Climate proposals need better cost analysis

For Washington to show leadership on climate change and build support for costly new carbon-reduction programs, the state must do a better job explaining how they’ll affect taxpayers.

The lack of clarity around costs is painful as the Legislature weighs four different proposals to reduce emissions — a carbon tax, a low-carbon fuel standard, a requirement that utilities phase out fossil-fuel energy sources and a cap-and-trade system requiring large polluters to cap emissions or buy credits to offset them.

Before finalizing any such policy, the Legislature must explain which provides the biggest bang for the buck. It should also consider investing in a robust, nonpartisan economic analysis program to help members and the public better understand the ramifications of major policies. …

California pioneered these policies. Its nonpartisan legislative research office recently assessed their costs, concluding that the low-carbon fuel standard reduced emissions “at much higher economic costs than the state’s cap-and-trade program. These higher costs have real adverse effects on households.” …

Analytical work is happening backstage in Olympia as legislators, Gov. Jay Inslee, analysts and advocacy groups pursue climate proposals. But public policy discussions continue to be heavy on emotions and light on cost details.

At a minimum, legislators should know what these policies might cost state government. …

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