How A Carbon Fee Can Help Solve Our Climate Change Crisis

My recent vlog/blog post “There Will Be Riots & Blood In The Streets”, garnered a great deal of response, comment and debate and I am grateful to each and every one who wrote and shared their thoughts with me. The Yellow Vest riots and protests in France are, I feel, indicative of the struggle many may face as we transition from the long comfortable fossil fuel based economy we live in to one based on sustainable energy. It is a transition that we must make if we are to ever solve this global crisis, but it will not be without some struggles. How we finance the transition, and how people throughout our entire society benefit from the transition, will be very important to its success.

To help us with that transition some very forward-thinking people here in the US have conceived and touted a Carbon Fee whereby carbon emissions would be subject to an additional fee and the money raised by the fee would be returned to everyone, to our citizens (not the government). You can learn more about the idea in a recent article by Jeff Dorian, Group Leader of the Broward Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, by clicking here.

Greg Hamra, a faculty member at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture and leader of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby Miami Chapter, has long been active in our climate change battle and is deeply invested in advocating for the Energy Innovation Act & Carbon Dividend Act (HR763). With his work in mind I am pleased to share a Letter to the Editor he wrote recently to the Miami Herald:


The Green New Deal, like the Paris Accord and elements of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, is the result of fantastic hard work at building political will for climate action. However, each is nonbinding and represents important, albeit aspirational, goals. These goals must be translated into specific policies that have years of political work ahead before they can be introduced. But they are road maps without a vehicle.

The Energy Innovation Act and Carbon Dividend Act (HR-763) is the vehicle; the critical policy mechanism needed to redirect market capital from dirty high-carbon fuels, toward clean energy and low-carbon solutions.

The Energy Innovation Act creates the conditions necessary to achieve significant greenhouse gas draw-down at the scale and speed required.

Winning slowly is the same as losing. We have to go big and fast.

HR-763 has 10 years of grassroots work behind it. It has the economic studies behind it. It has the support of diverse Economic Nobel Laureates. It is shovel ready. It’s the first bicameral, bipartisan climate legislation in U.S. history. It’s the policy for which we’ve been waiting.

– Gregory Hamra,

Coral Gables

Dr. John Van Leer has been a central figure and long-time advocate for a Carbon Fee, as well as a vocal and passionate member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Dr. Van Leer also just so happens to be an esteemed professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences here at my school, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, as well as someone that I’ve been honored to share the stage with a time or two as we’ve spoken at various environmental meetings over the last few years. Dr. Van Leer wrote me following my recent vlog/blog and with his permission I wanted to share his note with you so as to help explain the difference between a “Carbon Tax” and “Carbon Fee”. So, thanks to Dr. Van Leer for his permission to use his recent email, as well as his passion to help find solutions to our climate crisis. Please enjoy this special guest blog:

Hi Delaney,

I see a very different path forward, than the Orwellian one you described. What is the key difference between what France foolishly did and what we should do in the US?
There must be social equity in the policy we adopt, otherwise your video’s future will likely occur.

Both James Hansen and George Schultz see an increase in carbon emissions pricing by assessing a fee not a tax. It is a fee because the government does not keep the money it collects. It is refunded to all the citizens equally, so there is social equity. Poorer people receive greater dividends than the price increases they must pay in increased fuel cost. These dividends commence the month before the fees are imposed, so they are fairly treated and will not need to riot to be treated fairly.

I have been talking about Building Our Better Future Faster. I doubt we will ever make this needed change by a series of draconian regulations imposed from above like France has tried.

British Columbia has used a FEE and DIVIDEND approach successfully reducing emissions since 2008 with province wide buy-in by the vast majority of voters and unusually strong growth in the renewable energy sector as a result. So Canada has adopted a national carbon pricing on a provincial basis with some cap and trade in some provinces and fee and dividend in others.

Additional Considerations

The reduction of emissions is too important to be enacted by only one party. Recently, single party politics has triggering increased divisiveness with each election cycle, even before Russian amplification. Our founding fathers wanted their version of democracy to be difficult to change, rather than governed by royal whim, quickly and arbitrarily imposed by a king.

Instead, we must drive this kind of deep structural change right through the political center. Otherwise it will be reversed the next time a different political party becomes dominant. A recent example was the Clean Power Plan designed to curtain coal fired power generation, being carefully vetted under Obama and rescinded by Trump before it was ever implemented. Working together may seem maddeningly slow, messy and inefficient.

It has taken a decade of excruciatingly difficult negotiations, respectfully put forward, by thousands of CCL volunteers who have been seen as engaged in “Mission Impossible.” This exercise in democracy has happened in conjunction with many other cooperative groups, to find a narrow channel to navigate between the reefs and shoals of competing interest, and governing orthodoxies, of our principle parties, plus their many splintered factions.

Government may be distrusted by the “right” as imposing stifling bureaucratic regulations and taxes, which they say will kill the economy and destroy jobs. Government may be distrusted by the “left” as representing only the interests of large businesses, which are willing to sacrifice the poor and middle class and quite possibly the planet.

So, by giving equal refunds to all households, there is complete transparency, because all the people know where all their money went – into their bank accounts – every month. They can trust themselves to spend their money as they see fit.

Hopeful Regards