirds of American families, this rebate would exceed the extra expenses incurred by the increased cost of carbon. That is, most American families — particularly those at the bottom of the income range — would come out ahead financially. Not only that, every economic analysis of CF&D has concluded that, because it puts money directly into the hands of millions of households, the overall economy and employment would grow as a result.

Virtually all economists agree that taxing carbon is the best way to corral carbon emissions. Most major oil companies have gone on record preferring carbon taxes over increased regulations. What few have publicly proposed is the wholesale return of carbon tax revenues back to the people, as this plan does.

Proposals exist to address climate change at the state level, but their impact is inherently limited by Oregon’s negligible share of global carbon emissions. International accords being bandied about are hindered by poor enforcement mechanisms. The right place for a political solution to address climate change is at the national level, precisely where CF&D can bite.

This is where Republicans should enter the fray. Stop denying the basic science of climate change, and instead embrace it as the conservative issue that it is. Accept that carbon emissions should be taxed to level the energy-generation playing field with other technologies. And make it clear to your congressional representatives that the carbon tax be revenue-neutral — demand that the government return all of it to the people. This will strengthen the finances of American households and the national economy as a result.

Barry Daigle and Eric Means are Conservative Caucus members of the Portland chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Website: https://citizensclimatelobby.org. Email: [email protected]org

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