Thursday, August 9, 2018
The 2018 midterms may turn out to be one of the most consequential elections in American history. A few layers below the big choices will be one that could also have a major long-term impact: carbon pricing is on the ballot in Washington state.
Some time back (here) I wrote about the failure of carbon tax or cap-and-invest legislation to pass in the last sessions of the Oregon and Washington legislatures. The main point of my analysis was that big, controversial legislation is never easy to pass, so failure to get a bill through in a time-restricted session is not necessarily the end of the story.
And in fact in Washington state, the story has a new chapter. The Washington State Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, which unites more than 200 coalition members, including health professionals, businesses, labor unions, faith communities, environmental advocates, and communities of color (website here), didn’t wait for the next legislative session. They put together an initiative campaign to get their own version of carbon pricing on the November ballot – and have succeeded! (story here) The “Protect Washington Act” would levy a fee on the carbon content of fuels – including motor fuels – and electricity and use the revenue to fund clean energy and clean transportation projects. Reflecting the local economy, the bill sets aside funding for clean water and forest projects as well. Finally, the bill would provide funding to help low-income communities and others that might be negatively affected by the transition to clean energy.
Will the initiative pass? I have no idea. Success is certainly not guaranteed, and the fossil fuels industries will no doubt pour money into negative TV ads. I for one will be watching hopefully with at least a small percentage of my attention as I glue myself to my TV and laptop during a long night’s vigil.