Guest opinion: Carbon fee and dividend: fair, transparent, efficient | PostIndependent.com

Guest opinion: Carbon fee and dividend: fair, transparent, efficient

Ryan Sparhawk

As a native Westerner, I learned to fish and hunt on my family’s ranch in Wyoming and the vast expanses of my native Montana. The mountains and rivers of the West are where I feel at home. Marrying a Carbondale native brought me to the Roaring Fork Valley with our small family. These days, there is nothing more enjoyable for me than teaching my young daughters to fish in the cold streams and lakes of Colorado.

My paternal great-grandfather was the first forest ranger for the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming. My maternal grandparents were migrant farm workers who relied on crops grown in steady climates to make a living. I myself am a soil scientist, primarily working with energy development, including coal mines, natural gas and wind farms. My heritage, history, and personal interests are deeply intertwined with Western landscapes, and I am determined to ensure that my family and descendents have a prosperous future here.

That is why I ask Congress to take action on climate change. Don’t get me wrong. I am a gun owner, and my ideal government would be small, efficient and responsive to regular people. However, I see a way to preserve our freedoms, hedge our bets against climate risks, and promote economic growth at the same time.

The proposal I’ve learned about is called carbon fee and dividend. It’s fair, it’s transparent, it’s economically efficient and it doesn’t grow government. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to understand it, either. Fossil fuel companies will pay a price on the carbon in their oil, coal or gas when it comes out of the ground. Instead of keeping the money, the government will give it all back immediately to the American people as a monthly check or direct deposit. British Columbia does the same thing, and since this plan started, the economy there has boomed, while the rest of Canada has had a downturn.

Starting this price low and increasing it steadily and predictably over time will give companies a chance to change their business plans. Compared with federal court actions or regulations, this allows for a smoother transition for our Western towns that rely on coal, oil and gas.

Moreover, regular Americans’ real income, meaning the balance between what you make and what you spend on cost-of-living items like fuel and utilities, will actually be higher with a carbon dividend than without. That means that in communities around here, people will have a little bit more spending money, which helps our neighbors start and maintain lively local businesses.

Carbon fee and dividend isn’t some leftist conspiracy to make Al Gore rich. It’s the most practical way to make sure the world I leave for my daughters is both beautiful and gainful.

Even ExxonMobil has said, “The risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action. It’s not too late for Congress to consider a carbon tax.” Or take it from Shell, “Carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced to avoid serious climate change. A strong and stable price on carbon dioxide emissions will help drive the right investments in low-carbon technologies.”

Congressman Tipton, Sens. Bennet and Gardner, there is no time to waste. Introduce a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend now, so that we can get on with building a bright future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren here in the great mountain West.

Ryan Sparhawk is a soil scientist and fly-fisherman based out of Carbondale. Learn more about carbon fee and dividend and Citizens Climate Lobby at http://www.citizensclimatelobby.org.


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