Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Unjust Corporate Profits and Cutting Carbon

Florida, which has the third highest potential for solar energy production, ranks 14th for actual production.  Since 2008, there has been a property tax exemption for homeowners who install photovoltaic solar at their residences, but no similar credit for corporations.

Yesterday, Florida voted for a constitutional amendment giving corporations a property tax exemption for solar installations to be in effect for 20 years, starting in 2018.

The fantastic news is this passed with 73% of the vote.  That demonstrates phenomenal support in a state that has a strong Republican presence.  This is the state whose governor banned state environmental employees from saying "climate change."

This 73% included a wide range of interests, across the political spectrum, right and left:
"Backers of Amendment 4 were all along the political spectrum, including the pro-environment Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Nature Conservancy, and Florida Conservation Voters, and the business-backed Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Retail Federation and Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association."
Those tax breaks are going to likely result in huge amounts of corporate dollars turned to solar infrastructure.  Of course, it will also benefit corporate bottom lines.

And herein lies the interesting wrinkle to this story.  The only opposition reported came from the LEFT:
"The opposition was led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the TV and radio talk show host and president of the National Action Network, and Bishop Victor Curry of Miami, NAN’s southeast regional director, who said they opposed 'unnecessary and unjust tax breaks for corporations.'”
This is reminiscent of an ongoing challenge in Washington State.  Washington has a ballot proposition to implement a revenue neutral carbon tax.  The biggest opposition is from the Democratic Party and labor unions, who worry that it doesn't raise revenue to be retained to fund government policies. Sierra Club cites the fact that it doesn't raise revenue for clean energy as part of its basis for opposition. (There are questions about whether it actually has an error that makes it revenue losing and that is a legitimate concern, but the opposition to revenue neutrality itself is telling).

These two state initiatives to address climate change are both finding their opposition on the political LEFT.  In each case, it seems to be driven by concern that corporations or private interests will get an unfair break of some kind.

We often assume that it is big business, corporate interests, conservatives and Republicans that are getting in the way of cutting carbon.  But what if it is also the climate concerned left?

In the case of Florida, business got a tax break.  And they will likely invest some of their considerable resources into building renewables infrastructure.

Al Sharpton wasn't happy about it.  Labor unions and Sierra Club aren't happy that Washingtonians may collect money on carbon and give it all back to private citizens without raising revenue.

But here is the question.  How important is it to us to cut carbon emissions?

We have five years left at current emissions before we have lost even a 66% chance of staying under 1.5C warming.  Does Al Sharpton appreciate what will happen to the disempowered, the poor, minorities, women and children when we hit 1.5C?  2C?  3C?  Surely, Sierra Club must, no?  Do we really have time to turn our noses up at policies that will cut emissions just because they help corporate interests?

As these types of questions become more and more frequent, it appears that the political right won't be the only group that has some climate soul searching to do.

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