Congressman Amodei confused over carbon tax and dividend

The causeway smokes and a fence catches fire as swirling winds cause a wildfire on the west side of Reno. This is a field next to Cashill Blvd. in Reno – photo: Brian Bahouth / The Ally


In August, I called Congressman Amodei’s office in Washington, DC to encourage him to support a carbon royalty and dividend proposal that would directly address the root cause of climate change: fossil fuel emissions. The charge would discourage consumption while being returned directly to the population, encouraging energy innovation with well-funded demand. This proposal is simple, elegant, and backed by 28 Nobel Prize-winning economists, four former Federal Reserve chairmen, fifteen former chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers and thousands of academic / professional economists.

In response, I received a standard letter, containing a single fact followed by a bunch of threatening innuendo. As an example, here is paragraph three in its entirety (numbers added):

“Nevada contributes less than 1% of total carbon emissions in the United States (1). Although I think Nevada’s environmental policies are successful, I understand why you are arguing for a carbon price, a proposition that is attracting growing interest. I also think it is also important to consider both the economic impacts (2) and the large amount of American jobs that could be quickly cut (3) as states hastily attempt to meet the new demands of carbon emission (4) if a carbon price were to be adopted.

Let’s take these one at a time:

1) Nevada emissions? It is the sole fact of Amodei, without source and irrelevant. No matter if Nevada did not emit carbon, we would still face increasingly explosive wildfires and perhaps permanent drought – with severe perpetual water shortages – brought on by rising global CO2 levels. The carbon tax and the dividend are a national proposal for a global crisis, not a Nevada warrant.

2) Economic impacts? That certainly sounds disturbing, but the facts paint a different picture. Two recent (2020) studies of Harvard and Tufts economists, based on empirical data, reveal no overall economic impact, positive or negative, resulting from a carbon royalty. Actually wages for new green jobs, they are actually slightly higher than fossil fuel jobs ($ 24.85 / hr vs. $ 24.37 / hr). And because low-income people burn less carbon, their dividend will outweigh the additional costs, giving them more money to invest in efficiency. In fact, 61% of households will have go out ahead placing the financial burden on those who can afford to burn the most carbon and thus cause the most damage. However, these impacts will still be gradual. According to a Columbia university study, in year one, gas will increase by about 12 cents per gallon; in the tenth year, 90 cents; this is hardly noticeable in view of the current price fluctuations. Thus, contrary to Amodei’s alarmist inference, the data-based projections of the economic impacts of this proposal are insignificant.

3) A large amount of American jobs quickly eliminated? What jobs? Eliminated when? Amodei does not provide any proof. The facts show that job shifts from polluting industries to green industries create more jobs at equal pay before eventually leaving. While some in the fossil fuel extraction sector will lose their jobs, many are in construction and trades, skills that are easily transferred to building a green economy. Currently, there are approximately 1.1 million fossil fuel uses; if half of them were to be phased out over a ten-year period – a reasonable estimate given the gradual increases in fees – that’s less than fifty thousand a year; an ordeal, yes, but one that we can easily plan and manage as most are absorbed in building and maintaining new green infrastructure.

4) Issuance requirements hastily implemented? Implemented in a hurry? Truly? By who? There is, in fact, no issuance requirement or any state involvement whatsoever. Proposal act imposes a carbon levy at the source, so the market gradually reduces fossil fuel consumption, not the government.

Clearly, Congressman Amodei appears confused, casually responding to a perilous crisis with unfounded rhetorical distractions instead of enlightened responses, urging cautious inaction as conditions worsen; while millions of hectares from the desert go up in smoke; while whole cities love paradise and Greenville burn to the ground; while people, pets, livestock and wildlife are incinerated; while local savings are devastated; while withering, perhaps endless Drought dries up rivers and lakes and overloads aquifers; while months of toxic smoke and deadly heating domes go down Tourism in Nevada, undermining our own economy. In the midst of it all, Amodei procrastinates, offering baseless and misleading “concerns” instead of informed proposals.

Why could it be? He is a very intelligent man, generally well versed in the news. Perhaps out of deference to the hundreds of millions his party accepts from the oil and gas industries — more $ 31 million in 2020 alone – provided no laws are passed that threaten their profits – what will this act most certainly do? Who can say? The good news is that Mr. Amodei sits in the bipartisanship Climate Solutions Caucus, so maybe with a little encouragement from us, his constituents, he could take the time to learn some facts about the relentlessly advancing climate crisis and how to alleviate it, at no cost to our economy, before it’s too late.

Dr. Miller is a retired certified hospital chaplain specializing in the care of the dying and their families. Prior to that, he was an internationally award-winning graphic designer.

The views expressed above are not necessarily those of the Sierra Nevada ally. Our editorial staff remains entirely independent of our opinion page. Published opinions promote public conversation to fulfill our civic responsibility to challenge authority, to act independently of corporate influence or politics, and to invite dissent.

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