Congressman Amodei Confused About Carbon Fee and Dividend

Pavement steams, and a fence catches fire as swirling winds drive a wildfire on the west side of Reno. This is a field next to Cashill Blvd. in Reno - photo: Brian Bahouth/the Ally

Opinion

In August, I called Congressman Amodei’s Washington, DC, office to encourage him to support a carbon fee and dividend proposal that would directly address the root cause of climate change: fossil fuel emissions. The fee would discourage consumption while being returned directly to the people, incentivizing energy innovation with well-funded demand. This proposal is simple, elegant, and supported by 28 Nobel Laureate economists, four former Chairs of the Federal Reserve, fifteen former Chairs of the Council of Economic Advisors and thousands of academic/professional economists.

In response, I received a form letter, containing only one fact followed by a cluster of ominous sounding innuendoes. As an example, this is paragraph three in its entirety (numbers added):

“Nevada contributes less than 1% of total carbon emissions in the United States (1). While I believe Nevada’s environmental policies are success stories, I understand why you advocate for the implementation of a carbon price, which is a proposal with growing interest. I also think it is also important to consider both the economic impacts (2) and the large quantity of American jobs that could be quickly eliminated (3) as states hastily attempt to meet new carbon emission requirements (4) if a carbon price were to be enacted.”

Let’s take these one at a time:

1) Nevada emissions? This is Amodei’s only fact, unsourced and irrelevant. It wouldn’t matter if Nevada emitted zero carbon, we’d still be confronting the increasingly explosive wildfires and perhaps permanent drought—with perpetual, severe water shortages—brought about by rising global CO2 levels. Carbon Fee and Dividend is a national proposal addressing a global crisis, not a Nevada mandate. 

2) Economic impacts? That certainly sounds ominous, but the facts paint a different picture. Two recent (2020) studies from Harvard and Tufts economists, based on empirical data, reveal no overall economic impact, positive or negative, resulting from a carbon fee. It turns out that wages for new, green jobs are actually slightly higher than fossil fuel jobs ($24.85/hr v $24.37/hr). And because lower income people burn less carbon, their dividend will be greater than the added costs, giving them greater means to invest in efficiency. In fact, sixty-one percent of households will come out ahead financially placing the burden on those who can afford burning the most carbon and are thus causing the most harm. Yet these impacts will still be gradual. According to a Columbia University study, in the first year, gas will increase about 12 cents a gallon; by year ten, 90 cents; this is barely discernible from current price fluctuations. So, contrary to Amodei’s alarmist inference, data-based projections of the economic impacts of this proposal are insignificant.

3) A large quantity of American jobs quickly eliminated? What jobs? Eliminated when? Amodei doesn’t provide any evidence. The facts reveal employment shifts from polluting industries to green ones will initially create more jobs at equal pay before eventually evening out. While some in the fossil fuel extraction business will lose their jobs, many are in construction and trades, skills that easily transfer to building a green economy. Currently, there are approximately 1.1 million fossil fuel jobs; if half of them were to be eliminated over a ten year span—a reasonable estimate given the gradual fee increases—that’s less than fifty thousand a year; a hardship, yes, but one we can easily plan for and manage as most are absorbed into building and maintaining a new, green infrastructure.

4) Emission requirements hastily implemented? Hastily implemented? Really? By whom? There are, in fact, no emission requirements or any involvement by the states whatsoever. The proposed act places a fee on carbon at the source, so the marketplace gradually reduces fossil fuel consumption, not the government.

Clearly Congressman Amodei appears confused, carelessly responding to a perilous crisis with unfounded rhetorical distractions instead of educated answers, urging cautious inaction while conditions worsen; while millions of acres of wilderness go up in smoke; while entire towns like Paradise and Greenville burn to the ground; while people, pets, livestock and wildlife are incinerated; while local economies are devastated; while a withering, possibly endless drought dries up rivers and lakes, and overstresses aquifers; while months of toxic smoke and deadly heat domes drive down Nevada tourism, undermining our own economy. In the midst of all this, Amodei dithers, offering baseless, misleading “concerns” instead of informed proposals. 

Why might that be? He’s a very smart man, generally well versed in current affairs. Perhaps in deference to the hundreds of millions his party accepts from oil and gas industries—over $31 million in 2020 alone—on the condition that no laws ever pass that threaten their profits—which this act most certainly will? Who can say? The good news is Mr. Amodei sits on the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, so maybe with a little encouragement from us, his voters, he might take the time to learn a few facts about the relentlessly advancing climate crisis and how to mitigate it—at no cost to our economy—before it’s too late.


Dr. Miller is a retired board-certified hospital chaplain, who specialized in caring for the dying and their families. Prior to that, he was an international award-winning graphic designer.


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