When thinking of the U.S. role in stabilizing the climate, don’t think first about renewables or 1 trillion trees or fusion energy or heat pumps.

Focus on the cause of the problem: carbon emissions.  

The heat-trapping gases emitted by burning coal, oil and gas are driving the climate destabilization bus. They must be stopped. Everything else, however helpful, is a sideshow to these prime bad boys.  

There are only two near-term ways to extinguish these global disruptors: Regulate them down to zero or price them out of existence.  

Using regulations is complex, ineffective and politically unsalable in the U.S. Regulations can be adopted only in places where liberals rule. They’re being used right now right here in Maine. But the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative we’re using with several other (liberal) Northeastern states covers only power generation, the low-hanging fruit for regulation. Even here, an attempt to extend it to cover transportation – now the largest source of carbon emissions – has failed after years of negotiations.  

So we Americans are left with using the market force of pricing – charging the carbon polluters for every ton of their pollution, a price rising steadily until people and businesses stop buying things that emit CO2, methane or the other heat-trapping gases.  


Making the polluters pay is long overdue, but imposing such a price will show up for all of us in higher costs for gasoline at the pump and propane and oil in the home-heating delivery truck.  

And that worries our federal representatives and officials who will have to vote for such a price. Look at what happened in France when President Emmanuel Macron put a higher tax on gasoline four years ago: People of all political stripes put on yellow vests and took to the streets to protest until he withdrew the tax.  

So what’ll get our politicians on board?  

Imagine taking all that money paid by the gas, oil and coal companies – tens of billions of dollars even at the lowest prices – and divide it into equal shares for all Americans, so that we’d each get monthly Climate Security checks.   

Current annual payments in British Columbia to a family of four total $1,730. That’s a sweet carrot. And it helps stabilize our climate.

Even though you probably haven’t heard of this policy before, it’s the most popular in our federal government. Except for the opposition of one or two senators, it might be part of federal policy now. It has had more sponsors than any other bill. Word is it’s about to be reintroduced. Our U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree has been a co-sponsor.      


It has bipartisan support outside Congress, too. Citizens Climate Lobby, an international group with a half dozen chapters in Maine, directly lobbies our two senators and two U.S. representatives in favor of this as the only effective and equitable climate policy that is politically passable.  

The Climate Leadership Council is doing the same. It’s made up of Republicans and businesses.

Meanwhile, the United States is the only country in the top dozen economies that has not adopted any price on carbon pollution, except one: Russia. We are so far behind in adopting carbon pricing that our country is about to be penalized by our allies for our lack of climate action. The European Union countries are about to penalize our exports for not having paid a carbon price. Canada has discussed doing the same 

This will have at least two effects. First, those countries are going to collect the carbon price that we could be collecting and distributing. Second, that’s yet another powerful reason we should adopt such a carbon price.  

So, what to do? Write or call Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins in support of carbon cashback. They know the policy, and each has spoken or acted for a form of it. And they are both on the Senate’s Climate Solutions Caucus, so their advocacy is critical in the overall Senate. 

By the way, you might mention that Maine will fare far better than other states if carbon cashback is adopted. Two reasons: First, since we Mainers have lower-than-average incomes and smaller carbon footprints, getting a nationally averaged payback will more than offset the increased gas oil and costs here. Second, jacking up the price of energy-intensive materials like steel and concrete will create Maine jobs for making wood-based products like timber laminates.   

To generate more pressure, support the Climate Leadership Council or join a local chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, both laser focused on getting carbon cashback adopted sooner rather than later. 

Your improved economic well-being and the stability of our already disrupted climate depend on it. 

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