ENCINITAS — Encinitas recently became the second city to throw its support behind a federal fee on carbon, though the support for the resolution was not unanimous.
The City Council voted 4-1 to support a resolution for the carbon fee and dividend program, a proposal created by the Citizens Climate Lobby, which supporters tout as a market-based solution that would incentivize alternative energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs and spur the economy.
“I have a general goal of making our world a more sustainable place, and this is a market-driven mechanism to do that,” Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath said. “It keeps the negative environmental externalities where they belong. And that’s the really important thing.”
Councilman Mark Muir was the lone holdout, though he signaled he would be willing to engage in the community conversation to learn more about the program, known as CFD.
“I don’t think enough people know about it,” Muir said. “So for me, what I’d like to do is listen to the community and talk to the community and talk to people about it.”
The premise behind the CFD program is simple, supporter say: the cost of emitting carbon into the atmosphere as a result of carbon-based fossil fuels is not captured at the pump.
“We just emit carbon for free,” said James Wang, an Encinitas environmental commissioner who presented the commission’s recommendation at the March 22 council meeting. “We don’t let people litter for free, we don’t let people pollute for free, so this is a way of trying to reduce carbon emissions.”
Citizens Climate Lobby’s proposal calls for an initial fee of $15 per ton on the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of fossil fuels, with an annual escalator of $10 per ton imposed at coal mines, oil wells or ports of entry.
The argument is that while fuel prices would increase by nearly $2 per gallon, it would truly reflect the true cost of fossil fuel emissions compared to other sources of energy.
The revenue-neutral fee would be returned to consumers in the form of monthly rebates known as dividends, which would stimulate the economy to the tune of $1.3 trillion in annual gross domestic product growth and the creation of 2.8 million new jobs, according to a nonpartisan think tank Regional Economic Models, Inc.
Critics have argued that the proposal has flaws, including that it raises fuel prices on consumers who might not have access to alternative fuel sources and that the dividend estimates don’t truly reflect what the government could take away from to cover “overhead costs.”
Encinitas joins Del Mar as the two cities that have passed resolutions in support of the proposed legislation, the California State Assembly, which also passed a resolution, and a number of other cities across the United States, including Salt Lake City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Essex County, New Jersey.