Newton Democrats call for a price on carbon

The Newton Democratic City Committee has endorsed a ground-breaking proposal to tackle climate change. State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, has submitted a bill that places a charge on dirty fuel emissions that contribute to global warming and then returns the money -- in direct rebates -- to residents, businesses, and non-profits.

“Right before our eyes, in our own time, we’re seeing extreme temperatures, rising oceans, wilder storms, and worsening droughts,” Barrett said.  “A statewide carbon fee is the most ambitious step state government can take to combat the problem.  This is like gay marriage, and like health care for all, in that Massachusetts can lead the way on an approach other states -- and eventually the entire country -- can adopt.”

“We’re grateful that our representatives in the Legislature including Senator Cindy Creem and Representatives Ruth Balser and Kay Khan are co-sponsoring this critical initiative which our many members overwhelmingly support,” said NDCC Chair Shawn Fitzgibbons

Barrett’s proposal draws on the success story of British Columbia, the Canadian province whose right-of-center party instituted revenue-neutral carbon pricing in 2008.  “Emissions are down, provincial GDP is up, and public opinion polls show high voter satisfaction.  That’s a win-win-win,” Barrett said.

Carbon fees mean higher prices initially to incorporate downstream environmental and health costs.  Higher prices motivate consumers to cut back when they can.  Later, in an approach perfected by British Columbia, fee proceeds are sent back in equal shares to individuals and businesses.  If a family conserves, it can collect more in rebates than it pays in fees.  Because all money is returned, the bill does not put an unfair burden on the poor or on small business.

In addition to lowering pollution, carbon fees in energy-importing states like Massachusetts mean less money goes to supporting jobs in fossil fuel-producing places like North Dakota, Oklahoma, and the Middle East.  But the decline in out-of-state expenditures keeps more money in Massachusetts, where it’s eventually spent, creating jobs here -- 4,000 - 10,000 of them, according to a recent analysis.  “The carbon fee-and-rebate approach is job-positive,” Barrett said.

Barrett added that the work of community groups such as the Newton Democratic City Committee is crucial to the bill’s success.  “Tip of the hat to community leaders,” Barrett said.  He added that a revenue-neutral approach has much to offer conservatives, too.  The proposal isn’t about growing the size of government.  It doesn’t involve direct regulation.  “This is an idea that should appeal not only to Democrats but to Republicans and Independents.”

Barrett’s bill, S.1747, “An Act Combating Climate Change”, has picked up 43 co-sponsors, more than 20% of the Massachusetts Legislature.