Three Florida lawmakers want to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions. They have recently introduced legislation, called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which would charge $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide produced by oil refineries and coal producers. The fee would then increase by $10 per metric ton each year.
A carbon fee is different from a carbon tax. The money from this fee would be given to taxpayers in a kind of dividend to offset the increased cost of fossil fuels.
The bill aims to decrease total carbon emissions by 33 percent in a decade, and cut them by 90 percent by 2050.
WLRN asked listeners what they thought about the proposal, which has bipartisan sponsorship.
“I’m in favor," wrote Cathy Diaz. "Every family and corporate entity should do their part to curb climate change for as long as possible."
Lancelot Rivas, who lives in the Forest Lakes community in southwest Miami-Dade County, is opposed.
“I'm against it. I don’t believe it would do enough to reverse CO2 emissions sufficiently to combat man-made climate change,” he added. “Furthermore, I’m skeptical that the money collected will go to those who need it.”
The Sun-Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post and The Miami Herald, with reporting from WLRN, have teamed up in a media collaboration called The Invading Sea to address sea-level rise and other environmental issues.
A The Invading Sea panel of editors was on this week’s episode of the South Florida Roundup hosted by Tom Hudson: Rosemary O’Hara of the Sun-Sentinel, Tom O’Hara of TheInvadingSea.com and Howard Goodman with The Palm Beach Post.
They interviewed two Florida representatives who introduced the carbon fee bill: Congressman Ted Deutch, whose district runs up the coast from Broward County to southern Palm Beach County, and Congressman Francis Rooney, who represents District 19 in Southwest Florida.
DEUTCH: This is an effort that will that will impose a fee on the polluters. It will incentivize changes in their behavior. They will pay for the carbon that they emit. And 100 percent of the net revenue that comes in will be rebated back to the consumers – American families all across the country. That's what makes this different. That's why we're so hopeful that we can actually start to move this forward.
GOODMAN: How would that rebate work? Would it get subsumed into someone's income tax? So they maybe don't notice that they're getting this benefit? Or would it come in separate payments that people would see? And would it be distributed equally across the board? Or would people be prorated for the amount of energy they use?
DEUTCH: The Department of Treasury will ultimately determine exactly the way that this gets back to consumers. We believe that they're the most appropriate part of the government to do that, given the interaction with Americans over their taxes. And it's just going to be based on who lives in the household, not based on how much people earn.
WLRN: There is a cap, though, on a household of four, right?
ROONEY: There was one version of that. But all of us who are involved in it felt that would be better to leave it open ended and not be put in a position of affecting families when what we're really trying to do is affect pollution.
Describe that. How does that go to actually constricting emissions in the into the atmosphere. If the fee is assessed, paid by consumers, consumers are refunded it, is there really a financial cost that somebody is bearing?
ROONEY: That's the genius of Congressman Deutch's approach and why I hopped on it enthusiastically. The people who need to be disincentivized get disincentivized because of the carbon tax or carbon fee, and then the American people who may have a change in their gasoline prices also get this credit. So they remain in the same position they would've been otherwise.
Where's the disincentive if the fee is passed along to the consumers who then get rebated the money?
ROONEY: It's going to make natural gas look a lot cheaper than coal, and coal is the ultimate enemy in this. That's the first enemy. Part of my goal in supporting all these carbon-fee initiatives is to show the true relative value of different fuels and focus on driving the market toward the cleanest ones.