Carbon fee bill would benefit algae industry

By Erin Voegele | November 20, 2014

Legislation recently introduced in the U.S. Senate includes a provision that would encourage carbon utilization technology. The Algae Biomass Organization has spoken out to applaud the bill, which calls for greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations that would promote the use of carbon dioxide as a feedstock for plastics, biofuels, chemicals and other products.

The bill, titled “The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act,” or S. 2940, was introduced by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii on Nov. 19 and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

According to Whitehouse, the legislation is designed to correct a market failure that currently allows polluters to push the costs of their pollution onto everyone else. “Right now we are subsidizing big polluters to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars annually by allowing them to pollute for free,” said Whitehouse in a statement.  “We all pay the costs of this subsidy through higher health costs, property damage from rising seas, warming waters that affect our fishing industry, and more.  This legislation will put the costs of carbon pollution back on the polluters, and in doing so, will generate significant revenue – all of which will be returned to the American people.”

Information released by Whitehouse’s office indicates the legislation would require polluters to pay a fee for every ton of carbon pollution they emit, starting at $42 per ton in 2015 and increasing annually by an inflation-adjusted 2 percent. The fee would be assessed on coal, oil and natural gas produced in the U.S. or imported into the country, and would cover large emitters of non-carbon GHGs and carbon dioxide from non-fossil fuel sources.

Whitehouse estimates the legislation could generate as much as $2 trillion over 10 years. That money would be credited to an American Opportunity Fund and returned to the American people. According to Whitehouse, possible uses of the fund include economic assistance to low-income families and those in areas with higher energy costs, tax cuts, social security benefit increase, tuition relief and student debt relief, infrastructure investments, dividends to individuals and families, transition assistance to workers and businesses in energy-intensive and fossil-fuel industries, climate mitigation or adaptation, and reducing the national debt.

“We need creative solutions to the climate problem, and by including carbon utilization in this bill Senators Whitehouse and Schatz are leading a growing number of legislators that see the value in making products from carbon-containing waste gases,” said Matt Carr, executive director of the Algae Biomass Organization. “This is a great first step in providing carbon utilization technology the policy support it deserves.”

According to the ABO, new technologies are being brought to market that can consume carbon dioxide as a feedstock. In contrast to sequestration, which aims to burry carbon dioxide emissions, the ABO said carbon utilization technologies can convert those emissions into valuable products that can have economic and environmental benefits. By converting waste gases into products, the ABO stressed emitters can not only comply with regulations, they can offset their costs or even profit from them.

The ABO has also called on the U.S. EPA to explicitly recognize that carbon utilization technologies are acceptable methods for states to achieve emissions reductions under the agency’s Clean Power Plan. “Failing to do so will be a missed opportunity to encourage investments in an approach that could deliver positive environmental results along with economic growth, jobs and improved energy security,” said the organization in a statement.

A full copy of the legislation can be downloaded here