Inslee to lay out ideas for cap-and-trade, carbon tax

The governor's office will ask a task force to focus on those two approaches as keys in fighting global warming.
Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee John Stang

Gov. Jay Inslee is putting a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax into play as ways to tackle the fallout from global warming in Washington.

Those are the two propositions that an Inslee-appointed carbon emissions advisory task force will begin studying today, according to a document posted on the governor's Web site on Monday. The task force will be briefed on the propositions at 10 a.m. in Bellevue.

Inslee wants the task force to look at the cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax and tinker with the details that would be involved before submitting recommendations to him in December. Inslee will use those recommendations to pitch bills to tackle carbon emissions in the 2015 legislative session.

In a cap-and-trade program, Washington would have an overall annual limit to its carbon dioxide emissions. Limits would be set for specific geographic areas. Firms would obtain rights for specific amounts of emissions in those areas and could trade their rights. A carbon tax is simply a levy on a firm's carbon dioxide emissions, which is supposed to inspire a business to decrease its emissions.

The governor's documents say a cap-and-trade system would be more effective in reducing pollution, while a carbon tax would be more effective in predicting the costs of compliance. The document also said a cap-and-trade system becomes more effective as the number of facilities in the network grows, meaning it would be to Washington's advantage to link its cap-and-trade program to similar networks in other states and Canadian provinces. Numerous financial, regulatory and technical  aspects would have to be coordinated a between Washington and other states and provinces.

Inslee wants any proposed 2015 plan to include a way to enforce carbon emissions reduction targets set in a 2008 state law. In 2008, Washington's Legislature set a goal of reducing the state's greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with further trimming of emissions to 25 percent below Washington's 1990 level by 2035 and to 50 percent below by 2050. So far, nothing has happened.

Inslee wants the panel to identify the best ways to use market forces to reduce carbon emissions. He has said he wants the committee to consider the economic consequences of its plan and addressed, along with ensuring no region suffers disproportionate impacts. He also wants the advice to include how to boost job creation while addressing climate change issues.

This panel is Inslee's second attempt at using a committee to design a plan to tackle carbon emissions. In 2013, Inslee presided over a climate-change panel of two Republican legislators and two Democrat legislators that deadlocked along party lines. The Democrats wanted to explore carbon emissions limits and cap-and-trade programs. Republican legislators were more interested in exploring the possibilities from adding more nuclear power and they talked about revisiting the 2008 carbon emissions reductions goals. The current task force is made of Inslee appointees from business, labor, non-profit, governmental and environmental groups.

Carbon emissions are linked to global warming, which influences how snow packs melt, which in turn affects how much water is available for farming. Carbon emissions are also a factor in the increasing acidity of the water along Washington's shores including Puget Sound, which has begun killing baby oysters and harming other shellfish harvested in the Northwest. Washington’s shellfish industry is worth about $270 million annually. 

This story has been updated to correct a statement about ocean acidity.

John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 7:59 a.m. Inappropriate

A carbon tax that is transparent to the end-use consumer is the best way to incentivize consumer behavior towards more energy-efficiency. It also allows capital investors to concretely see what price points they have to hit with new energy-efficiency products to get consumers to embrace them.

I would also prefer that any new tax, be revenue neutral. Specifically is should off-set the highly regressive sales tax.

Cap and Trade raises the price consumers pay for carbon-based energy, but the consumer can not easily see how much, or easily quantify how a change in their energy choices will save them money.

It can also be gamed by political insiders to get limited, specific, exemptions to Cap and Trade for their business or energy product. If we don't like the number of lobbyists working behind the scenes in Olympia now, wait until we have Cap and Trade.

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 10:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Dear Crosscut: if you can't afford a fact checker, try wikipedia

"Acid rain is a rain or any other form of precipitation that is unusually acidic, meaning that it possesses elevated levels of hydrogen ions (low pH). It can have harmful effects on plants, aquatic animals and infrastructure. Acid rain is caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which react with the water molecules in the atmosphere to produce acids. Governments have made efforts since the 1970s to reduce the release of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere with positive results."

