By Caroline Brooks
For The Daily Gazette
Absolutely…especially after reading the editorial “Fuel Taxes Target State’s Struggling Middle Class.”
However, the spike in blood pressure stems from the missed opportunity to clearly and accurately explain the Climate and Community Investment Act (A6967/S4264A), a bill designed to help the struggling middle (and lower) class, not hurt them.
Here’s how it works: The polluters pay while the ratepayers are protected.
For too long, fossil fuel companies have sacrificed the health of entire communities in order to make obscene profits for shareholders.
The Climate and Community Investment Act will make them pay, by instituting a fee on greenhouse gases and co-pollutants.
The fee would largely be paid by the companies importing fossil fuels into New York state.
At a starting price of $55 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing year after year, this will raise around $15 billion per year over the first 10 years.
The editorial is making the assumption that all of the increased costs to the fuel sellers in New York will be passed on to consumers.
While it is reasonable to assume corporations will try to do this, the intent of the act is to make the polluters pay.
This could be viewed as similar to the attempt to make opioid producers and tobacco companies pay for the problems they created.
The CCIA targets those that have given us climate change.
Of course a protection mechanism for the consumer needs to be in place as corporate retaliation in the form of higher fossil fuel prices seems inevitable.
The editorial failed to acknowledge that the CCIA has that covered by earmarking one third of the money raised as direct assistance to low-and moderate-income families via transit vouchers, weatherization or LIHEAP credits, or direct cash benefits.
People will be automatically enrolled in this rebate program.
This energy rebate program will ensure that the lowest-earning 60% of New Yorkers will come out the same or ahead.
Gas prices are creeping up already as we start to move around more.
That’s simple economics: Demand increases cost.
It’s unrealistic to expect pandemic gas prices to flatline as we get back to normal as the fossil fuel industry is in it for profit.
However, our new post-pandemic normal includes the demand for greener cars and clean heating as we phase out the greenhouse gas-emitting sector.
If lawmakers do not act now and pass the CCIA, they will only be pushing the cost element of climate solutions down the road to future generations.
While the editorial states that electric vehicles currently cost more than gas burning car, it ignores the fact that full electric and plug in hybrids are eligible for up to $7,500 in federal rebates.
Studies have shown that the initial cost of these vehicles is paid for in fuel cost savings over the life of the vehicle.
The editorial also does not point out to the reader that the cost of electric and hybrids have been decreasing due to consumer demand.
This will continue as car manufacturers expand their production from luxury level cars to cars that the average Upstate New York consumer drives.
This is a trend in automobile manufacturing as we are even seeing time frames being established for entire fleets, including trucks and SUV’s, from the major auto makers.
Bottom line: Change is scary.
But what’s even scarier is climate change as it spells the end of our planet.
The fossil fuel industry IS on its way out, a fact underlined by New York state divesting its $225 billion common pension fund from its carbon-wielding grasp.
As the green sector phases in, making the industry that caused this dire situation pay for its actions will benefit all.
The Climate and Community Investment Act is how it will happen while protecting those most vulnerable, the middle- and lower-class New Yorkers.
Caroline Brooks is chairperson of Creation Care Committee and deacon of the First Reformed Church of Schenectady.