On January 27th a group of businesses headed to Olympia to the house committee hearing on HB1314, the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act. They were members of Washington Business for Climate Action, a group founded with the signing of the Washington Business Climate Declaration and co-chaired by Brenna Davis of Virginia Mason, and Kevin Wilhelm of Sustainable Business Consulting. More than 150 major employers in Washington, including Vulcan, Microsoft and REI are signatories to the declaration and a lively subset of the group was there to provide testimony and support for a price on carbon.
They were also there to participate in the launch of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a diverse coalition of business, labor, environmental groups and community organizations that is dedicated to reducing global warming pollution and strengthening the state economy.
The Governor's proposal is offering a market based solution to limit carbon emissions contributing to climate change, and invest revenues in the foundations of our economy: education and transportation. It would also provide tax relief for manufacturers and working families who may be exposed to higher energy costs. A price on carbon is actually a progressive tax, rather than a regressive one, such as a sales tax or a direct gas tax. It eliminates the things we don't want - carbon emissions - rather than penalizing the things we do - consumer spending and jobs. Most businesses should embrace it and indeed the forward looking ones do.
Most, but not all of the businesses that would be immediately regulated under the scheme are predictably resisting efforts to put a price on carbon, and I would have some sympathy if this scenario had not been solidly tested in the North Eastern States and California and a surprising number of other jurisdictions around the world. Even China will be introducing a Cap and Trade scheme. For those with a vision to the future the economic costs of inaction are clearly in their sights. NWave Seattle, a company that would be regulated under the bill, is one such company. They view this as an opportunity to level the playing field for other forms of renewable energy in which they are investing.
Some businesses are sitting on the fence, maintaining that they prefer the certainty of a carbon tax (which fixes the price per ton for carbon, but gives less certainty on reductions achieved) rather than cap and trade (which sets the emissions limit, while allowing the market to determine the price). To some extent this is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while the boat is sinking. The real issue is that we need a price on carbon, we need it today, and this bill is currently the best option. We can put the state on course to meet its statutory obligations, as well as going a long way to solving the state's budget woes.