Thursday, February 19, 2009

Climate for Change in Washington, DC (or "Elasticity of Thermal Underwear")

Grey, chilly February morning. Sparrows, crows at my feeder -- pushing, squawking, scolding for perches above the grain trough. Competition eclipses nutrition. Or is it just sport? I recognize the game.

Slept well: cool air, warm blankets. Heat's off in my DC row house-- buffeted by a foot of attic insulation, neighbors, thick walls. Thermal underwear tops my list of global warming reduction technologies. Pays for itself daily. Feeling bouyed, reflective after two days of meetings between carbon tax coalition and Capitol Hill staff.

Our coalition is growing, bonding: Carbon Tax Center, Climate Crisis Coalition, Friends of the Earth, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Get America Working, Climate Policy Center. Dedicated, passionate local activists from adjacent Maryland and Virginia districts.

"Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax" seems less quixotic now. Smart, urbane Hill staff ask incisive questions about pricing carbon emisssions, adjusting rates to meet scientific standards. We, carbon tax advocates are no longer the "lepers" of the environmental movement. Questions are about "how", not "why" to price CO2 emissions. About rates, revenue-recycling, payroll tax reductions, price elasticity, expectations, energy efficiency and technology substitution. We're way behind, the hour is very late, but the "denier in chief" has left town. Not a second too soon.

Debated "tax vs. cap" on Progressive Democrats of America's climate activists' conference call last evening. About 50 participants. Thoughtful questions. The word is getting out: Cap-and-trade is a hidden, volatile, regressive tax to fund favorite projects including the thermodynamically questionable "carbon capture and sequestration" a.k.a., "clean coal."

A carbon tax can be simple, quickly-implemented and fair. Most importantly, transparent prices are effective. Can't say who "won" the debate. My rival, NRDC's Dan Lashof is no lightweight. Listeners' questions made me think we're toe to toe with what was presumptive winner. Complex stuff. Someone asked how cap-and-trade can be internationalized. My answer: It's a nightmare. And India and China won't do it. Carbon tax is straightforward -- we tax other countries' goods on import. If they enact their own carbon taxes, they keep the revenue. India and China might do that.

Long list of follow-up items. Call my sweetie. Take clothes off the line. Pay the electric bill. Global warming, Congress, prices, clothespins. Advocate exponentially, act arithmetically?


Dan said...

Great post! We also have the environmental justice movement lining up behind a carbon tax.

Mary Nichols-Rhodes Region 6 said...

Hi James,

I think you did a very good job of explaining things on the PDA call Wednesday night.

I admit, I went into the call thinking carbon tax - good; Cap & Trade - bad- but wasn't informed enough. The presentations solidified my opinion.

And your answer to Dave Massen's question at the end, whether they can co-exist, just highlighted the shortcomings of cap & trade even more.

I think you won. :)

Thanks for presenting on the call.

Mary Nichols-Rhodes
PDA Ohio