By Kristina Philipson, Sue Swanson, and Renu Bostwick, On behalf of the Bedford Mothers Out Front team
Bedford Mothers Out Front members and other Bedford residents attended a hearing on June 20 for two carbon pricing bills [S.1821 and H. 1726] now before the State’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. The packed State House auditorium drew advocates from a cross section of interest groups and experts from academia. Faculty, scientists, clergy, community and industry representatives addressed the economic and environmental impacts of a fee on carbon emissions in Massachusetts.
Dividend-Based Fee is Given Back to MA Residents
The two bills were very similar in that they both propose a dividend-based fee on carbon dioxide emitting fuels (such as gasoline and natural gas), which affect the climate; all residents, including children, will receive dividends from the collected fees. The problem these bills addressis that consumers do not currently pay the true cost of fossil fuels , since using fossil fuels harms the climate and the air we breathe, and indirectly cost taxpayers money in damage cleanup and in health care. The concept is that if consumers must pay the true cost of carbon emitting fuels, they will have an incentive to use less. Since Senator Barrett’s bill has all fees returned to consumers as a rebate, the economic burden on consumers will be mitigated. The lowest using consumers will get back more than they paid; the highest users will get less.
MA Can Benefit by Taking the Lead
The large majority of testimony provided arguments in favor of carbon pricing. Besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), carbon pricing could enable the Commonwealth to take the lead on efficient energy policy and technology, creating many jobs in the state. A state Representative from Rhode Island said that neighboring states often use Massachusetts’ laws as arguments in favor of creating their own similar laws. Five new England states (MA, RI, CT, NY, VT) are currently considering similar carbon fee policies. Together, these 5 states have a $2.7 trillion economy, which is as large as the economies of countries such as a Sweden and Nigeria; if these states all instituted carbon pricing, it could make a significant difference in the world. Money not spent on out-of-state fossil fuels can be spent locally instead of being sent to places such as Texas and Saudi Arabia, further encouraging local economic growth!
Carbon Fee is Good for MA Economy
Current energy prices do not reflect the actual cost of GHGs because they do not account for existing costs of climate change (weather disasters, declining fish supplies, lost crops, healthcare costs). A carbon fee helps bring prices closer to value and also promotes price stability. Professor Knittel, from MIT Sloan School of Management, pointed out that a price on carbon would reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Mr. Kimmel, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, mentioned studies that showed the health co-benefits of such policy, one which conservatively estimates a $3 billion savings for Massachusetts over the course of the senate bill. Professor Cash, from University of Massachusetts in Boston, spoke about how even companies such as Exxon-Mobil support carbon pricing, since it provides a long-term planned pricing structure that provides stability and allows companies to plan for price increases more effectively. The dividend rebates for businesses under the carbon pricing bills would be based on the number of people the business employs locally in Massachusetts. Professor Metcalf, from Tufts University, spoke about how the rebates would provide a spillover effect for companies, allowing them to invest in more Research and Development within the state, allowing Massachusetts to become the technology leaders in renewable energy. Pricing carbon-based fuels at a higher rate than renewables such as solar and wind makes it easy for both businesses and consumers “to do the right thing.”
Young People Demand Action on Climate Change
Some of the more memorable testimonies came from a group of young people, members of “Youth Rise Together”. They passionately demanded that carbon pricing move forward “NOW!” Although many members of the joint committee will “not be around in 2050,” their children will have to bear the consequences of the legislature’s inaction. As these young people so eloquently said, “Climate pollution is an injustice against our generation.”
Mothers Out Front in Bedford endorses carbon pricing as a way to accelerate progress toward lowering GHG emissions. Mothers Out Front strongly agrees with what a pediatrician from Boston Children’s Hospital testified at the hearing: passing these bills will benefit children more than any other current legislation. MA can lead the nation and protect future generations by actively addressing climate change. As one advocate urged the legislators, “Let’s don’t overthink this.”
Bedford citizens may express their opinions of these bills by contacting Senator Mike Barrett. He is our district senator, sponsor of one of the bills and co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. You can reach him by phone at: 617-722-1572 or by email to: Mike.Barrett@masenate.gov