Initiative 732
October 18, 2016 8:18 PM   Subscribe

There’s a carbon tax on the ballot in Washington this November, meant not just to put the state on the path to its climate targets but to serve as an example to other states. The measure, called Initiative 732, isn’t just any carbon tax, either. It’s a big one. It would be the first carbon tax in the US, the biggest in North America, and one of the most ambitious in the world.

And yet the left opposes it. The Democratic Party, community-of-color groups, organized labor, big liberal donors, and even most big environmental groups have come out against it. Why on Earth would the left oppose the first and biggest carbon tax in the country?
posted by Chrysostom (58 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I thoroughly and vociferously support tax reform to achieve social justice outcomes. And I am equally convinced of the need for strong economic instruments to reduce/eliminate carbon pollution.

But I don’t see that these things have to be mixed.
posted by wilful at 9:07 PM on October 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


This article was so great. I was following the initiative when they were trying to get signatures and was somewhat mystified at the time why CarbonWA was being asked to not file theirs (despite having enough signatures) and then they decided to file anyway. I knew I was missing something but it wasn't clear. The last few months I've been going to my state legislative district democrats meetings [1]. At one meeting, they were voting on whether or not to endorse I-732. Given how much of a snoozer previous endorsements had been I was kind of shocked to see how contentious it was. I'd been generally positive on it (but hadn't researched yet) as I followed folks who've supported it from the start. The room at my LD was about evenly split between supporters and strong opposers. There was no consensus and no endorsement. Lots of folks opposed it because it was (yet again) ignoring the needs of poor, people of color etc., concerns about it not actually being revenue neutral (or wanting it to raise more), and so on. If you look at other regional and state democrats groups [2], there's not even any consensus locally in the Seattle area (pretty darn liberal). We have endorsements of Yes, endorsements of No and just no endorsement either way. Governor Inslee is seeking re-election and his most important issue is climate change and clean energy. I can't find any indication he supports it. The state party committee I think did not endorse either way. It's super interesting to see how these things play out (or maybe I'm just getting into party politics a lot).

[1] I became a precinct committee officer in my legislative district a couple months ago. It means I get to vote on endorsements and other things and am expected to get democrats in my precinct (a few blocks of my neighborhood) to vote (and share what the LD is supporting).
[2] You can see a list in King County where I'm at here (bonus: the various LD websites are a wonderful rainbow of web design). There's some complicated stuff in terms of rules and officials, but basically the state legislative districts all have membership groups primarily made up of PCOs, the counties have groups and all groups send representatives to the state party meetings.
posted by R343L at 9:17 PM on October 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Fascinating article.

State environmental initiatives are tough. It can become an incentive to just move the production to another jurisdiction and do no significant good. (But not always. I say this as a Californian who's voted for our strong ones and they've mostly worked as intended, and much better than I expected.) (My preferred thing would be a carbon tax at point of sale, on consumption, off set by lower income taxes on poor to middle class. This would possibly be illegal under the commerce clause and if it weren't there's still the problem Washing ton doesn't have an income tax.)

Here you have the pragmatic issue too, that a loss might kill your chances for five or ten years to do something productive. I don't know enough about WA politics to know if that's true here but the author certainly seems to think it's legitimate. And there certainly have been non-theoretical times when you want to torpedo a proposal thoroughly so you're not 'tainted.'

On the other hand with the bitter split what are the chances of the alliance initiative next year? Maybe not as dire as I think, maybe than can pitch this as the "real" proposal and make voters who were conflicted about this one pass next year to ease their conscience.
posted by mark k at 9:21 PM on October 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oh and looking at the endorsements that Carbon WA lists shows the fracture lines in the communities and organizations involved. Also the weirdness of some environmental groups like the Sierra Club which has the position (and this is a quote!): "Sierra Club has adopted a Do Not Support position concerning Initiative 732, rather than Support, Neutral, or Oppose." It goes on but what does "Do Not Support" mean as opposed to, uh, "Oppose"?!
posted by R343L at 9:21 PM on October 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


It goes on but what does "Do Not Support" mean as opposed to, uh, "Oppose"?!

