Yesterday, the clean energy and climate movement crossed the Delaware.
When George Washington launched a surprise attack on the Hessian garrison in Trenton, NJ, on Christmas night in 1776, some of his officers thought that he was crazy. They said it could never be done.
They said Washington should not cross a raging river in the middle of a blizzard. They said he should wait to attack the enemy until the spring. They said the elite Hessian fighters would wipe out his ragged troops.
It turns out that conventional wisdom was wrong in that case. The Battle of Trenton went on to become one of the most famous American victories of the war, a success sorely needed to save the patriot cause after a string of defeats. And of course, the Delaware Crossing has entered history as one of America’s proudest moments.
Now it would be fair to say that clean energy and climate solutions crossed the Delaware and won a victory that conventional wisdom said wasn’t possible.
A Contrary Approach
Many experts said that clean energy supporters should wait until January when Democrats would take over the House. Or wait until 2020 when a Democrat might be back in the White House. Or try a more traditional approach of putting in regulations like cap-and-trade.
Nonetheless, yesterday a bipartisan group of legislators went against the advice of the experts and introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
This bill, if passed, would increase the cost of fossil fuels by putting an increasingly steep price on carbon year after year. It would make brown utility power more expensive and make solar power and other clean energy relatively cheaper.
In turn, business would boom for solar companies. And America would soon be covered with solar panels, which would be as good for the economy and national security as it would be for the climate. In a paper prepared for Columbia University, economist Noah Kaufman said the legislation would “would provide a substantial boost to low carbon generation sources including solar, wind and nuclear energy, and virtually eliminate the use of coal in the U.S. electricity system by 2030.”
Simple Yet Effective
Here’s how it would work.
It’s less of a carbon tax and more like a carbon fee and dividend of the kind that Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the Climate Leadership Council have supported for the last few years and which I outlined in The Solar Patriot.
- The legislation would impose a fee on all fossil fuels at their source, either a wellhead or mine if domestic or if imported, the port of entry.
- The federal government would collect the fee but it would not keep the proceeds.
- Instead, all net revenues would be returned as dividends to American households to offset higher costs for gasoline, heating, electricity and consumer products whose prices may rise.
- Seven out of ten Americans would come out ahead financially, getting more in carbon dividends than the extra they pay for higher energy costs.
Compared to other ways of reducing carbon like cap-and-trade or the Clean Power Plan, a carbon fee and dividend is simple, which makes it easy to understand and easy to implement.
And it’s also more likely to be effective, as the fee on carbon will increase every year until serious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are achieved. The Hill says that “the bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in 10 years, and 91 percent by 2050. That’s a bigger cut than former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan or the United States’ commitment under the Paris climate agreement — a pact President Trump has promised to exit.”
This will give America a fighting chance to avoid climate catastrophe and the massive financial costs outlined in the Fourth National Climate Assessment.
The Climate Patriots Who Brought It to Congress
Whatever you hear on cable news, there are obviously still good men and women in Congress who have the integrity and courage to put country before party. Here are the two Republicans and three Democrats who introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act to the U.S. House of Representatives:
Please join me in giving three huzzahs for these good men and patriotic Americans:
- Republican Francis Rooney of Florida
- Republican Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania
- Democrat Ted Deutch of Florida
- Democrat Charlie Crist of Florida
- Democrat John Delaney of Maryland
Like George Washington crossing the Delaware in 1776, yesterday these men were not afraid to try something that many said couldn’t be done.
After he crossed the Delaware, it took nearly five more years for Washington to defeat Cornwallis at Yorktown and assure American independence.
It may take a few more years before the American people can finally defeat coal and oil barons and give our country clean energy independence.
This bill could be the start of a glorious fight that ends in victory for our forces — as long as we persevere.
— Erik Curren, The Solar Patriot