Column: Carbon taxes address cost of climate change

For the Valley News
Published: 5/10/2022 6:01:50 AM
Modified: 5/10/2022 6:00:10 AM

Prioritizing special interests over the interests of residents, the New Hampshire State Legislature recently passed HR 17, “A resolution opposing all federal and state efforts to establish a carbon tax on fuels for electricity and transportation.” The resolution’s cosponsors, four members of the Science, Technology and Energy Committee, promoted their resolution using Heartland Institute misinformation that is funded by the fossil fuel industry to delay meaningful climate action.

Most of the majority-party Republican legislators voted in line with their leadership and the resolution was passed, despite the overwhelming resident input that totaled 149 against and 4 in favor. This article explores why HR 17 is in opposition to our interests as New Hampshire residents, and what we can do about it.

First of all, taking carbon pricing off the table will remove any remaining chance we have of maintaining a safe climate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that “explicit carbon prices remain a necessary condition of ambitious climate policies.” Federal cash-back carbon pricing legislation, such as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, will reduce United States carbon emissions 90% by 2050, putting us well on our way to the needed net zero.

Without a price on carbon, federal legislatures will be left struggling with regulations, subsidies and incentives that appeal less to conservatives and do not address the root cause of the problem. An underlying market failure exists where the true costs to society of burning fossil fuels are not included in their upfront price, making them artificially cheap and leading to external costs that we will all pay for later as we suffer from climate change. Economists’ calls for a cash-back carbon price to correct this market failure are widely supported.

Equity is another important consideration for climate policy that can be achieved with cash-back carbon pricing. While 85% of households will break even or come out ahead when all the revenue collected from a carbon price is distributed to households equally each month, low-income and marginalized communities will disproportionately benefit as a result of their naturally low carbon-intensive lifestyles. Under a federal cash-back carbon pricing plan, 99% of low-income households and 90% of racial minority households will break even or receive more in their dividend checks than they pay in trickle-down higher prices from the carbon fee. Since cash-back carbon pricing has progressive social impacts, removing the option of implementing a carbon price limits the options for equitable climate legislation.

Finally, the United States cannot avoid carbon taxes altogether. The World Trade Organization allows countries that are pricing carbon to use border carbon adjustments during trade, which means they charge their carbon price on imports from other countries that do not have a matching carbon price in place. The European Union will begin using a border carbon adjustment in the next few years. Canada is also considering it, and more countries will soon follow. If the United States has still not implemented a carbon price, we will be paying a carbon price to other countries during trade. We will have to pay for our pollution no matter what, but whether we give that money to other countries or keep it in our own economy is our choice.

Cash-back carbon pricing will have numerous benefits for our environment, people and economy, so we need to make sure our Congress members know that constituents support it. Since the New Hampshire Legislature has resolved otherwise, it is up to us to email or call Congress to make our opinion heard. Please visit or to encourage Sen. Shaheen, Sen. Hassan, and Rep. Pappas to support cash-back carbon pricing, and to thank Rep. Kuster for doing so already.

The writer is from Windham, New Hampshire, and is a freshman at Bowdoin College.

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