Given its present and future impacts on Earth (our only home,) climate change is the most important topic of this election season. Americans want government to help solve it. Politicians are not talking about solutions, though, perhaps because they are unaware of climate programs that can appeal to both sides of the aisle.
Republicans publicly claim to prize free markets because they meet economic needs most efficiently and fairly. Democrats agree that free markets can provide economic abundance. However, Democrats recognize too that, for decades, energy markets have hardly been free, because government incentivizes (including providing $20 billion-plus annually in direct production subsidies) energy producers to extract and sell coal, oil and natural gas, favoring those fuels over renewables. What is worse, the burning of fossil fuels – if not severely curtailed by 2030 – is almost certain to snuff out 75 percent of all the earth’s species, perhaps including humanity.
In defense of both free markets and the habitability of Earth, scores of politicians have called for those incentives to end. The gravy train is unlikely to dry up soon, though, for two reasons: the 2010 Citizens United court ruling that opened the political campaign spending floodgates; and the fact that, over the 2012, 2014 and 2016 election cycles, about 88 percent of oil and gas companies’ campaign contributions went to the party now dominating all three branches of government.
A carbon pricing program – such as carbon taxes, and carbon fee and dividend – may be the most politically viable means to stabilize the climate, since it could make energy markets freer by leveling the playing field between energy sources, thus appealing to both conservative and liberal members of Congress. So, let’s assess the candidates’ stances on these programs, and vote for those who will favor free markets and the habitability of the planet.
Andrew Hartley, Ph.D.