Close to Home: For wineries, a carbon tax is pro-business

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

Drought, heat extremes, wildfires, power outages, smoke — in the past four years these have become part of our normal experience in the Napa Valley and in all winegrowing regions in the western United States.

As we look to the future of our multigenerational, agriculturally based winegrowing businesses, we recognize climate change as the existential threat to our current and continued success. We implore our government to adopt a carbon fee and dividend policy similar to the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which gained 85 co-sponsors in the last Congress.

We are farmers first. We are, thus, deeply attuned to our natural environment, and we are exceptional stewards of our land. From organic farming practices, carbon sequestration and solar power to significant investments that decrease our water usage and carbon footprints, we are passionate about doing our part to promote a healthy environment and climate.

Robin Lail
Robin Lail
Beth Novak Milliken
Beth Novak Milliken

Rep. Mike Thompson, who is leading efforts to expand the use of renewable energy through federal tax incentives that promote clean energy technologies, says “it is important to continue to work together to lessen our carbon footprint, dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Beyond what we do locally, we are actively engaged with the Porto Protocol and are among the 115 wineries and wine organizations from across the country that have signed the wine industry’s climate declaration. In addition, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery was among the first six applicant members of International Wineries for Climate Action. This organization is dedicated to actively reducing carbon emissions in the wine industry and also signed the climate declaration.

Why are we so passionate about these issues? Because our businesses’ survival literally relies on a healthy natural environment and a relatively stable climate.

Putting a price on carbon is a pro-business approach to curbing carbon emissions, and such a policy is the most effective step in bringing about immediate change. We all respond to economic incentives — as articulated by Laura Tyson, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, during an environmental summit hosted by Morgan Stanley this spring. “Government has to be responsible for setting incentives for the private sector to invest in safeguarding our public good,” Tyson said. She cited broader global adoption of a tax on carbon emissions as perhaps the most effective mechanism to curb climate change.

With the Biden administration rejoining the Paris accord and prioritizing climate change as the existential threat that it is, now is the time to act. Action such as that envisioned in the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act offers an amazing opportunity to immediately decrease our carbon emissions by taxing those emissions and distributing the revenue in monthly checks to all Americans.

It is effective; it is good for the physical and economic health of all Americans; it is good for the economy via job creation; it is bipartisan; and it is revenue neutral. It also allows us to send a message to the world that the United States is back. It demonstrates that we accept responsibility for our significant contributions to the carbon emissions that continue to cause climate change. We can once again lead by setting the best possible example.

We have said that climate action is pro-business. Please understand that the status quo is anti-business. All of us are dependent on a healthy natural environment. Being in agriculture, we feel this daily, personally and directly. A bill similar to the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act would unleash economic powers equal to the existential challenges of climate change. This is in keeping with capitalism, on which our country’s economy thrives and thus demands and deserves our most fervent support.

Robin Lail is the founder of Lail Vineyards in Rutherford. Beth Novak Milliken is president and CEO of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery in St. Helena.

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

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