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Washington State doesn't pass carbon tax

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

While Initiative 732 did not pass, voters in Washington State demonstrated that people around the country and the world are concerned about the threat of climate change and feel compelled to take action.

“Grassroots activism accomplished what many environmental leaders and media pundits said was impossible: it put a revenue-neutral carbon tax on the ballot,” said Yoram Bauman, Founder and Co-Chair of Carbon Washington. “While we did not pass the nation’s first carbon tax, many states around the country are looking at I-732 as a model and we expect a nationwide movement to take root in the years ahead. We will look back at this as a lost opportunity to create history in Washington State, but also as a catalyst for much needed US leadership on climate action.”

Grassroots supporters in Washington State and around the world led the biggest voter education effort on climate change the state has ever seen, reaching nearly one million voters through direct phone calls and more than 100 000 voters door to door, primarily by volunteers.

“We deeply appreciate the efforts of our staff and hundreds of volunteers who collected over 360 000 signatures to get I-732 on the ballot last December, and who continued the momentum until polls closed tonight,” said Kyle Murphy, Co-Director of the Yes on 732 campaign. “We are immensely grateful to Audubon Washington for its partnership and support, the thousands of people who donated to the Yes on 732 campaign with a median donation of US$50, and everyone who endorsed the policy and campaigned on our behalf.”

“Carbon Washington will continue as an organisation,” said Joe Ryan, Co-Chair of Carbon Washington. “Our grassroots base is our strength. We are energised to continue our work on carbon pricing in the state legislature, and to promote effective, equitable, economically sound and politically viable carbon pricing in other states and in Washington, D.C.”

The accomplishments of the Yes on 732 grassroots campaign and partnership with Audubon Washington have set a precedent for the nation and the world. The campaign demonstrated:

  • There is a growing bipartisan desire for climate action. There is a political obligation to make climate change less of a divisive wedge issue. In addition to endorsements from dozens of Democratic leaders and organisations, I-732 received endorsements from three sitting Republican state senators, from former Attorney General Rob McKenna, from former US Senator Slade Gorton, and from former state Senate majority leader Bill Finkbeiner. As the mayor of a small coastal town in Florida told The New York Times, “I’m a Republican, but I also realise, by any objective analysis, the sea level is rising.”

    A revenue-neutral carbon tax is a promising way forward. Economists around the world support a revenue-neutral approach. I-732 brought that approach out of the textbook and into real-world policy discussions. Steven Chu, US Secretary of Energy (2009 - 2013) and winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics, said, “A revenue-neutral carbon tax like the I-732 proposal in Washington State is the right way to tackle climate change in a way that’s fair to American households, and that works for American businesses.”

    There is a growing business desire for climate action. When the Yes on 732 campaign was launched, people were told to expect US$20 - $30 million in opposition spending from business. What was seen instead was less than US$1.5 million in opposition spending. The majority of spending came from the out-of-state American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (US$250 000), from out-of-state Koch Industries (US$50 000), from coal-dependent utility Puget Sound Energy (US$125 000), from coal-fired generator TransAlta (US$15 000), from Kaiser Aluminum (US$450 000), and from Ash Grove Cement (US$70 000). Sitting on the sidelines was the powerful Western States Petroleum Association, which says that it supports properly designed market-based instruments. Many Chambers of Commerce around the state remained neutral. Seattle Business magazine endorsed I-732 "because businesses like predictability and [I-732] creates a predictable environment without punishing the manufacturers that are so important to our economy.”

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