PD Editorial: An Earth-saving plan even President Trump can support

Here’s one issue in Congress that already has some bipartisan support: The adoption of a carbon tax.|

Today’s Earth Day celebrations find many Americans vexed at the policies of a president who appears determined to roll back every advancement made in recent years to protect the environment and the future of our planet. His steps so far include halting an initiative to reduce carbon emissions at U.S. power plants, slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency and putting it under the control of a climate-change denier and, now, possibly pulling the nation out of the Paris climate agreement, reneging on the nation’s pledge to cut greenhouse emissions to 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

These rollbacks represent not just a blow to clean air and water but a rejection of sound science, the motivation behind today’s March for Science, which will be taking place today in Santa Rosa and cities across the nation.

But here’s one environment-saving program that even President Donald Trump can get behind. It’s one many conservatives, from former Secretary of State George Shultz to current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have already endorsed and one that has some bipartisan support in Congress: The adoption of a carbon tax.

The idea is simple. Fossil fuel companies would be required to pay a fee on the carbon content of the fuels they extract. The policy, known as a Carbon Fee and Dividend system, would start with a fee of $15 per ton of CO2 and would increase $10 per ton a year.

So what is there for Trump to like? The money would not go to the government. It would go directly to taxpayers through monthly dividend checks.

Economists who have examined the plan estimate that a typical family of four would receive a check for about $20 a month by the fifth year of the plan rising to $397 per month within 15 years. This would help the families cover the additional energy costs that no doubt would be passed down to them by fossil fuel companies. But economists project that roughly two-thirds of U.S. households would have money left over. Those who wouldn’t would be the wealthiest of individuals who already have large carbon footprints due to owning large houses, regularly traveling by air, etc.

During his recent Senate confirmation hearings, Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, supported the idea of a “revenue-neutral” carbon tax, saying it could replace “the hodgepodge of approaches” by federal and state governments to reduce emissions.

“As a businessman, I have to take a deep breath every time I speak about this, because it’s hard for me to speak favorably about any new tax,” Tillerson said during a speech at the Economic Club in Washington. “I hope you see it shows how serious we are about this issue.”

But here’s the best byproduct of this system - cleaner air. Economists and environmentalists project that a Carbon Fee and Dividend system would cut the nation’s carbon emissions 52 percent below 1990 levels within 21 years.

The best way to get energy companies to understand the importance of reducing emissions - and demonstrating to the world that the United States is serious about protecting the environment and our children’s future - is to charge them at the source. The carbon fee and dividend system would include border tariffs - linked to C02 emissions - on products imported to the United States, thus ensuring American companies are not put at a competitive disadvantage.

Here’s one more selling point for President Trump: A 2014 economic study predicted that the system would generate 2.8 million new jobs.

This is an idea whose day has come. And we can think of no better day than this one.

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