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The Carbon Tax on the Ballot in Washington State Is Not the Right Way to Deal With Global Warming


The Carbon Tax on the Ballot in Washington State Is Not the Right Way to Deal With Global Warming

Naomi Klein

The imperatives of the climate crisis and the logic of economic austerity are at war—and Washington State is on the front lines.

So-called “revenue-neutral” carbon pricing—whereby the proceeds are used to fund tax cuts—has long been a cherished hobbyhorse of free-market economists and the odd Republican who favors climate action. It’s also the policy of choice for big polluters like ExxonMobil. And now this right-wing friendly model is being pushed in Washington State, thanks to Initiative 732.


Okay, okay- if the Canadian Naomi Klein opposes it based on actual experience in a Canadian province, then maybe the advocates of voting "no" are right. It's just an academic debate anyway since it is not going to pass.


In view of WA election results being determined by how voters in King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties vote, the enticement of sales tax reduction, and WA voters' history of meeting few initiatives they didn't like, I-732 actually has a good chance of passing.

A carbon tax in the right context is a great solution. Let's try again soon in WA and elsewhere.


Ms Klein states:' “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” I-732 proponents like to say. It sounds good, but it is not what opponents of in this initiative are doing. “Perfect” is not on the table—we lost that option when climate action was delayed for decades.'

OK, so let's delay some more? Realistically, that's what we're looking at, and there is nothing on the horizon. The actual fact of a straight-up price on carbon has not been established anywhere in the US, but with this initiative the ball is finally in play. It does not preclude further action or rate steepening, that the precedent be established is crucial, however.

Also, the "budget hole" argument is nonsense, as the disputed estimate of fiscal impact is within 1% of the state's budget, the forecasts of which vary over time by typically ~ 5%. In using the "really big number" scare, as economist Dean Baker likes to call it, Ms Klein damages her credibility. I have been a fan of her work long enough to know she knows better, and I find this distressing.


The money from auctions of pollution allowances in the northeast cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions from power plants has mostly gone toward green energy programs. So I don't know why this carbon tax couldn't be used for the same purpose. I also don't know what happened to Washington state's plan for a cap and trade program. So far in the West only California has such a program.


We know we must stop the use of fossil fuels. The way to do this is to make them more expensive. How better than a direct tax on Carbon?


I voted NO on I 732.


I too really admire Klein's work but strongly disagree with her here.

First of all, as Yunzer posts above, she's Canadian. In Canada's parliamentary system a Green Party candidate can run on Klein's position and possibly gain a seat in parliament. The USA's duopoly precludes that from ever happening, barring an Icelandic crowd-sourced constitution effort. (NOTE: The internet has hosted two or three such sites for four or five years; and their work, methodology, and results are excellent--better than any party hacks could come up with.)

Second, I work actively with Citizens' Climate Lobby which is working with all due haste to make its Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation signed into law by November 2017. The bulk of us in CCL are way left of center. We do indeed have conservatives in CCL, but they are conservative by locale. When it comes to climate worry, there are no progressives; there are no conservatives.

Third, Klein throws labels at carbon fee as though she's got drawers full of labels that she needs to attach to anything she writes. If you, the reader, can't separate those well-flung labels, then you are terrible reader. I ask myself how she can say these things and still hang out in Vatican City. Or, is she in it just for the photo-ops?

Fourth, I've studied the I-732 legislation. This is NOT Carbon Fee and Dividend. Nor is it the Alaska Permanent Fund. Instead it is Carbon Tax and Rebate. The first years may see slight benefit, but the politically connected will lobby for loopholes that get them a better rebate than citizens Jane and Joe. We should be done with that rebate shit by now. Just gold-plated invitation for corruption.

Last, CCL's CF/D may not be perfect and long-lasting, but our projections show that 20 years of CF/D reduces CO2 to 50% of 1990 outputs. That's a far better reduction than is attainable with Obama's Clean Plan or Clinton's spinoff of the same plan. While it does nothing to directly assert public investment, it will bring down dangerous GHG levels. To assert public investment will take taxation levels as high as those that built the Interstate Highway System. That's not presently possible with a the plethora of anti-tax politicians sitting in Congress. Those politicians will deny Climate Change to our dying breaths.