I applaud Governor Mills’ plan to make Maine carbon neutral by 2045. I urge her and her Climate Council to realize that the most efficient and equitable way to achieve this is by putting a fee on carbon and returning the money to Americans in monthly dividend checks. The Carbon Fee and Dividend (CFD) approach allows market forces to solve the global warming crisis. The carbon fee would motivate every consumer, producer and inventor to conserve energy and find lower carbon alternatives. A carbon fee puts a “Price on Pollution” which would correct the market failure that now exists- that failure being that people and business are currently not paying for the pollution they cause with carbon based fuels and products.

In a January 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal, 3,500 economists say that a Carbon Fee and Dividend would be the best and most cost-effective way to slow and eventually reverse climate change. It is a transparent, understandable approach. Most existing environmental laws would continue and a few new ones such as a tax on methane would need to be added. However, most of the heavy lifting in the climate crisis would be done by a carbon fee and dividend. British Columbia has used this approach for a decade and has shown it works. Since January 2019, all of Canada has been using some form of this approach.

Carbon fees are easier and cheaper to administer than extensive regulatory programs such as national fuel economy standards which may cost as much as $307 for one ton of carbon dioxide saved. Credible studies estimate that many programs that give incentives for solar panels, electric vehicles and low carbon fuels cost from $100 to $2200 per ton of carbon dioxide saved. Such programs are inflexible and often hurt the poor disproportionately. In contrast, the Carbon Fee and Dividend approach motivates the capitalist, free enterprise system to solve the climate crisis. The initial carbon fee in the first CFD bill HR763 in Congress is $15 a ton going up $ 10 a year until the situation is under control. The Carbon Fee and Dividend approach with its monthly checks help low-income people more than the rich because every American would get the same amount of money and people with modest lifestyles generally use less carbon-based fuel and may have money left over. This approach would lead to more solar, wind, electric vehicles while letting Americans and American businesses decide which changes work best for them.

The Carbon Fee and Dividend approach is non-partisan. It is designed to appeal to Democrats who are concerned about what climate change means for lower-income citizens, and Republicans who would like to address climate change without damaging the economy via inflexible regulations or excessive bureaucracy.

A Carbon Fee and Dividend approach will be most effective at a national level because American industry can deal more efficiently with one rule rather than multiple state rules. HR 763 Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act now in Congress has more than 70 co-sponsors at the present time. Its chance of passage soon would increase if all state governments would express support for it. State Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation might increase the chances of such legislation passing nationally since this would demonstrate political will and also motivate industry to express support for one national bill to avoid many different state bills.

If the Governor’s Climate Council comes up with an expensive bureaucratic plan, I fear it will hurt Gov. Mills’ chance of re-election as well as damage the Maine economy. We need Gov. Mills to serve two terms to get us solidly moving toward a Carbon Neutral world. A Carbon Fee and Dividend approach is the most effective, most economical way to accomplish this goal.

Nancy Hasenfus lives in Brunswick.

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