It’s that time of the year when we break our winter hibernation. We start putting our boats back in the water. We tune up our bikes. We head out for long walks or long Harley rides while enjoying the smells of spring and take in a sunset. We uncover the summer patio furniture and sit around bonfires. We head north to our cabins and lakes. We start planning our gardens and wait for the leaves to reappear on our trees. We celebrate our home — planet Earth.
The first Earth Day event was held in 1970. That same year, Congress designed the Clean Air Act to protect public health and welfare from different types of air pollution, and a Republican president, Richard Nixon, signed it into law. Additionally, Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA, based on the latest science, to establish national ambient air-quality standards that protect Americans from airborne contaminants known to be hazardous to human health.
Another Republican president, George H.W. Bush, signed into law the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, building on the work that Nixon started. A peer-reviewed 2011 study found that in 2010 alone, reductions in fine particle pollution and ozone pollution avoided more than 160,000 premature deaths, 130,000 heart attacks and millions of asthma attacks, and prevented 13 million lost workdays, leading to a stronger economy. It kept our children healthy and in school, avoiding 3.2 million lost school days due to respiratory illness, like asthma, exacerbated by air pollution.
Today the EPA is in the process of implementing President Obama’s clean-power plan. This plan builds on the legacy of two Republican presidents by reducing the pollution that comes from dirty energy such as oil, gas and coal. According to a recent Yale study, 75 percent of Minnesotans support regulating pollution from dirty energy sources. However, in this case, is regulation the best choice?
A carbon-fee-and-dividend plan pushed by George P. Shultz, a former secretary of state (under President Ronald Reagan), is a free-market plan with a fee on dirty energy that recycles 100 percent of revenue back to American households. It would speed the transition from our dirty past and into a clean-energy future. Within 20 years, wind and solar will power the majority of our homes, businesses and automobiles, thereby reducing levels of harmful pollutants while creating jobs and growing the economy.
Obama’s clean-power plan would cut dirty energy pollution by 30 percent, but Shultz’s carbon-fee-and-divided plan would cut it by more than 90 percent. It would save hundreds of thousands of lives over 20 years. It would add 2.8 million jobs to the economy and increase our GDP by trillions of dollars. All of the fees collected from the dirty energy are returned to American households in monthly, quarterly or yearly installments in the form of a check. Not a single dollar is kept by our government. You get to choose how to spend it.
On Earth Day, April 22, I will enjoy a long bike ride on the country roads of Scott County. It will take me by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community wind turbine powering 200 homes, and I’ll take in the sounds and smells of spring. I plan to watch a sunset with an ice-cold Minnesota Special Bitter by Badger Hill Brewing Co. and reflect on how thankful this Arizona native is that spring has arrived. After the sun goes down and I have tucked my kids in bed, I will crack the windows in my room to let some fresh air inside and get a great night’s sleep.
The next day, I will write U.S. Rep. John Kline and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken a handwritten letter asking them to sponsor the George Shultz Carbon Fee and Dividend plan so that American ingenuity and excellence can lead the world into the clean-energy future.
I ask you to join me.
Tim Reckmeyer lives in Prior Lake, where he is the leader of the Scott County chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.