A bit earlier today, I watched Don Beyer speak at beautiful Belle Haven, on the Potomac River in Alexandria, about – appropriately – his stances on environmental issues. Here’s some video, and also see the Beyer campaign press release on the “flip.” A short analysis of what he had to say follows.
1. I strongly concur with Don Beyer that the “most effective way of reducing carbon emissions is to put a tax on carbon pollution.” As I’ve written for years, although other options like “cap and trade” or “cap and dividend” get at the same problem, they’re overly complicated, too easy for industry to “game” (as we saw with Waxman-Markey), and WAY too easy for Republicans to demonize (e.g., with Frank Luntz-style attack language like “cap and TAX”, even though “cap and trade” was initially a conservative, Republican idea). Also, I’m a big believer in harnessing the power of capitalism to positive ends, such as reducing pollution. Finally, as an economist, my bias is strongly in the direction of taxing “bads” (e.g., pollution) and rewarding “goods” (e.g., productive and societally beneficial investment of all kinds). That’s exactly what a carbon tax – assuming it’s high enough and covers enough of the economy to make a difference – would do. Put a significant price on carbon, and carbon-intensive fuels like tar sands and coal fade away, while clean energy sources – solar, wind, energy efficiency, etc. – skyrocket. Since a rapid phaseout of carbon-based fuels is the only way, realistically speaking, that humanity is going to save itself from climate disaster, a carbon tax makes enormous sense. It’s also much simpler than overly convoluted, Ruby Goldberg-esque cap-and-trade schemes, and can be easily tweaked so that (as Beyer points out) the regressivity of the tax can be mitigated.
2. I also strongly agree with Don Beyer in his opposition to fracking the George Washington National Forest. Several weeks ago, I covered a presentation by Dusty Horwitt of EarthWorks (as well as by Nicole Condon of DC Water and Sister Mary Fiedler of Interfaith Voices and the Sisters of Loretto )on that subject. This one’s an absolute no-brainer, and I hope to hear from EVERY one of the 8th CD candidates (note that Patrick Hope’s been a leader on this issue) – as well as the Arlington and Fairfax County Boards – in strong opposition to fracking the GW National Forest.
3. Continuing the restoration of Dyke Marsh is also a no-brainer. As Rep. Jim Moran said last October: “Dyke Marsh is the largest freshwater tidal wetlands in this area – its 485 acres offer us a truly unique window to an earlier time…Decimated by years of commercial dredging and naturally occurring storm surges, this federal investment will return the marsh to its former beauty and provide some resiliency to an area prone to flooding.” Excellent!
4. Finally, with regard to Beyer’s opposition to expanding the Lorton landfill, I’m going to mostly withhold judgment, as I haven’t been following this issue. I DID read this morning’s Washington Post story on the subject. I was intrigued that Enviro Solutions is offering “to build a solar-panel farm, install wind turbines and lay down geothermal piping that could provide energy to surrounding buildings, including the Workhouse Arts Center, a struggling artists’ colony that was created on the grounds of the old prison.” In addition, “EnviroSolutions…offered $18.2 million to the county for recreation and other services in place of the park it had agreed to build on the site once the landfill closed.” That all sounds great, but I’m sure there must be significant downsides as well, so I’m not sure where, on balance, I come out on this one.
5. Finally, one issue I was surprised Don Beyer did NOT mention in his talk today was the Keystone XL pipeline. I was surprised for a few reasons. First, it’s been in the news BIG TIME recently. Second, Sen. Tim Kaine has been very vocal against the pipeline, particularly in recent days. And finally, if you care about the future of our planet’s environment, fully exploiting the Canadian tar sands would pretty much put the final nail in the coffin – “game over” for the climate, as former NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen has stated (Hansen adds that “coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground”). Given all that, I’d hope to hear an unequivocal from Don Beyer – and every other 8th CD candidate – against the Keystone XL pipeline. Clearly, NOW is the time to speak out, as President Obama considers whether to approve or deny a permit for this pipeline. Waiting until Obama makes his decision would be too late; so speak out now, or forever hold your peace on this one!
Overall, what I’m looking for in the 8th CD’s next U.S. Representative is someone as strong on protecting the environment as Rep. Moran has been. I also want someone who will make this their top priority, and also be a strong, proactive leader. The fact is, without a livable climate, all the other important issues we face – from the economy to health care to education to equal rights for all Americans – become essentially irrelevant. That’s not to diminish those issues, it’s simply to state the obvious; the first, necessary condition to dealing with any other issue is to safeguard our home for ourselves, for future generations, and for the entire web of life. Fail in that regard, and we fail in everything. Succeed in that regard, and we have a CHANCE to succeed in all the rest.
March 15, 2014 (Belle Haven, Virginia)
– Flanked by local and national environmental leaders, former Lieutenant Governor Don Beyer today announced his support for a progressive carbon tax in order to fight climate change, spur green energy, and heighten consumer consciousness on this critical issue.
“The most effective way of reducing carbon emissions is to put a tax on carbon pollution,” Beyer said. “This is the single most important issue of our time and we need to act. We owe it to our children and grandchildren.”
Beyer, who was a member of Governor Tim Kaine’s Climate Change Commission, stressed that a carbon tax policy must include investments in clean energy and in energy efficiency, as well as protections for low-income households, who will otherwise bear a disproportionate burden of a carbon tax. Beyer said that recent proposals
include tax credits and other mechanisms to ensure protection for poor and working-class Americans.
Beyer was introduced by environmental leaders Chris Miller and Larry Schweiger, who praised Beyer’s environmental record and dedication. “I saw Don’s commitment to the environment firsthand when I visited him overseas while he was President Obama’s ambassador to Switzerland,” Schweiger said. “At Don’s direction, the embassy’s carbon footprint was assessed – a first for a U.S. embassy. Then he and his staff worked to reduce that footprint by 40 percent through many efforts, including the use of hydropower. This educated, environmentally astute district deserves a congressman with Don’s environmental credentials.”
Beyer also spoke today about local environmental concerns, including his opposition to fracking in the George Washington National Forest, his concern about the proposed expansion of the Lorton landfill, and his interest in seeing through the restoration of Dyke Marsh