And can you imagine the human energy that has gone into arriving at that non-position?
posted by wilful at 9:23 PM on October 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


Another fascinating article I haven't gotten a chance to finish yet: Does I-732 really have a “budget hole”?. I started reading that one, expecting to be assure that 732 was okay but actually got part way thru and got more concerned (probably not the author's intent!)
posted by R343L at 9:25 PM on October 18, 2016


I don't have much experience with the alliance as described in this article, but they seemed pretty ineffective and indicative of the consensus-driven political caricature of NW politics that seems to result in completely stalling out much of the time. I mean:
So what policy does the alliance prefer?

It does not now have, and has never had, a written ballot measure. This is something Bauman emphasizes again and again. The alliance has broad principles and a range of policy proposals (of varying specificity). But it has never produced final ballot language that can be polled, or that CarbonWA could have evaluated in deciding whether to abandon its signatures.
It's a pretty big ask to get someone with 350,000 signatures and a drafted initiative to drop it so you can put a theoretical, as-yet-unwritten initiative on the ballot. These guys can't get their shit together for 2016, but oh yeah, we're going to put something forward in 2018?

Also:
The alliance argument against revenue neutrality is simply that a price on carbon alone won’t guarantee that clean energy flourishes, that at-risk communities are protected from the effects of climate change, or that workers are sheltered from the economic upheaval of a clean-energy transition.

As Johnson puts it, "just because a transition is going to happen, it doesn't mean justice will follow." To secure justice, you need investment.
We have investment now! We have Inslee's Clean Energy Fund! We have all kinds of momentum in the clean tech space in this state. UniEnergy Technologies, UW's Clean Energy Institute, the CleanTech Alliance, all kinds of stuff.

I'm inclined to support this initiative, because action is better than inaction, and we need action now. The alliance as described doesn't give me much hope for effective action in the future.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:31 PM on October 18, 2016 [14 favorites]


This sounds exactly like Washington politics.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:41 PM on October 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


fascinating. if your boy really thinks the Republican party will lead on climate, though, why isn't he in Texas or Louisiana?
posted by eustatic at 9:42 PM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the article, depressing as it may be. I appreciate how sympathetic to the left / progressive opposition the article was; or, at least it was even handed enough that I can appreciate for the first time where they might be coming from. Not living in Washington, and not really following this story, I was simply dumbfounded that environmental groups could be opposing a carbon tax. Unfortunately it seems that a lot of bad blood and burn bridges did quite a lot of damage.

I wonder whether something could have been saved by splitting it into two ballot initiative: the first proposes a tax, while balancing that revenue by making the overall tax system less regressive (lower sales tax, rebates to low income people, eg.). The second would propose spending the same amount that was taxed then rebated and spend it on the (vague -- at least as described in the article) initiative the progressive coalition favoured: clean energy, healthy forests, clean water.

So, in essence, you put to the vote two questions: 1) Carbon tax, yes/no; 2) Rebate the tax or spend the money on 'environmental justice investments'. I'd be personally sympathetic to both, but would prefer splitting the issues as I think it would make the debate and discussion clearer.
posted by bumpkin at 9:50 PM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Washington sounds like it has awesome politics. Louisiana politics are usually about weird sex and dead women; I am totally jealous that the debate over climate is this robust in Washington.
posted by eustatic at 9:53 PM on October 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


The Stranger's take
posted by k8t at 10:02 PM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


bumpkin: The issue is that each initiative would have to get described separately. So if the first one (the carbon tax) raised revenues, it would have strong opposition as a tax increase (do a web search on Tim Eyman). The second initiative would have to get it's money somewhere (it can't assume the first one passes right?). I'm very sympathetic with what Carbon WA tried to do by only tackling the one thing. But Washington has been chronically underfunding a whole lot of social justice related programs (education, mental health, etc) for a long time. So I can also see why it upsets people, especially when you consider the revenues are uncertain. 732 gives up existing revenue (eg lowered sales tax rate) which in the current climate (hah) would be very hard to get back. What if the carbon tax revenues fall short? Those same underfunded social justice programs lose more.
posted by R343L at 10:03 PM on October 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Cliff Mass supports this initiative. That's all I need to know.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:06 PM on October 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


I should also add that we are also having this debate in Louisiana, but in a smaller way...since the environmental justice groups and the environmental groups are all more marginal in the face of Exxon and Sunoco and Shell. The State is planning on complying with the Clean Power Plan. We've gotten together and discussed how the state should comply with the CPP in the most just way possible, and how to avoid some false solutions that would aggravate racial disparities in environmental health.

