A Washington state Senate committee approved a measure to tax fossil fuel emissions in an effort to fight climate change. However, some lawmakers are questioning the actual effect a carbon tax might have on global warming.
“People don’t want this. Particularly when it does absolutely nothing,” Senator Doug Ericksen told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “This isn’t going to make the wine grapes grow better in Walla Walla, get rid of forest fires, make the snow packs better. It has zero impact except on the pocket books of the people that get to spend the surplus slush fund that they’re going to generate off working families.”
Senate Bill 6203 proposes a tax of $10 per metric ton of carbon emissions beginning in 2019. Starting in 2021, the tax would increase $2-per-ton every year until it reaches $30 per ton. The Seattle Times reported that the initial 2019 tax would be about equal to an additional 9 cents on every gallon of gasoline.
“The other thing that people are trying to convince folks in Olympia is that if we don’t do something in Olympia, there will be an initiative on the ballot that will be worse,” Ericksen said. “I don’t believe that. I don’t think the initiative would pass in November.”
Not only does Ericksen think the carbon tax won’t help to fight climate change, he said he believes it might make it even worse.
“I believe this could actually increase carbon emissions,” he said. “Because what you’re going to see are manufacturing jobs leaving Washington state to go to China. And China will make that aluminum or make that whatever with coal-fired power where we’re doing it with hydro here.”
Carbon tax opinion
Public opinion in Washington about the carbon tax is mixed. While some businesses may support it, when it comes to voters, it depends on how the issue is presented.
According to a recent poll by Moore Information, a total of 53 percent of Washington residents favor a carbon tax if funds support science-based responses to climate change. A total of 42 percent of residents oppose such a tax.
But opinions change when residents are faced with the actual, personal costs of the carbon tax. Moore notes that when residents were informed that the gas tax could rise by 20 cents per gallon (and then another 16 cents after 11 years) a total of 70 percent of voters were against a carbon tax. In the City of Seattle, however, even with that information, voters approved of the gas tax by 50 percent.
Moore also framed the carbon tax with a traffic angle, stating that the tax revenue would not be used for road maintenance or reducing traffic congestion — 80 percent of voters opposed it under that scenario.
The polling company also framed the carbon tax in terms of living costs. It asked voters their opinion of the proposal if home natural gas prices increased by 20 percent (meaning a $200 bill would rise to $240), and about 72 percent of voters opposed it.
Moore Information is a polling company based out of Portland, Ore and Washington D.C. While it states no political affiliation on its website, its client list is almost exclusively Republicans throughout Washington and elsewhere.