Yesterday, we got a response of sorts: Governor Inslee signed an executive order that has been described as everything from “a big leap forward” to “underwhelming”. Our view is that it falls well short of what we asked for in our open letter: instead of a detailed policy proposal there’s a “Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce” that is supposed to develop policy recommendations by November 21, and instead of a commitment to make carbon pricing a reality there’s a commitment to introduce carbon pricing legislation when the 2015 legislature convenes in January. It will be a year before we know more.
The bottom line for us is that CarbonWA will continue to push forward. If the Governor’s executive order really is the latest step forward by a climate champion who’s determined to make carbon pricing a reality, then let me reiterate what we’ve said before: “if another effort comes along that has a lot more power or money consolidated behind it then we will step aside or (hopefully!) join that other effort.” But if this is just the latest delay tactic by a governor who’s got his eyes on re-election in November 2016, then we will be ready with our own proposal. And in any case there’s a lot of overlap between the mandate for the Governor’s taskforce—it’s required to pursue efficiency, to minimize implementation costs, and to “consider measures to help offset any cost impacts to consumers and workers, protect low-income households, and assist energy-intensive, trade-exposed businesses in their transition away from carbon-based fuels”—and the research that we’ve done on using carbon tax revenue to reduce the state sales taxes, fund the Working Families Rebate, and eliminate the B&O tax for manufacturers.
One point of divergence is the Governor’s continued insistence on what he calls “cap and market” and what economists call “cap and trade”. It’s not clear why the Governor continues to inflate the already overblown tax-versus-cap debate—especially given that some members of his taskforce are on the other side of that debate—but the fundamental point here is that the fate of cap-and-trade will be determined not here but in California, where an existing cap-and-trade program is scheduled to expand to include transportation fuels in January 2015. The politics there are fascinating (articles here, here, here if you’re interested) but again we’ll have to wait a year before we know more.
Meanwhile, we’ll have more next week on the progress that CarbonWA is making. Stay tuned, and as always feedback is welcome on the blog.
PS. Upcoming events: I’m giving a talk at University Unitarian Church on Sunday, May 4, at 5 p.m. in Nathan Johnson Hall. A light supper (veg friendly) will be served so please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-454-7710. Also, I’m doing a Town Hall on M June 9 at 7:30pm, details coming!