With the annual winter inversion peeking it’s head out, Representative Joel Briscoe (Democrat – Salt Lake City) announced yesterday that he will be proposing a carbon tax in the upcoming legislative session.
Though specifics were not announced, a “carbon tax” is a catch-all term wherein governments tax producers and/or consumers for the use of hydrocarbon energy sources – energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These taxes are often put into place to discourage the use of greenhouse gas emitting energy sources in favor of more sustainable energy such as solar, wind, and nuclear.
Supporters of such taxes note that the burning of these fuels have costs that extend beyond the individual that takes advantage of the energy source – for example, the infamous inversion has been shown to have wide-ranging health effects on the entire population. Because of this, they argue that the government has a role to play to attempt to reduce the harm done to others.
In a prepared statement, Briscoe said “We need a carbon tax in Utah. Current policy is heading in the wrong direction. Other branches of our state government have chosen to block the implementation of laws that would benefit our most important bottom line – our children.”
In addition, Briscoe feels that the tax will “encourage people to reduce their use of carbon [by using] the power of free markets to promote both personal and corporate responsibility.” He would add that the legislation is intended to be revenue neutral, with funds received through the tax going towards education or infrastructure growth.
Nationally, policymakers have been cold to the idea of a carbon tax. In June of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported a GOP-proposed resolution that condemns any policy that promotes a carbon tax. Opponents argue that the carbon tax has a negative effect on the country’s carbon-based economy. “With a carbon tax, there would be a tax hike on production, distribution and use of not only oil, but also natural gas and any other form of energy that emits carbon,” Said Representative Diane Black (Republican -Tennessee) on floor.
Locally, it is doubtful that the proposal will gain much traction, as the Republican supermajority signaled loudly last legislative session that they were willing to double-down on slagging coal production within the state. Senator Stewart Adams’ (Republican – Layton) SB 246 – Funding for Infrastructure Revisions would have funneled some $53 million to the expansion of a coal port in Oakland, Californa in an attempt to sell and ship Utah coal to foreign markets in East Aisa. Adams’ bill flew through the waning days of the legislative session, being introduced on February 29 and sent to the governor on March 10 – passing the Senate 20-7 and the House 52-17.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Utah is ranked 46th out of 51st in the nation for renewable energy production. Within the intermountain west, Utah lags behind with Idaho tieing for first with Maine, Hawaii, Washington D.C., Delaware, Rhode Island, and Orgon. Nevada is ranked 8th while Arizona comes in at 30th and Montana at 36th. Only New Mexio (48th) and Wyoming (51st) produce less renewable energy within their state.
Briscoe remains optimistic, however. “We must take responsibility for our state,” Briscoe said, “It’s on us. No one else.”