If people are thinking that anti-racism shouldn't factor into the climate movement, I would point you all back to the IPCC reports (WG2) on the mass migration that is predicted as a result of climate change. People are being made sick and displaced by climate, and in racially disproportionate numbers.

I would say it's too late have a climate movement that doesn't take these IPCC reports into account, that doesn't have an anti racist analysis.
posted by eustatic at 10:06 PM on October 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Cliff Mass supports this initiative. That's all I need to know.

Cliff Mass's support is actually one of the things that gives me pause because that guy writes well about forecasting but every time he writes about climate it's... not good.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:25 PM on October 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


(do a web search on Tim Eyman)

Is this the place to point out that the primary reason he has not been officially declared a horse's ass by the people of Washington state is that the US constitution bans the bestowal of titles of nobility?
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:32 PM on October 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


He is but the face and fool for anti-tax hysteria in Washington.

But yes. We can't actually pass laws directly about him.
posted by R343L at 10:34 PM on October 18, 2016


If people are thinking that anti-racism shouldn't factor into the climate movement, I would point you all back to the IPCC reports (WG2) on the mass migration that is predicted as a result of climate change. People are being made sick and displaced by climate, and in racially disproportionate numbers.

I would say it's too late have a climate movement that doesn't take these IPCC reports into account, that doesn't have an anti racist analysis.


Which sounds to me like a strong argument for privileged people to put aside their self-interests that are holding up climate action when climate change disproportionately affects less privileged people. It's just that in this case, since it's a global problem, residents of Washington State - even those of colour and/or in poor communities - are the privileged group when the more affected group include 40 million Bangladeshis living on under $2 a day.

But if the polling is right, in the ongoing left-wing battle of Perfect vs. Good Enough, it seems like the winner will be once again Fuck You, Got Mine.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:04 PM on October 18, 2016 [23 favorites]


the simplest example of a "carbon tax"is the state gasoline tax. at what rate would the gas tax have to be set in order to reduce your driving? that gives you a sense of how little effect taxes like this would have.

it's telling that whether the proposed tax would lead to any significant reduction in co2 doesn't seem to be important to the debate. c
posted by ennui.bz at 11:49 PM on October 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


also, stare at this quote from Bauman:
I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party. Yes, there are challenges on the right — skepticism about climate science and about tax reform — but those are surmountable with time and effort. The same cannot be said of the challenges on the left: an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government, and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons in order to pursue that desire.
if I lived in WA, I would oppose this just on the basis of that statement. seriously, fuck Bauman.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:57 PM on October 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


It is promising to have policy debates like this one though. Once we get beyond "climate change is real" we can discuss how to actually deal with it in a normative way and see who actually has policies. I often feel like a lot of people work very hard to have the discussion be about "climate change is real" because they actually don't have any democractically acceptable solutions so focusing on a false debate is a convenient kayfabe.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:56 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


stare at this quote...I would oppose this just on the basis of that statement. seriously, fuck Bauman.

Really? Care to elaborate? I can see plenty of room for critique of his politics here, but the whole point of politics is that pragmatism is the trump card. I'm not so certain I'd trade a future republican constituency that may take climate urgency as tacit for current dysfunction which has many forms.

I mean just look at this story. How is the Alliance compromise at all reasonable, given that they've failed to articulate specifics on climate?
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 2:31 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Right now, I'm leaning towards supporting the measure. Glibly, since no one seems to expect it will pass, and the stated ideal of even the Alliance is a narrow defeat, may as well vote for it to help that happen.

Beyond that though, it is a strange issue with some complex possible outcomes to mull over. If one thinks, for example, that Bauman may be right on this being a model for other states, then the question of the potential benefits expand as changing Washington alone isn't enough to alter overall consumption anyway. In this sense, any Alliance proposal more narrowly suited to all the factions in Washington politics would be more likely perhaps to be less of a model and more of a one off solution.

On the other hand of course is the concerns of the different groups making up the Alliance, these concerns shouldn't be ignored, but it is difficult to project a solution based mostly on the assumption one will be made to satisfy all given how many times these sorts of alliances do tend to fall apart over differences arising before the end goal is met.

My question in this are then is what the biggest downside to the Bauman proposal is regarding the different interests within the Alliance? As read, it seemed somewhat akin to many complaints about the PPACA. A lot of those complaints about "Obamacare" were completely reasonable and have been demonstrated to be at least somewhat accurate, but the argument in passing the measure was that it was the best chance to change the health care system we've got so we should do that then make any needed fixes at later dates once people get on board. If that logic holds, then it makes the Bauman proposal seem a little easier to justify since instead of trying to please a large coalition of groups all at once you can get one big thing done then tinker with additional measures later.

The downside to that is in projecting the political reality of getting Washington legislators to address the needs of groups whose needs weren't met by the initial proposal, something that has no guarantee to get done at all.

Another big factor of course is simply time, the continual delay in acting on climate change is itself a major problem, putting this off for another election cycle is missing the reality of the crisis in many ways.

The biggest question though might simply be whether or not Bauman's proposal is likely to have sufficient impact to make a difference, whether in Washington or nationally were it to be taken as a model. On that I just can't tell from the information being given surrounding this proposal directly or that of others that have been enacted which are somewhat similar like that in BC. Without any definite idea of the success of this kind of proposal, we could end up adopting more that end up as failures, which helps nothing. I'm a little torn then between wanting to see this get passed to see if it'll work and wanting some proposal with a better guarantee of success. So from that point I go back to my first glib original statement and figure I'll vote for it since that seems the best I can do at the moment, and hope that if it passes it works, and if it doesn't that the Alliance actually can follow through on their promise for something better next cycle.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:25 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Watermelon environmentalism is no surprise. Tesla's taking more carbon out of the atmosphere making sweet cars for millionaires than they ever will.
posted by MattD at 3:49 AM on October 19, 2016


I hadn't heard of this initiative yet, but
Their calculus is simple: Properly dealing with climate change requires lots of investment, and if a price on carbon doesn’t fund that investment, what will? Given how difficult it is to raise revenue in the state, the idea, often put forward by I-732 proponents, that greens can simply find that money somewhere else is, in the alliance’s view, naive to the point of malice.

This is what occurred to me when I read the "revenue neutral" bit. It just seems to me, though no economist am I, that a disincentivizing tax must be somewhat self limiting. If you tax something because you want people to do it less, then you want to lose that revenue.

Besides that, fiscal conservatives aren't anti revenue, there anti themselves paying for it. You're going to give Paul back some money but get that money from Peter, no dice.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 4:09 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


But if the polling is right, in the ongoing left-wing battle of Perfect vs. Good Enough, it seems like the winner will be once again Fuck You, Got Mine.

Except this policy is all but "fuck you, got mine" like a lot of climate policy or at least the proverbial rearranging the deck chairs. The reduction in sales tax is going to flow through to upper middle to upper class people, the EITC is an end of the year rebate which doesn't help cash flow which low income households desperately need, and there's no way for poor families to escape a high-carbon trap of utility provided electricity.

I'm installing solar here on our house. The total cost of installation is $51,863.00. We have a solar loan rebated by the state which is going to be 1.89%, we can offset almost 100% of our power usage, and it's cash flow positive on a quarter by quarter basis. This is because the feds subsidize a third of it, the state forces the utility to credit me at the full retail rate, and then forces the power company to buy the right for me to use the energy I generate for myself. Climate policy right now is a fucking gravy train for the upper middle class and above!

A poor person doesn't own a house and doesn't have the credit to pull that kind of thing together.

If anything, the state would be far better off investing in a revenue neutral shared equity scheme using state resources to allow low income residents the chance to buy into solar with credit assistance, point and principal buydown, land area in prime generating spots. But instead the people of WA get a mediocre policy at best from what looks to be a third rate technocrat.
posted by Talez at 4:36 AM on October 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


It just seems to me, though no economist am I, that a disincentivizing tax must be somewhat self limiting. If you tax something because you want people to do it less, then you want to lose that revenue.

There's also the other end of it, which as far as I understand it is, these carbon taxes should be working to capture costs that have been externalized by businesses and individuals up until now. That means any revenue should be spent on fixing the damage caused by the behavior being taxed, i.e., exactly the stuff that the Alliance is talking about. This also neatly addresses the issue that you raised, in that when revenue drops off, you only scale back on remediation efforts that, in theory, are no longer needed.

