Environmental activists in Washington State running a campaign called “Carbon Washington” successfully obtained the required number of signatures to get ballot initiative 732 (I-732) on the November ballot.
I-732 would impose a carbon-dioxide tax of $25 per metric ton on fossil fuels consumed in Washington State. If the voters approve the initiative, Washington would become the first state in the nation to impose a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.
The initiative aims to be revenue neutral, reducing the state sales tax a full percentage point and providing up to $1,500 per year for 400,000 low-income working households. In addition, in a nod to the fact the carbon-dioxide tax will increase the cost of manufacturing in Washington State, relative to competing states, the initiative effectively eliminates the state’s Business and Occupation tax for manufacturers.
Most environmental groups—including the Sierra Club, the Washington Environmental Council, Climate Solutions, and the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy—say they oppose I-732. They say rather than using the revenues generated by the tax to fund programs they support, the referendum returns the money to taxpayers.
“Revenues from its carbon tax would not be invested in ramping up jobs in clean fuels infrastructure or energy efficiency,” says the Sierra Club on its website.
Fox News reports the Audubon Society is nearly alone among national and state environmental organizations in supporting the measure. Speaking with Fox News, Gail Gatton, executive director of Audubon Society-Washington State, said, “I think for us, I-732 isn’t about money. It really is about what are the market-based incentives that will drive people to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Gatton also told Fox News, it’s the first time that she can remember in which the Audubon Society was at odds with the Sierra Club and other green groups in the state.
Battle Is for Revenue, Not Carbon Cuts
Some believe the rift exposes a secret about the environmental movement: Many regulations and green programs are about money, not protecting people or the environment.
“Are left-wing environmental activists more afraid of climate change or tax cuts?” said Todd Myers, environmental director at the Washington Policy Center. “Their opposition to this initiative makes it clear they fear tax cuts more.
“The same people who say ‘we can’t wait’ to fight climate change are willing to wait if the policy doesn’t increase taxes and expand government,” said Myers. “It is the type of hypocrisy we see again and again from the Seattle environmental community.
Robert Bradley Jr., CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, says the fact environmental groups are fighting the I-732 in Washington State shows they are against consumer choice.
“The anti-fossil-fuel Left is playing some strange new cards,” said Bradley. “Some now want nuclear no matter what the cost, and the latest is any carbon tax must add to existing taxes for new tax-and-spend programs.
“A clearer example of anti-consumerism could not be given,” Bradley said.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.