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Yes on 1631, Washington State Carbon Tax
October 23, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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Washington State Initiative 1631 would impose a fee on large emitters of greenhouse gasses, in particular carbon dioxide, in the state. In short, it is a carbon tax. The main goal is to help slow global warming. Secondary effects would increase air and possibly water quality.

Large emitters of greenhouse gasses include producers of gasoline, diesel fuel, and natural gas. They are expected to pass their cost increase on to end customers. It is the end customers who, hopefully, would get the hint and use less gasoline and other fuels. It will also affect the cost of electricity made from fossil fuels, though much of Washington State electricity is hydroelectricity.

For me a Yes vote is an easy decision, but as I walked a precinct, handing out voter recommendations, I ran into a man who wanted to talk about it. Like me he is a senior. The precinct used to be mainly single family, working class to lower-middle class homes, but even one of the older, smaller homes now sells for over $500,000, and rents tend to be over $2,000 per month. He said he votes Democratic, but he had seen the TV ads about how it was going to cost him. I did not want to inquire too deeply, but likely he and his wife are on fixed incomes. I could see the natural gas connection going into their house. I did not ask if it was a rental or owned, and if owned if they had a mortgage.

The TV ads I have seen are a bit deceptive on both sides. The Anti-1631 ads claim that it is a tax on the little people, that big polluters are actually exempt. Apparently some exemptions for big corporations were written in, but the main payers of the actual fees are the big petrochemical companies.

The pro 1631 ads say it taxes pollution, not mentioning it is a carbon tax. They say it will reduce air pollution, increasing health. I guess that polled better than a carbon tax that will have to be matched by global carbon reductions in other states and nations to have a meaningful impact on global warming. They don't mention how the cost of the tax on the fossil fuel industry will be passed on to consumers, hurting low-income people disproportionately.

I sympathized with the voter. I said I was voting for 1631, but if he could not afford it, he had a right to vote against it. He said he knew global warming was a real problem. Other than that he would vote Democrat. I left him conflicted. I figured he might vote for 1631, because he seemed like a good person. I saw no point to lecturing him.

It did make me think that 1631 may not pass. Also about how it may not reduce carbon emissions at all. Will people drive much less if the cost of gas goes up by 10%? Have not most people already turned their thermostats down as low as they can go?

That leaves the possibility that 1631 will raise money for state government without achieving its stated purpose.

Nevertheless, the right thing to do is to vote for 1631. It may reduce carbon emissions. But what this state, nation, and the world really need is better family planning. Planning for one child per family. That would reduce the human population and should reduce not just carbon emissions and global warming, but all forms of human pollution and ecological destruction.

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