It's a shame that the Alliance people are too feckless to get anything done here, and instead got scooped by some neoliberal group.
posted by indubitable at 5:11 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Talez, holy moly, $51K for rooftop solar? In 2016? Mind if I ask why you're paying so much? My understanding is that the average cost nationally is $13K after Fed tax credit.

In terms of economic distribution of solar, some interesting data came out recently in California: More Californians making less than $50k have solar than those making more than $100k.
posted by gwint at 5:45 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Talez, holy moly, $51K for rooftop solar? In 2016? Mind if I ask why you're paying so much?

It's pre-tax credit price for a 11.8kW system. Here in MA I'm paying 22c/kWh and we have a significantly high SREC price floor so it made the most economic sense to grab the biggest system possible. My entire south facing roof is going to be covered in SunPower panels.
posted by Talez at 5:54 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The complicated set of tax breaks that may more than offset revenue collected is the perfect example of the neoliberal technocrat trying to be too clever by half.

The easiest way to make it revenue neutral is to rebate all tax collected in a quarterly cheque to everyone on a per capita basis. This is easy to describe as a ballot initiative, does an end-run around the effect on the larger budget, and makes it politically impossible to kill once people start seeing the cheques with "carbon tax" on them roll in.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:07 AM on October 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


I forgot to add that it makes the tax inherently progressive too.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:09 AM on October 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm reminded, somewhat, of the way Linus interrupted the infighting on the GNU project over how their kernel (named Hurd) should be made by just building his own kernel on top of the OS that the GNU project had constructed.

The positive result was that it produced a kernel and now the OS could actually run as an OS.

The negative result was that all the hard work that the GNU project had done building everything but the kernel was erased from most people's memory.

I can sympathize with the impatience of people who want to get stuff done when faced with a bunch of idealists arguing about matters of principle. Dude has an actual, concrete, proposal that imposes a carbon tax, he wants to know why aren't all these hippies fawning at his feet? They wanted a carbon tax, he's got one, why are they rejecting the largess he has given them? He's cut out all their pointless, Byzantine, arguing and Done Something.

Except, and leaving aside my earlier comparison to Linux and GNU, he's done something that can be seen as actively harmful.

Because not only is it revenue neutral, meaning no funding for green policy, it's actually revenue **NEGATIVE** in the long run. The idea behind a carbon tax is to provide a financial incentive for companies and individuals to cut their carbon emissions. But by making it a revenue neutral tax that means as time passes it will decrease state revenue as people emit less carbon.

In a state as saddled with anti-tax BS as Washington, I can easily see how people who recognize that while taxes aren't fun they're necessary would really hate the idea of a proposal to wipe out a lot of hard won taxes with a plan that will, if it works right, actually reduce the revenue going to the state.

Plus, of course, the inevitable resentment of an outsider basically co-opting all the very hard work they put in creating the environment in which the outsider's proposal could work. He didn't show up at their meetings with his proposals and ask for input, he just started his own movement to piggyback on he groundwork already laid by the years of hard work done by other people. I can see how even if is proposal was a better one it'd be infuriating, since his proposal seems actively harmful I can easily see how they'd vigorously oppose it.
posted by sotonohito at 6:13 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The biggest question though might simply be whether or not Bauman's proposal is likely to have sufficient impact to make a difference, whether in Washington or nationally were it to be taken as a model. On that I just can't tell from the information being given surrounding this proposal directly or that of others that have been enacted which are somewhat similar like that in BC.

The answer is pretty much maybe, at the margins, a little bit, but not much. $15/ton is about $0.13 per gallon of gasoline. That probably isn't going to have much effect, nor is $30/ton / $0.25 per gallon. In many years, when this is $100/ton, maybe you'd see some effect, but it is still pretty unlikely to be enough.

BC came out with a bunch of charts showing how much carbon reduction was due to the carbon tax, but it was all very statistically suspect. The end result was probably pretty small and has now been entirely erased by rising emissions in various sectors (natural gas and coal production especially). BC's carbon tax also doesn't tax non-combustion sources (like methane) which are about 30% of total emissions.

That said, I think getting a carbon tax established is very worthwhile. There is just no way anyone is going to go from no carbon tax to an effective carbon tax (which I think would be in the $200/ton plus range) in one step. It needs to happen over time and people need to get comfortable with it. For that reason, I think revenue-neutral carbon taxes are a great idea. Let's show people that they aren't worse off with a revenue-neutral carbon tax and then we can build the political will to increase it.