"Ocean acidification is the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.[2] An estimated 30–40% of the carbon dioxide released by humans into the atmosphere dissolves into oceans, rivers and lakes.[3][4] To achieve chemical equilibrium, some of it reacts with the water to form carbonic acid. Some of these extra carbonic acid molecules react with a water molecule to give a bicarbonate ion and a hydronium ion, thus increasing ocean "acidity" (H+ ion concentration). Between 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.25 to 8.14,[5] representing an increase of almost 30% in H+ ion concentration in the world's oceans."

afreeman

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 4:30 p.m. Inappropriate

"The governor's documents say a cap-and-trade system would be more effective in reducing pollution, "

When labor unions want increased pay or benefits they don't seek out some hidden mechanism to nudge employers into a generous frame of mind. They strike, boycott and vandalize cars (I can testify to that). I don't endorse this behavior but I have to admit it leaves no doubt about motive or goal. Likewise abortion foes don't seek any balancing of social forces that might gradually reduce the incidence of abortion, they picket, wave signs and personally exhort would be abortion customers. Their disapproval is adamant, clear and leaves no ambiguity in the public mind.

But here, Governor Inslee, arguing for no lesser goal—saving the planet-- pursues a complex, even convoluted plan that might do some good but if it doesn't work well we will surely never know who to blame. Why are not climate alarmists picketing the Virgin Airways luggage carosel, automobile dealers and Boeing? why do massive cruise ships pass not just unnoticed but with celebration? Why is Interstate 5 not being blockaded (like the railroad cars at Tesoro)? One plausible explanations: the climate alarmists don't really believe what they are saying (like an abortion foe that does not really believe the fetus is a baby) and that, if the policy changes are enacted in a gingerly fashion no significant harm will be done. Besides that various economic actors in Washington will probably feel they have to make nice with the dominant political party hereabouts.

kieth

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 10:36 a.m. Inappropriate

I agree with a carbon tax. As more electric cars get a ‘questionable’ break on gas taxes, consider how Plug-in hybrid (PHEVs) create more incentives to drive less. Drive a Prius PHEV 20 miles daily and the effective mileage is about 110mpg. Further miles driven achieve about 55mpg as their ‘small’ (5kwh) battery pack is discharged. Those further miles come with a 'disincentive' of a higher carbon tax. The fewer miles driven, the more trips possible without having to drive and more trips become possible on mass transit, walking and bicycling, fundamental and energy efficient modes of urban/suburban travel unjustly impeded by
car-centric infrastructure.

Any electric car 'plugged-in' to a household incentivizes driving less as the electricity can be used for driving or household uses. However, this choice is more definitive with PHEVs than with all-battery BEVs. The small PHEV battery pack is also the more ideal match to subsequently smaller, simpler, less expensive rooftop PV solar arrays that complement rather than overload regional utility grids. Should we plan to serve as many as 17 households with (5kwh) PHEVs or 1 household with a Tesla (85kwh) battery pack? Oh, and one more thing: Bertha will destroy Seattle's precocious Waterfront and everything above the entire bore tunnel length.

Wells

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 3:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Cap and Trade is pretty much a failure everywhere it has been tried. It is just too ripe for corruption by those who will make a speculative market out of it. It happens regardless of how many safeguards against that you put in. It is nothing more that "indulgences," meaning that one can increase their local emmissions by buying "credits" elsewhere. Also, without strong, independent auditing and testing, it does NOT reduce carbon emmissions when companies participating are allowed to self-report.

Just. Do. A. Carbon. Tax. Much more straighforword, easy to administer, and actually effective at reducing CO2 emmissions.

I agree with others that it should be revenue neutral as well. This is not complicated, and successful examples are not hard to find. Start with B.C. Even Australia was also doing it right, until they got bamboozeled by their own one percent to repeal it.

Marksp

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 12:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Inslee? Ideas? Ha ha ha ha! Oh, you "progressive" kidders, you!

NotFan

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