CHESTERVILLE – As town meeting season draws near municipalities are confirming warrants to present to voters. This year, a number of local towns will be asked to consider the H.R.763, Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act- what’s commonly being referred to as the Carbon Cashback Initiative. The bill has acquired significant discussion and controversy in the past few years, and while all Carbon Cashback bills share a goal of addressing negative impacts of climate change, this particular Carbon Cashback bill imposes a higher tax on fossil fuel products and includes a dividend payment to households. Due to this prioritization of the consumer, this bill is seen as the best option.
“The appealing central feature of the carbon cash back approach is that it works to protect household budgets from rising costs in household heating, transportation, consumer and electricity costs that would result from such a carbon fee,” Jo Josephson of Temple said.
The dividend is returned to taxpayers as a way to balance the anticipated increased prices of fossil fuel products. It’s what’s seen as the distinguishing factor between this carbon bill and others.
“When a gas station’s cost of gas rises, that increase is passed on to the consumer at the pump, whether it is due carbon pricing or any other fluctuation in fossil fuel costs. This is why the cashback mechanism is important, because it protects the end-use consumer. The monthly dividends will be equal to every U.S. citizen. The Personal Carbon Dividend Calculator that can be accessed at carboncashback4me.org allows anyone to put in their personal fuel consumption information and get an idea of how this will play out for them,” Sherry Jenckes, who has been spearheading the initiative in Farmington, wrote in an email.
According to Jenckes, the resolution is being proposed in 40 towns across the state. This inclusion of the resolution on the town’s warrant isn’t to ask the public to vote on the bill, as it’s of national concern, but is to acquire their opinion on the importance of the initiative.
“Congress wants to hear from its constituents. If towns support this, they want to know that,” said Cynthia Stancioff who considers herself the “Cash-Back town champion” of Chesterville.
As the spring town meetings near, educating the public has become a priority for local advocates. Those working to inform the public about the resolution are aiming to address the lack of clarity on the cashback initiative and the concerns that have been circulating regarding the economic impact. People are initially hesitant to support something that freely acknowledges that it will result in product price increases. To overturn this immediate reaction, many towns are emphasizing the economic benefits that this initiative could have on the public at large. Stancioff anticipates some of this reluctance from her own town.
“Chesterville is more conservative, so there will probably be a lot of opposition, but there are also some people who recognize this as a real need. In order to get cutbacks on carbon emissions, it takes a big policy,” said Stancioff.
While Stancioff and others view this support for a national policy as a step in the right direction in addressing climate change impacts, there’s an agreement across towns that this is not the only remedy necessary.
“This strategy is supported by over 3,500 economists, the science community and even some of the fossil fuel industry. However, no single strategy is the silver bullet that will reduce emissions and miraculously ‘fix’ the climate crisis. It will take many strategies,” Jenckes wrote.
Josephson and Greg Kimber, Josephson’s partner who worked to get the Carbon Cashback article on their town’s warrant, also spoke to the communal and persistent effort that eventual preservation for the future environment will require.
Josephson wrote, “We are happy to be working in conjunction with climate-concerned friends in neighboring towns and hope that this initiative could be helpful, if only to start the conversation and to send a message to Washington that we want them to do something bold about curbing carbon emissions—the major cause of the climate crisis. It’s way overdue, if not too late.”
More information on the Carbon Cashback proposition can be found here: https://www.carboncashback4me.org/.