So I'd say it makes a lot of sense to vote for this proposal. Think of it as a first step, not a solution.
posted by ssg at 7:29 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Because not only is it revenue neutral, meaning no funding for green policy, it's actually revenue **NEGATIVE** in the long run. The idea behind a carbon tax is to provide a financial incentive for companies and individuals to cut their carbon emissions. But by making it a revenue neutral tax that means as time passes it will decrease state revenue as people emit less carbon.

Except the tax rises over time, so as people emit less carbon, they pay a higher price per ton, so it all depends on the relative rates of change. I don't think we know enough here to be sure what will happen in ten years.
posted by ssg at 7:32 AM on October 19, 2016


If you price carbon equivalent emissions appropriately why do you need incentives for "green" investment too?
posted by hawthorne at 7:35 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Talez: "The reduction in sales tax is going to flow through to upper middle to upper class people"

Could you explain this? Since sales taxes are flat, their impact is regressive.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:38 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with a cabrón tax?

Plenty of cabrónes emitting CO2.

Oh, wait...read that wrong....carry on.

posted by Smedleyman at 7:39 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Quick question, but is the proposed carbon tax revenue net neutral?
posted by My Dad at 7:51 AM on October 19, 2016


@MyDad: Yes.

whole point of politics is that pragmatism is the trump card. whole point of politics is that pragmatism is the trump card. . . . I mean just look at this story. How is the Alliance compromise at all reasonable, given that they've failed to articulate specifics on climate?

How is it not reasonable if the initiative is headed to defeat and may poison the well for future initiatives that have a chance of passing?

If that's the case (which it may or may not be) sticking by it under those conditions is not pragmatic; it's literally counter productive and giving it up for nothing would actually be reasonable. Giving it up for something would be a win, but it seems like egos and inertia are involved. On both sides, I'm sure.
posted by mark k at 8:07 AM on October 19, 2016


It's supposed to be revenue neutral but there is a lot of contention on that point. The assessment the state did that went in the voter guide found a $200 million a year revenue decrease.
posted by R343L at 8:08 AM on October 19, 2016


Because not only is it revenue neutral, meaning no funding for green policy, it's actually revenue **NEGATIVE** in the long run. The idea behind a carbon tax is to provide a financial incentive for companies and individuals to cut their carbon emissions.

Isn't this the purpose of funding for green policy -- to reduce carbon emissions?
posted by pwnguin at 8:25 AM on October 19, 2016


There are other environmental concerns than CO2.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:43 AM on October 19, 2016


If you price carbon equivalent emissions appropriately why do you need incentives for "green" investment too?

Because climate change is a huge, complex problem. You aren't going to solve it with one magic bullet. In other words, you need the carrot and the stick, not just the stick.

We need to make some big changes in industry, in urban planning, in construction, in our lifestyles, in pretty much every aspect of our economy. Many of those changes will be hard and choices will be difficult. Costs to make changes will in some cases be very high. Alternatives might not be readily available. So we absolutely do need carbon pricing to push people to make these changes, but we also need incentives and investment to make the changes easier. Things like electric vehicle charging stations don't just appear out of nowhere. Sometimes you need to lead the market and help it along.

If we just levied an effective (much higher than is being proposed here) carbon tax and sat back to watch our emissions fall, we would create chaos - and those effects would definitely be felt more acutely by those with fewer economic resources.
posted by ssg at 8:44 AM on October 19, 2016


It seems disingenuous to me to refuse to support a proposal, and then complain that it looks to be headed for a defeat at the ballot box, as if your refusal to endorse it was entirely unrelated to its electoral prospects.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 9:05 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


> If we just levied an effective (much higher than is being proposed here) carbon tax and sat back to watch our emissions fall, we would create chaos - and those effects would definitely be felt more acutely by those with fewer economic resources.

If the carbon tax is truly effective, it would expand the market for green tech by making carbon-heavy alternatives more costly. Investors and entrepreneurs respond to market conditions and will fill the niche once there's sufficient demand to make it profitable.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 9:12 AM on October 19, 2016


Sure. And people at the margins are the least able to absorb the costs of the increased costs that make those niches profitable. When you are driving a 20 year old car out of necessity not choice then it doesn't really matter how cost effective a new plug in hybrid is when the cost of gasoline increases enough to make the hybrid profitable for manufacturers.
posted by Mitheral at 9:51 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just happen to work in a different state in an area a bit like the Washington state environmental coalition--where a bunch of different like-minded groups working together could really make a huge difference. But actually getting them to do it is a very different story.

