Carbon Fuel Reimbursement: America’s Christmas Bonus

All I want for Christmas is you

… supporting a carbon fuel reimbursement for American families. Here’s why: we are living in what could be described as a “carbon bubble economy”. Market forces have failed to price carbon-dioxide-emitting fuels accurately, and so we have been experiencing a protracted economic boom, based in part on the misperception that fossil fuels are inexpensive and convenient.

In fact, we have been building massive future costs into every aspect of our economy, and a combination of economic slowdown, resource competition and climate destabilization, now means the bubble economy will become, at some point, an economic correction. That correction can come in the form of a collapsed bubble economy—like the one that beset the world since the financial collapse of 2008—or it can be brought about intelligently and constructively.

The first point that we need to understand about all of this is that every aspect of the economy will experience the shock of a collapse, should it come, and that includes the purveyors of fossil fuels. As such, in moments of clarity, some of them—like Exxon-Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson—suggest a carbon tax would make the most sense, given the perilous future dynamics of the carbon fuels sector.

Fossil fuels producers and purveyors cannot avoid the correction, but they can choose to be a constructive part of a coordinated, intelligent response to the looming market failure. That market failure—the failure to accurately price carbon-based fuels—currently benefits both producers and purveyors, who can make huge sums of money trafficking in scarce and useful commodities for which we have not yet provided sufficient alternatives.

That dynamic will not always remain so. Already, it is increasingly expensive to access smaller and smaller localized quantities of fossil fuels.

This is how we came to the complex, risky interim solution known as “fracking”—the hydraulic fracturing of deep underground rock formations to force small deposits of petroleum or natural gas into wells that can carry them to the surface. Fracking has costly side-effects, and will never liberate us from the unfriendly grip of fossil fuels and their flawed market dynamics.

What’s more, the rapidly accelerating global use of carbon-emitting fuels is destabilizing major climate bands so severely, that we saw, within a few short months, in the summer and fall of 2012:

… and, of course, Superstorm Sandy—by far the biggest and most devastating (to infrastructure) storm ever to strike the United States, affecting 21 states simultaneously, forcing hundreds of thousands of Americans to become temporary climate refugees, and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

Fallout from carbon-induced climate destabilization is the largest single instrument for carbon cost correction, with the potential to permanently destabilize the global economy in a way we are not prepared to deal with.

So, responsible economists, business leaders, citizens and some policy-makers, are working to build a coalition of support for a type of coordinated corrective measure that will allow us to address the mounting carbon price crisis: a carbon correction fee with 100% revenue reimbursement to American households.

This plan requires any entity introducing carbon-emitting fuels into the American economy to pay a fee (modest at first, then steadily increasing every year) for the right to impose the collateral costs on the American people. The revenues from that fee are then returned—100% of them—in a monthly reimbursement check to households.

This revenue-neutral reimbursement strategy allows us to correct the dangerously inaccurate price of fossil fuels, empower American families and the Main Street economy to make smarter choices, giving fossil fuels purveyors and investors the time and insight they need to plan responsibly for the coming transition. By enacting the correction through this fee and reimbursement (or fee and dividend) strategy, we can transition to a 100% clean, renewables-based energy economy, without bankrupting leading businesses, and without imposing any increased costs on the American people or the federal government.

To continue to use fossil fuels, we need to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in new fossil fuel exploration, extraction, production and distribution infrastructure, while continuing to pay all of the hidden costs associated with fossil fuel use. Those externalized costs, costs transferred from industry to the rest of society, will impede not only our ability to transition to the next generation of energy technologies, but also our ability to provide basic services—like best quality education and healthcare—which are the foundation of a world-leading economy.

If we implement the carbon cost correction responsibly and deliberately, through a fee and reimbursement model, we can speed the transition, move investment capital into far more productive next-generation energy technologies, protect money we need for other priorities, and rebuild the middle class through a comprehensive decentralization of our energy infrastructure that will match the power and scope of decentralization in our media universe.

So, I ask you this Christmas season: help spread the word and make it clear to everyone you know… we can plan for and carry out a joyous, cost effective and affordable transition to a clean, renewables-based energy economy, empowering the Main Street economy as we go, and so avoid the global calamity of a spontaneous carbon bubble correction.

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