Sustainable energy forward, carbon tax crazy talk in the U.S.
The United States has logged record renewable energy deployments and became more energy efficient, according to the 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook out this week. Falling costs for electricity, gasoline and natural gas have resulted in a dramatic drop in consumer spending on energy. Is now the time for a carbon tax? A couple of statesmen think so, but they might be tilting at figurative windmills.
Renewable energy and natural gas now provide 50 percent of U.S. power. This, in combination with energy efficiency measures, leads to the lowest economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions in 25 years, says the Factbook, a joint product of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE). Wind and solar costs continue to fall, making renewables the cheapest source of energy in some states.
Since 2007, America’s GDP has grown by 12 percent while energy consumption has fallen by nearly 4 percent. Corporations continue to pledge to reduce energy consumption and to source 100 percent of their electricity from renewables, so trends for more efficiency in production and growth in renewable energy as a total of the U.S. energy mix will continue. Municipal and state requirements for renewable power will also contribute to continued growth in solar and wind moving forward.
Taken as a snapshot, America has made progress in reducing carbon emissions without taking an economic hit. Would a carbon tax drive more efficiency and a faster transition to renewable power? The newly formed Climate Leadership Council is suggesting a trade of eliminating nearly all of the Obama administration’s climate policies in exchange for a carbon tax that would start at $40 per ton. Every quarter taxpayers would get money back in the form of a check, with returns for a family of four estimated at around $2000 per year at the start. As the carbon tax would go up, so would quarterly checks.
The authors of this policy, including former U.S. Secretaries of State James Baker and George Schultz, Henry Paulson, and Rob Walton, former Chairman of Walmart, are grey-haired Republicans, not long-haired hippies. All believe climate change is a threat and have offered a free market solution for reducing carbon emissions in exchange for eliminating associated environmental regulations.
But the proposal is likely not to do more than serve up some sound bites on cable news. The majority of the Republican Party is adamantly against new taxes of any sort and there’s no need to do a deal to cut regulation since the Republicans hold both sides of Congress and the Presidency. A carbon tax would campaign promises to bring back the coal industry.
Green data center operators should recognize the effort, however. If grey-haired Republicans are willing to stick their neck out on a carbon tax, they and other like-minded individuals are also willing to seek out businesses working to reduce carbon emissions.
Image from: carbontax.org