When America really gets serious about climate change, you can bet some kind of tax on carbon emissions will become a hot topic, if not a key policy tool. Already, readers of this blog have heard well-known conservatives including economist Arthur Laffer express support for a carbon tax.
If policy-makers wake up and smell the smokestack-infused coffee, they’ll have a carbon-tax model to follow in, of all places, Aspen, Colo. Yes, the elite ski town first enacted a carbon tax (of sorts) in 2000. They call it the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, or REMP, and here’s how it works.
Aspen's Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP) encourages builders of energy-consuming homes to lower their carbon footprint by using renewable energy technologies. Bob Ward photo.
The vast majority of Colorado’s electricity is produced in coal-fired plants, so residents pollute virtually every time they flip a light switch. With this in mind, Aspen and Pitkin County encourage energy-efficient buildings in a variety of ways, and REMP is a component of that effort. When builders of new homes or additions cannot meet a stringent energy budget, then they must either purchase renewable technologies to offset their energy consumption, or pay a fee.
In the 12 years since REMP was created, these fees have generated $9 million, which the Community Office for Resource Efficiency has used to support projects involving energy conservation and renewables. The “tax” discourages conspicuous consumption of energy, but the reality in Aspen is that wealthy homeowners will continue to erect trophy homes with snowmelt systems and heated swimming pools. With the REMP program, the community still benefits when they do.
– Bob Ward