West Coast governors agree to impose carbon taxes

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Three U.S. west coast states and one Canadian province aren’t waiting for the rest of the world: They are going to impose carbon taxes on their own.

“You’re going to be seeing higher energy prices throughout the Pacific Coast,” said Daniel Simmons, director of regulatory and state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research (IER).

“California’s electricity prices are higher than all of its neighbors, yet they keep going down this path,” Simmons added.

On Monday, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington, along with the environment minister of British Columbia, signed an agreement to coordinate global warming policies and mandate the use of green fuels.

“We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change and we are the last generation who can do something about it,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

“California isn’t waiting for the rest of the world before it takes action on climate change,” said California Gov. Jerry Brown. “Today, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are all joining together to reduce greenhouse gases.”

The agreement commits Oregon and Washington to put prices on greenhouse gas emissions, like California and British Columbia have already done.

British Columbia imposed a carbon tax on industrial facilities, like power plants and refineries, which raised the price of gasoline. Higher gas prices had to be offset with lower corporate and personal income taxes. California’s cap-and-trade system forces companies that emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide emissions to buy permits from businesses with fewer emissions.

California also has a low-carbon fuel standard, which is meant to cut the state’s use of oil by 20 percent by 2020. The low-carbon standard, however, has been hit by legal challenges

Both Oregon and Washington failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation in 2009, when the idea seemed to be on rise nationally.

However, the regional climate agreement is not expected to have much of an impact on global warming.

“This is global,” Brown said. “So, if it’s only Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia, nothing’s going to happen. You got to get everybody. You’ve got to get China, you’re going to have to get India. You have to get Texas and Alabama.”

Global warming is just that — a global issue. Limiting emissions from three states and one Canadian province won’t do much to lower overall global emissions, especially since developing countries are ramping up their use of coal and other fossil fuels — meaning more greenhouse gases will be emitted despite West Coast efforts.

“The glaring emission to this plan will have no impact on the climate,” IER’s Simmons added. “It’s all messaging. Their just saying that to avoid the fact their increasing the price of electricity for no environmental benefit.”

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