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Action Plan of the Initiative

Relatively low time commitment, with national impact

        Thank you for investigating this opportunity to influence the national debate about the overarching environmental challenge of our era, reducing emissions of heat-trapping gasses.

        This Initiative does not require your money, rather a very limited amount of your time to contact elected officials to get the resolution in support of a revenue-neutral federal carbon tax on the local legislative agenda. The only training required is reading the information accessed from the Initiative menu, and possibly selected references listed below the sample resolution as well as other sources.

        Once the local government you have chosen to work with passes a version of the resolution proposed below, work with that government is finished. After passage, links to newspaper reports of it will be published here. Copies of the resolution are sent to officials representing the local government at state and national levels. In a matter of months, many local governments could pass versions of this resolution, sending a strong signal to the federal government that a carbon tax is politically possible.

Initial contact

        The resolution must first be brought to a committee. In the case of a city for example, the initial step is for an advocate of a federal carbon tax to contact members of the city council’s Environmental Committee or the most closely related committee, possibly Energy or Planning, until a member is found who is interested in introducing a resolution. (The City Clerk or the city’s website usually has a listing of committees and members’ contact information, as well as dates and locations of meetings.) A sample letter to elected officials of the city, town or county can be downloaded here.

Local focus with a broader flavor

        Local governance needs to emphasize local issues. However, in a democracy we the people also need to pay some attention to broader affairs. The usefulness of this Initiative is that it requires very little time for local governments to influence this national debate. Therefore it is worthwhile mentioning to your initial contact that the sample resolution is available as a model that can easily be modified, although the contact may wish to start from scratch.

       The resolution does not require any time-consuming follow-up work or legal commitment on the part of the city, as would a local carbon tax. Also, a local tax might not be permitted under state law. A local tax passed in isolation could be perceived as putting the municipality at a competitive disadvantage. (The competitive position of the U.S. could be maintained by imposing a border tax tariff on products imported from countries without a carbon tax.)

Broad-based support possible

        The “tax” word might invoke an initially negative reaction. However, once the major concepts outlined in the talking points of the press release are communicated to members of the Environmental Committee, the response can be surprisingly positive. People who ordinarily disparage any new tax could relate to the fact that the cost of emissions trading spreads throughout the economy like a tax. Due to cap-and-trade’s complexity, it costs society more than an actual tax, but would probably be substantially less effective (for the reasons given at topics in the debate). Therefore between the two an actual tax is preferable, as many informed conservatives agree (the American Enterprise Institute for example).

Two initial strategies: individual contact or public comment period

        Instead of contacting an individual member initially, the advocate for this Initiative could utilize a “privilege of the floor” period for public comment to read the talking points out loud during an Environmental Committee meeting. Public comment periods are typically held during the first part of a meeting and individuals are usually free to address any topic on which a municipality could act even if the topic is not on that particular meeting’s agenda.

        The advocate could request that any member who might be interested in discussing the possibility of introducing the resolution contact the advocate. Members may be too busy to call. If no member calls in the next few days, the advocate could utilize the first strategy and contact each committee member individually until an interested person is found.

Preparation for voting

        After an interested member of the Environmental Committee has been found, the resolution may be modified by the member as desired. The member introduces it to the committee with the goal of getting it forwarded to the entire city council for passage.

        Because many other issues may distract members, it probably will be necessary to make occasional further appointments with them and to speak at each public comment period of committee meetings to keep the issue on the agenda for several months.

        At least a week before a possible vote by the Committee or the entire Council, study materials need to get forwarded by the Chairperson to members so that they can prepare to make a decision. If members have not read the material, they might say they are not well enough informed and abstain or table the motion. The materials for study could consist of the references below the resolution, the summary of key points, topics in the debate, as well as further resources not associated with this website.


        Action is urgent because cap-and-trade will be hard to cancel once the beneficiaries (traders, brokers, attorneys, and a new regulatory bureaucracy) become entrenched. If momentum for enactment of a federal carbon tax can be developed in 2008 then in 2009 a tax could be enacted instead. It is up to us as advocates to build that momentum using this Initiative.

        Silence on this issue allows special interests such as utilities to continue to dominate the debate in favor of trading. It is time to broadcast the merits of a tax.

Leveraging passage

        A great deal of media coverage can be generated by this feasible political action, as illustrated by the articles linked in resolutions passed. Sample statements to radio or television are in the press release.

        The resolution requires that copies be sent to federal lawmakers. It is worthwhile calling the clerk to double-check that this step has been accomplished.

        Please let me know of progress being made, and send questions and comments to me at contact. Free phone consultation is also provided.

Best regards, Sylvester

Sylvester Johnson, Ph.D. Applied Physics, Coordinator of the Initiative

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