Earth Day 2k15 and Carbon Fee & Dividend

As I walk around Bloomington during this time of year, I am in awe of beauty of spring: the fragrant magnolia trees, yellow and white daffodils, magenta redbuds, golden forsythia, chirping birds. Springtime is a reminder that we live on an amazing planet, an amazing planet that has served so many generations of people and animals. Earth Day serves as a day of extra appreciation for our sacred planet.

Earth Day started in 1970 after a devastating oil spill in Santa Barbara with the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On this first Earth Day 20 million Americans rallied for action. Today, I feel like the purpose of Earth Day –environmental action– has slipped. It has become a social media trend like National Sibling Day and National Puppy; practically all the pictures in my Instagram feed today were captioned for  Earth Day. However, I am not sure my friends were actually taking action. It is sad to think that Earth Day has become a day for people to post pictures of Earth, but not necessarily take action to protect it.

Here’s What I’ve Been Doing

Last week I attended a meeting of the Citizens Climate Lobby branch here in town. I went there knowing  almost nothing about Carbon Fee & Dividend, their focus, and left having committed to writing an Op-ed with a member, Lana Eisenberg. (This was published on Monday)

Carbon Fee & Dividend (CF&D) is a policy that will put a rising tax on the production of carbon emissions. Every month the money collected will be given directly back to households as a dividend. Border adjustments, which will be placed on imported goods so that companies will be discouraged from moving overseas, will also encourage other countries to take on similar policies. CF&D is predicted to boost the American economy and create 2.8 million new jobs. It will also make alternative energy sources more cost effective relative to fossil fuels and give businesses incentives to cut their carbon footprints in order to stay in competition.

There is widespread support for the policy, in fact a few weeks ago Representative Young told a group of constituents that he thinks CF&D is the best plan around.Today I wrote to the staff of Senator Donnelly and Representative Young about CF&D.  I hope that our Indiana congressmen will support the policy and help Indiana become a leading state in alternative energy. I encourage others to write or call our congresspeople as well.

The article I worked on:

(This guest column was written by Lana Eisenberg and Tamar Moss. Eisenberg is a member of Citizens Climate Lobby; Moss is a member of the Interfaith Community of Environmentalist Youth executive committee.)

Bloomington in springtime is a glorious reminder that we live on an amazing planet that has served so many generations! While we don’t need Earth Day to rejoice in daffodils and birdsong, we do need Earth Day to remind us to protect this one planet that supports all life.

The first Earth Day in 1970 was prompted by an environmental disaster, a massive oil spill off Santa Barbara. The national response to Earth Day attracted a broad coalition — rich and poor, farmers and city folk, and members of both parties — to support the Clean Air Act, which created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When our Earth was threatened we realized that we are all in this together.

Once we recognize this affects us all, we can do what needs to be done — as we did in World War II, when conservation was a patriotic duty, and after 9/11 and Katrina, when volunteers flocked to help survivors. Millions already respond to alarms about carbon in the atmosphere by personal action — recycling and reusing, relearning our ancestors’ value of thrift. We’re helping to save the planet by paying attention to how we live — just as our Good Books say we should.

Here in Indiana, institutions are also doing great things. North-central counties have wind farms, the Indianapolis airport has a big solar array, and congregations of different faiths all over Indiana are making major reductions in energy use in their homes and sacred buildings.

But some things are too big for only individual and local responses; major interests conflict with one another. We have to breathe and keep the land alive to feed us; but huge industries profit from fossil fuels that contaminate the air and disrupt the climate. The only power big enough to balance their influence is the collected power of all of us — the government. The EPA was designed to be that counter-force for environmental protection, though no one anticipated the threats we face now.

Burning fossil fuels has enormous hidden costs we all pay. Calculating these costs, the Office of Management and Budget says the economic benefits of regulation are significantly greater than the price tag. Still, EPA’s regulations continue to be opposed in the courts and in Congress.

An alternative to controversial regulations is to use the power of the market to encourage clean energy; former Secretary of State George Shultz recently proposed a gradually increased fee on carbon-based fuels to speed the transition to wind and solar power. Distributing that fee as a dividend to every household would make alternative energy sources more affordable and create new jobs. Rep. Todd Young recently told a constituent that this seems to be the best proposal around.

As you celebrate this Earth Day with your own personal acts of stewardship and rejoicing in the spring, we hope you will also urge our Indiana congressmen to support bipartisan Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation. Young and old — we all share the responsibility to honor the future and preserve this Earth.