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Bold Plan for Carbon Tax Introduced in Portland, OR

Portland, Oregon city officials introduced a bold new plan that would require energy efficiency measures in each new home built. The plan would impose a carbon fee on builders for each new home that is not extremely energy efficient and also require an energy efficiency report be done by home inspectors as part of every existing home sale. The plan would also pay cash rewards to developers who built buildings that save at least 45% more energy than the Oregon building code would require. The City Council will start public hearings on the plan in January.

Portland's proposal is one of the boldest in the nation. States and communities are increasingly approving "green building" rules, as we detailed earlier this year, and there are already some carbon taxes in place:

  • In 2006, residents of Boulder, Colorado approved the nation's first carbon tax on electricity.  The tax is based on the number of kilo-watt hours used with revenue from the tax going to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. 
  • Even before Boulder passed their carbon tax, Aspen, Colorado revised their building codes in 2000 to give owners of new homes a choice: either install renewable energy features like solar panels or pay a mitigation fee of up to $100,000, based on how much carbon dioxide the home would generate. 
  • New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg called for a national carbon tax at the United States Conference of Mayors.

According to the Carbon Tax Center, taxing carbon dioxide emissions will reduce emissions in two ways: one, suppliers of electricity and fuel will reduce carbon content of their energy because of economic motives and two, end-use energy users (i.e. consumers) will choose lower-carbon products and activities to minimize their exposure to the carbon tax. Not to mention that earlier this year, polling found that 82% of Americans thought that the "polluter must pay", that is the more a company pollutes, the more tax it should pay. 

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