Published in April 2015 by RenewableNow.biz.
In the Rhode Island General Assembly, lawmakers have recently introduced the Energize Rhode Island: Carbon Pricing and Clean Energy Investment Act (S0147/H5857). The bill, introduced by Senator Walter S. Felag, D-Bristol, Tiverton and Warren in the Senate and Representative Daniel P. McKiernan, D-Providence in the House, addresses climate change by placing a gradually increasing price on carbon.
The fee, initially set at $15 but scheduled to rise by $5 every year, will be imposed on fossil fuels at the point of entry into the state. The steadily increasing price of these fossil fuels will reduce emissions by encouraging businesses to instead use clean energy.
This focus on clean energy is particularly significant because Rhode Island does not have fossil fuel resources and spends approximately $1 billion annually on carbon from out of state. The bill will ensure the money is kept within the state to boost local industries, including clean energy research and development.
The revenue from the carbon fee will be appropriated to one of several potential strategies, including direct rebates to households and businesses, clean energy research and development, public transit investment or Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposed Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, which will in turn fund clean energy and infrastructure projects. By reinvesting the revenue on state infrastructure, the bill aims to produce jobs and stimulate the Rhode Island economy.
“The bill shows that we don’t have to choose between the economy and the environment. It is important we pay the actual price of carbon now so we don’t have to play the full price of global warming later,” said Solomon Goldstein-Rose, an undergraduate at Brown University and Coordinator of the Energize RI team. Goldstein-Rose worked to develop the bill with J. Timmons Roberts, professor of environmental studies and sociology at Brown.
Carbon pricing systems have been implemented in several other regions, notably the province of British Columbia (BC) in Canada. Since it adopted the continent’s first state-wide carbon tax in 2007, its fuel consumption has decreased 4.5 percent faster than any other province, while its GDP has grown at a faster rate. Similar taxes have also been implemented in certain municipalities in the United States, including Boulder, Colorado. However, no state has currently implemented a carbon fee.
Similar bills are being considered in states like Massachusetts, Vermont and California but have yet to be approved. If the Energize Rhode Island Act were passed in Rhode Island, it would make the state a national leader in addressing climate change.