Would a carbon tax proposed in Washington state be a significant step toward solving global warming? Or just a way to grow government?
On Episode 71 of The Overcast, The Seattle Times weekly politics podcast, hosts Jim Brunner and Dan Beekman are joined by Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment at the Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank headquartered in Seattle.
Myers brings a rebuttal of sorts to last week’s guest, the Sightline Institute’s Kristin Eberhard, who urged state action of the sort that Gov. Jay Inslee and environmentalists have been pushing — a price on carbon emissions aimed at raising the cost of fossil fuels and hastening a transition to a clean energy economy.
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While Myers, too, has backed the concept of a price on carbon, he argues the version pushed by Inslee and Democrats is focused too much on raising cash for pet spending programs, instead of acting as an effective means of combating climate change. The bill also contains many carve-outs for favored industries.
“The goal is to be more energy efficient, to reduce carbon emissions. What I think this bill does, is it says ‘well, we want to reduce carbon emissions, but increasing the size of government is also very important,'” Myers says.
He says Democrats and environmentalists, including Inslee, opposed a carbon tax initiative in 2016 (Initiative 732) which sought to be revenue-neutral — in other words it would have cut taxes to make up for taxes it raised for typical families who would pay higher gasoline and electric bills.
Myers also takes issue with Inslee’s rhetoric on climate change’s effect on Washington state, arguing it’s an exaggeration to call it an “existential” threat.
The carbon tax sought by Inslee this year looks to be stalling out in the Legislature, but a coalition of environmental, labor and social-justice groups have vowed a citizens initiative if lawmakers fail to act.
Despite his different perspective, Myers stakes out some common ground with Eberhard, last week’s guest — both were sympathetic, for example, to the goals of the 2016 carbon tax initiative. Could there be a national policy that unites conservatives and liberals to save the planet? Maybe listening to this episode could start the process. Kumbaya!
This episode was recorded at the Seattle studios of public radio KNKX 88.5 FM, as part of an ongoing partnership. To support the locally owned independent journalism that makes the podcast possible, please subscribe to The Seattle Times. Visit seattletimes.com/support
Correction: the Washington Policy Center is headquartered in Seattle. An earlier version of this post said the group was based in Bellevue.