Carbon Capture and/or a Carbon Tax … Someday Maybe?

by Duane Nichols on November 4, 2014

Senators Whitehouse & Manchin at National Energy Technology Laboratory, Morgantown, WV

Sen. Whitehouse Proposes Carbon Tax to Repay Citizens for Pollution Costs

From an Article by Anstasia Pantsios,, October 29, 2014

Delivering a keynote address at the New York University Institute for Policy Integrity’s fall conference, in which he noted “The world has just set some dubious records. 2014 is on pace to tie or become the hottest year on record,” U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse announced that he plans to introduce legislation creating a carbon pollution fee next month. He said he will reveal details in the next few weeks.

It was an appropriate announcement to make at the conference whose theme this year was “The Future of U.S. Climate Policy: Coal, Carbon Markets and the Clean Air Act.”

“Pollution-driven climate change hurts our economy, damages our infrastructure and harms public health,” he told his audience. “However, none of these costs are factored into the price of the coal or oil that’s burned to release this carbon. The big oil and coal companies have offloaded those costs onto society.

Economics 101 tells us that’s a market failure; in the jargon, that negative externalities are inefficient. If a company participates in an activity that causes harm, it should have to compensate those harmed.”

“By making carbon pollution free, we subsidize fossil fuel companies to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars annually,” he continued. “By making carbon pollution free, we fix the game, favoring polluters over newer and cleaner technologies that harvest the wind, sun and waves. Corporate polluters, not bearing the costs of their products, are in effect cheating their competitors.”

The Rhode Island Democrat, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, has long been an advocate for climate change action. His official website features a page called “Climate Change: Time to Wake Up” and he has made more than 85 speeches in the Senate on the topic, giving one per week.

Whitehouse praised the Obama administration’s limit on carbon emissions from power plants, announced in June, saying “It will change the way polluters think.” But he’d like to take the next step of making polluters pay for their cost to society. He said that not only would it reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality, it would generate significant new revenue for the federal government, perhaps as much as two trillion dollars in the first decade.

He pointed to some of the positive uses that money could be applied to, including cutting taxes, relieving student debt, increasing Social Security benefits and providing transition assistance to workers in fossil fuel industries.

“It’s win-win-win,” he said. “We can use this revenue to do big things; repair a marketplace failure; and guide the economy toward lower emissions, enhanced productivity and a sustainable future.”

Whitehouse also drew a direct line between the Republican party’s increasingly stubborn climate denier stance and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed a gusher of corporate money into campaigns.

“Not long ago, Republicans joined Democrats in pushing for action on climate,” Whitehouse said. “Leading Republican voices agreed that the dangers of climate change were real. Leading Republican voices agreed that carbon emissions were the culprit. And leading Republican voices agreed that Congress had the responsibility to act. Then the heartbeat flatlined. Republican calls for climate action fell silent.

Something happened, right around 2010. It was the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission—one of the court’s most disgraceful decisions. Improper fact-finding by the five conservative activists on the Supreme Court concluded that corporate spending could not ever corrupt elections—just couldn’t do it. By some magic, it’s pure.”

He says that although his Republican colleagues represent many states ravaged by its effects, “Most won’t even utter the words ‘climate change’ on the floor of the Senate at all. It’s not safe to, ever since Citizens United allowed the bullying, polluting special interests to bombard our elections with their attack ads and their threats.”


Senator Manchin Hosts Tour of WV Energy Facilities for Senator Whitehouse

From a Press Release, U. S. Senate, Washington, DC, October 22, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) hosted Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in West Virginia to continue their ongoing discussions about finding meaningful solutions to balancing our nation’s energy needs with our environmental concerns. Senator Manchin emphasized the importance of developing new fossil fuel technology to continue producing affordable and reliable electricity, while steadily reducing carbon emissions and addressing the adverse effects of climate change. Senator Manchin toured several coastal areas of Rhode Island on October 10.

Due to inclement weather, travel restraints required the day’s agenda to be slightly readjusted. Senator Manchin and Senator Whitehouse toured the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to gather information about the facility’s development of groundbreaking energy projects, including details on how to operationalize carbon capture and storage.

Then, they traveled to Longview Power to learn about the advanced technologies at their coal-fired power plant. They also attended a briefing led by officials from Dominion Energy, American Electric Power and FirstEnergy to discuss the utility companies’ actions to produce cleaner power from their coal facilities and the impact stricter environmental regulations have on their ability to ensure reliable and affordable electricity throughout the region and this country. Finally, they met with officials from PJM Interconnection to hear about the importance of reliability to our nation’s electrical grid.

“It has been a pleasure showing Senator Whitehouse a few of our innovative energy facilities in West Virginia and continuing our discussions about the importance of investing in innovative technologies that can produce clean power while also making sure Americans are guaranteed affordable, reliable electricity,” Senator Manchin said. “We agree that we must face the reality of climate change without delay, but we also agree that fossil fuels will be a vital part of our energy portfolio for decades to come. Working together, I hope that we can find that balance and show not only America, but the world, that we can look past our differences to better this planet now and for our future.”

“I thank Senator Manchin for hosting me in the Mountain State today and for showing me the innovative work being done here to minimize carbon pollution from fossil fuels,” said Senator Whitehouse. “From improving energy efficiency and increasing renewable energy use to investing in technologies to capture and recycle carbon pollution, there is much we can do that will benefit both coastal states like Rhode Island and fossil-fuel-producing states like West Virginia. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Manchin on these issues.”

Once Congress returns from its recess after the election season, Senators Manchin and Whitehouse will continue to work with the Department of Energy (DOE) to ensure its available $8 billion in loan guarantees and $1.7 billion in available advanced fossil grants are used to invest in innovative technologies, including those that capture, utilize, and sequester carbon dioxide.

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