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Bill Gates, I-1631, carbon fee
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Why Bill Gates came out in support of the I-1631 carbon fee

Bill Gates. (AP)

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has come out publicly in support of the latest effort to establish a carbon fee in Washington state.

“If 1631 passes, it will create the first fee of its kind in the United States …. I believe it will be worth it. I am going to vote for it and, if you are eligible, hope you will too,” Gates wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

RELATED: The fight over I-1639 gun control initiative

Initiative 1631 will be on the November ballot. It would start a carbon fee in Washington state, essentially charging certain organizations that produce carbon. Critics have argued that it will cause higher costs for consumers. I-1631 proposes to place a $15 fee per metric ton of carbon, starting in 2020. That fee will increase by $2 every year after that. The revenue would be targeted at environmental programs related to climate change.

Gates is among a handful of innovators that brought forth a technological revolution, exploding out of the Puget Sound region. His online post conveys a similar sentiment, but for renewable energy — Washington can be a innovative leader for clean energy.

These days, his efforts are focused on philanthropic causes. Gates says he is donating to the Yes on I-1631 campaign. He is also involved in a private fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, that invests in startups aiming to develop renewable energy solutions.

In his LinkedIn post, Gates says that while he has been skeptical of carbon fee proposals, the issue of climate change is too great not to entertain such ideas. “But I overcame my doubts,” he said, noting three reasons why he supports I-1631.

  • It will help foster a business environment for clean energy in Washington, creating a “hub for innovative work.”
  • It will “create a clear market signal” to businesses contributing to climate change, encouraging renewable sources of energy.
  • The initiative will help nuclear power and hydropower be competitive in Washington state, which are “cheap and reliable” and do not contribute to climate change.

Gates says that it is true that if the initiative passes, it could drive up some costs for consumers, like energy. He says that while it “won’t ease the pain for everyone,” 35 percent of the fee revenue will go back to low income communities.

Gates also notes:

You may be skeptical about this idea. I know I was. How can one state make a difference on a global problem like climate change? And unlike some supporters of the initiative, I am not interested in attacking the companies that provide the affordable, reliable energy that keeps our houses warm, our cars on the road, and our economy humming….

It’s important to remember what is at stake. Climate change may be the toughest problem humanity has ever faced. To avoid the worst scenarios, we need to reduce global net greenhouse gas emissions to essentially zero in the next 50 years. Changing how we power our homes and cars won’t be enough. We also need to get to zero in every other major source of greenhouse gases, including manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture.

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