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Carbon dividends is Utah’s pro-business climate solution

Windmills turn at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon on Tuesday, April 26, 2016.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

Today, we launched Utahns for Carbon Dividends because America needs a climate policy that bridges partisan divides, strengthens our economy and protects our environment. We’ve reached a tipping point on climate change in this country. A majority of Americans, not to mention a majority of Utahns, now favor some action to address it. And voters of all stripes want a solution that both parties can support.

At the same time, the economic upsides of acting on climate and air quality are becoming clearer every day. With the boom in renewable energy — and the steep decline in costs — anyone can see that reducing emissions and growing the economy aren’t mutually exclusive. We can accomplish both and leave the Earth a better place for future generations.

As leaders in our communities, we recognize Utah can gain from a smart, market-based climate policy. Major U.S. companies — even oil and gas producers — have joined top environmental leaders to support the carbon dividends solution because it is the fairest, fastest and most cost-effective way to reduce emissions. We’re convinced: it’s the right move for America and the right move for Utah. Here’s why.

Unlike other climate plans being proposed, carbon dividends would deliver significant emissions reductions. This plan proposes charging fossil fuel companies a fee on their carbon emissions. This would cut U.S. emissions in half by 2035 without reordering our economic system or dictating Americans’ energy choices or lifestyles.

To stimulate the economy, this plan would remove unnecessary carbon regulations so businesses can make clean energy investments with confidence. Right now, companies face an ever-growing maze of carbon regulations at all levels of government. With this plan, they would face one predictably rising carbon price.

Thousands of economists agree this approach would turbocharge clean-tech innovation across the economy. With our abundant natural resources and culture of innovation, Utah is particularly well-positioned to profit. Silicon Slopes is already on the clean-tech map; with the right national policy, we can be a clean-tech leader.

Some might ask, why should the United States reduce our emissions when other countries won’t do their part? Our plan addresses this concern by charging foreign countries, like China and India, in a similar way for the goods they import into the United States. These countries would have to adopt a similar emissions policy or face a loss of competitiveness in the U.S. market. And because, on average, U.S. businesses are cleaner and more efficient, this system will incentivize greater production and job creation in our country.

Finally, this plan stands apart from other climate proposals because it would pay for itself and shrink the size of government. All the revenue from the fee would be returned to the American people. A family of four would receive approximately $2,000 a year to offset higher energy costs.

With all these benefits, it’s no wonder the carbon dividends solution is so popular with Utahns. Some 70% of Utahns — including about two-thirds of Republicans and conservatives — favor this solution, a recent poll found. Sen. Mitt Romney has shown interest in this approach, and Utah College Republican leaders have endorsed it.

As a red state, Utah can be a powerful voice on climate. The time to join the national conversation is now: while the nature of national climate policy is still being debated, not when job-killing proposals like the Green New Deal are gaining momentum. Let’s embrace this bipartisan solution and solve our climate and air quality problems for good.

Kelleen Potter is the mayor of Heber City; Bill Rappleye is the president and CEO of the Draper Area Chamber of Commerce; and Dallin Koecher is the executive director of the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce.