I recently returned from Washington, D.C., where I joined 800 other volunteer lobbyists from Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Our organization has been meeting with our representatives in Washington and in our home districts for seven years. The purpose of our meetings is always the same: We are educating our members of Congress about Carbon Fee and Dividend, a revenue-neutral carbon pricing plan in which pollution fees collected from fossil fuel-producing companies are returned to individuals as dividends. The aim is to place a gradually rising price on the greenhouse gas content of fossil fuels when they enter the economy. When the price of different energy sources reflects their true cost of use, market forces will speed the transition to clean, local and renewable energy.
This is not a manipulation of the market, but rather a way to stop the free and unaccounted-for dumping of greenhouse gas pollution into our atmosphere. Our policy also includes a border adjustment, to protect American businesses and encourage our trading partners to also include the price of greenhouse gas pollution in their products. Carbon pricing has been widely recognized by economists and climate scientists alike as the most cost effective and transparent way to address climate change.
The message I am bringing home to Idahoans is that in meeting after meeting in both Republican and Democratic offices, attitudes are changing. Staffers and members of Congress are more responsive to discussions about climate change. In the last year, three working groups have been formed specifically around the issue of energy transformation. There are Republican working groups in the House and Senate and the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House.
At the same time, widespread renewable energy use is becoming more feasible. Stanford University has developed the Solutions Project, a state-by-state plan for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The study’s spokesperson, professor Mark Jacobsen, stated “the main barriers are social, political and getting industries to change.”
I know many people in Idaho are worried about climate change as we see record summer temperatures, record early snow-pack melt, and wonder what’s coming this fire season. Yet many people I talk to feel powerless to make a difference. Even personally changing energy habits seems like a drop in the bucket in the face of an economy built on fossil fuels and politicians with deep connections to the fossil fuel industry.
There are alternatives to cynicism and defeatism. City initiatives, like the “Ready for 100” campaign for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 are a great start. Yet even with the rapid improvement of renewable energy technology, if fossil fuels continue to be artificially cheap, we will use them for far too long. We need a national policy that drives the transition from fossil fuels to energy conservation and renewable energy at a much faster pace. Our members of Congress are more open than ever to considering real policy solutions. They are waiting to hear from you.
Nancy Basinger is a veterinarian and a longtime Boise resident.