Image courtesy of http2007 via flickr
Despite widespread national ambivalence about its merits, air pollution regulators in the Bay Area have overwhelmingly approved the nation's second ever carbon tax (Boulder, CO, was first) -- voting 15-1 to require companies to pay 4.4 cents per ton of carbon emitted. The tax will cover 9 counties in the Bay Area and will take effect July 1.
Though a modest measure at best -- the fees will likely only generate an additional $1.1 million per year in revenues -- members of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District hope it will help set a national precedent, or at least get policymakers thinking the right way. The light costs it levies probably won't make a sufficient dent in businesses' cost structures to encourage the type of energy efficiency and cleantech gains such a measure is meant to foster. Some critics complain that the measure, though correct in principle, is flawed in practice, because it sets the bar too low.
Many businesses have already come out in opposition to the tax, however, arguing that it would interfere with the state's plan to combat global warming -- the AB32 measure -- originally approved by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2006. A similar line or reasoning was used to squelch California's proposed auto emissions waiver, with the EPA claiming that a hodgepodge of different state laws would hamper automakers' efforts to reduce vehicle emissions. The tax will "affect" more than 2,500 firms though only a handful would be subjected to a (barely) substantive fee -- $50,000-200,000 for the larger local refineries; most would pay less than $1.
An encouraging start, but we think that the BAAQMD should've been bolder in proposing higher fees to begin with. As things stand, the extra revenues the tax will generate will be small and -- perhaps more importantly -- won't put enough pressure on companies' bottom lines to motivate them to significantly cut emissions.
Given the likelihood that the regulators were bound to face pushback from the firms no matter what they mandated, they could've at least chosen to set the bar high and fight for a truly substantial measure.
Via ::Associated Press: Bay area passes carbon tax (news website)