By Chris White
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s inability to marshal a hefty price tag on carbon emissions through the liberal state’s legislature does not portend good things for a similar push on the national stage.
Inslee’s push to tax carbon failed, despite Washington’s overwhelmingly liberal-leaning legislature. The state is not ready for a full-fledged attack against the oil industry, the Democratic governor told reporters Thursday shortly after it became obvious the proposal would fail.
“I would consider this a sea change in the climate fight. It’s come a long way from where we’ve been. We’ve basically shown that carbon policy is within reach,” said Inslee, who noted the bill cleared key policy and fiscal committees, but didn’t have the votes to bring it to a floor vote.
“On the arc of history, we’re not quite far along enough on the arc,” he said. “That day will come, but it wasn’t quite here yet.” Academics noted the failure to push this issue through shows that most states are unwilling to wage all-out war against the fossil fuel producers.
“Political support for a carbon tax does remain one of the heaviest lifts in American politics,” Barry Rabe, a professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, told reporters about Washington’s stumbles.
“Even in a state like Washington where you have a governor who is enthusiastically in favor, a Legislature that seems to lean to the idea, this proves difficult to do at least at this point,” he added.
The Senate bill would have imposed a tax of $12 per metric ton of carbon emissions on the sale or use of gasoline and natural gas, which is lower than the initial $20 per ton Inslee initially proposed.
It would have begun in 2019 and in 2021, and would have increased $1.80 per ton each year until it hits $30 a ton. The tax was projected to raise $766 million and increase to about $988 million in the next biennium – Inslee’s failure wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Inslee went on a lengthy Twitter rant earlier this year to convince legislator to tax carbon dioxide emissions. He warned there was “just 59 days” to save future generations from “an endless cycle of crop-killing droughts one year, and rivers spilling their banks the next.”
The state’s first carbon tax plan failed in 2016 after liberal groups couldn’t agree how to spend the revenues it was expected to raise. Inslee also proposed a cap-and-trade program, that both Democrats and Republicans rejected in 2015.
If Inslee’s carbon tax plan passes, the legislation would have no measurable impact on projected future global warming. Indeed, even if the U.S. as a whole stopped emitting, the impact would be extremely small, based on government climate models.
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