The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act Will Reduce Global Warming and Distribute Basic Income

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett should support legislation that would result in carbon dividends being paid to Americans while saving lives.


“Climate change action without carbon pricing is like running with shoe laces untied, much harder,” explained Dr. Charles Sims, the director of the Energy and Environment Program for the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy in Knoxville. “I want to learn more about it,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett.   

Volunteers for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby were meeting with Burchett and his staff to discuss the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 2307). It hit the House of Representatives on April 1 and already has over 40 cosponsors. We hope Burchett will join his colleagues in the House and support this legislation. This policy will quickly slash our climate-changing emissions and save American lives by reducing pollution — and that’s not all. It will also spur business innovation and lead to affordable clean energy, and it will do all of this while putting money in people’s pockets. Let’s explore how. 

First, the policy puts a steadily rising price on carbon pollution. This price signal will steer our economy away from fossil fuels, leading to a 30% reduction in carbon emissions in just five years. With this policy in place, America will be on the path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — a critical target, according to the scientific community. That deadline comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s game-changing 2018 report, where the authors also specified that carbon pricing, such as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, is “a necessary condition of ambitious climate policies.” 

As fossil fuel use drops and emissions decline with this policy, public health will also benefit. We could save 4.5 million American lives over the next 50 years by replacing pollution with clean air. That’s why the Lancet Commission endorses carbon pricing, calling it “the single most powerful strategic instrument to inoculate human health against the risks of climate change.”  

Carbon cash-back payments

While driving these massive benefits, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act will also provide economic benefits to Americans.

Each month, people will receive a carbon dividend or “carbon cash-back” payment. In other words, the carbon fee revenue will go into people’s pockets to spend with no restrictions. With this policy in place, 85% of Americans would come out ahead or essentially break even.  

Sims enlightened us: “There is pent-up demand for investment. Business and industry are sitting on their capital waiting for a consistent market signal on how the U.S. government will tackle climate change.” That’s why the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s report states, “Financial markets will only be able to channel resources efficiently to activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions if an economy-wide price on carbon is in place at a level that reflects the true social cost of those emissions.”  

The Business Roundtable, a major trade association of CEOs of companies with collectively over $7 trillion in revenues, and the American Petroleum Institute have come out in favor of a “market-based mechanism” to curb greenhouse gas emissions with pricing carbon as an essential step in that plan.   

Burchett has expressed interest in market solutions when it comes to addressing carbon emissions. His legislation, the Opportunity Zone Extension Act, incentivizes business investment and redevelopment in economically distressed areas, and also creates jobs in East Tennessee. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is in the best interest of businesses as well. With this bill, the government simply sets a predictable direction for businesses to move away from carbon emissions. Then it’s up to businesses how to move in that direction. 

People in the Burchett’s district are ready to see results. Public polling shows 60% want Congress to do more to address global warming. That desire defies partisanship, with majority support for climate action from Republican and Democratic voters across the country. The Energy Innovation Act is a good step forward to put America on the fast track to a healthy, prosperous future.


About the Author: Mark Reynolds is the executive director of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Jan Berry is its Tennessee state coordinator.

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