From an outsider's perspective, it looks like the environmental coalition is moving at an absolute snail's pace. But from the point of view of an insider who has tried to put coalitions like this together, it looks to me like they have made really tremendous progress in a very short amount of time, and are moving to actually put together the coalition of supporters that will have a realistic chance of moving initiatives like this forward in the future.

On the other hand, I've worked with people who routinely put together statewide initiatives in our state, which is similar in size to Washington. Conventional wisdom is that it takes a $7-8 million statewide campaign to move the needle and have a decent chance of pulling it off.

The fact that the actual campaign in Washington has raised only $1 million gives you an idea of how far short of the mark they are.

They just might get lucky, and if they do, hooray for them. But the slow, long-term, irritating but essential work of assembling a wide-ranging coalition of support is definitely the tortoise here. It's not flashy or fast but is pretty much guaranteed good long term results.

IMHO we need more tortoises in this type of work--more groups willing to put in the behind-the-scenes, non-flashy grunt work of bringing disparate groups together and educating people--not only about the issue itself, but about the political coalition building needed to move the needle in the direction of real and permanent change.
posted by flug at 10:15 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


IMHO we need more tortoises in this type of work

Unfortunately, the time for tortoises was probably 20+ years ago. There's a good chance real and permanent changes (on human timescales) are already happening...and Mother Nature gives absolutely zero fucks about coalition building, buy-in, or hurt feelings (on either side)
posted by MikeKD at 11:53 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


the simplest example of a "carbon tax"is the state gasoline tax. at what rate would the gas tax have to be set in order to reduce your driving? that gives you a sense of how little effect taxes like this would have.

Researchers at the Kennedy School argue that "...We find strong and robust evidence that gasoline tax changes are associated with larger changes in gasoline consumption and vehicle choices than are commensurate changes in tax-inclusive gasoline prices." [pdf] The implication being that gas taxes actually do impact the amount consumers drive on average.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:56 PM on October 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I can see why the political coalitions need to distance themselves so they can try again soon while running the story of "the last one was a half baked idea that a bunch of renegades went off and did on their own and here's the real deal," but as a voter? Heck, it's already gotten hot enough in the summers here that I'm entertaining vague fantasies of moving to Canada or Alaska or someplace Norther and colder. It's easier to raise taxes than to try and put CO2 back in the ground by a long shot.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:16 PM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The implication being that gas taxes actually do impact the amount consumers drive on average.

From my perspective even simply comparing the kinds of cars driven in different countries (with comparable infrastructure etc) reveals that gas tax has a huge effect on how much people drive and how much priority they put on fuel efficiency and vehicle choice. Gas taxes are almost nothing in the USA compared to many places; people drive accordingly, and the difference is vast.
posted by anonymisc at 5:57 PM on October 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


The break over here in Canada (or at least when people start talking about it) is right around 1.25 a litre (vs. a more normal cost of around a $1/l) When gas cost spiked up fallowing oil over $100 a barrel I heard lots of talk about people curbing their use and even adjusting their long term planning (more fuel efficient cars; car pooling; buying a house that requires less driving; etc.). I first noticed the trend when one of my brother-in-laws told how he was walking (a whole three blocks) to work instead of driving his gas sucking 1 ton pickup back and forth because gas prices were so high.
posted by Mitheral at 9:52 PM on October 19, 2016


There are other environmental concerns than CO2.

Like the sulfur dioxide cap and trade program that is widely regarded as a success?
posted by pwnguin at 10:07 AM on October 20, 2016


If we just expected that gas prices would never go down, we'd presumably (as a nation) buy rather fewer big gas-guzzlers.
posted by clew at 1:27 PM on October 20, 2016


The Stranger officially endorsed I-732, but interestingly the vote was 4 to 3 against, and then the publisher overrode that. Here's the four who voted against explaining their position.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 5:00 PM on October 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


PBS Newshour did a segment on I-732 tonight, as a followup to a story from 6 months ago.
posted by XMLicious at 5:12 PM on October 20, 2016




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